The Caribbean is home to some of the most famous seafood dishes in the world. From conch fritters in the Bahamas to Puerto Rico’s flavor-rich Mofongo, a trip to the Caribbean is sure to make visitors board a plane just for the cuisine alone!
Barbados, an eastern Caribbean island, also features a seafood dish that you absolutely need to try: Flying Fish and Cou Cou. Why? Because it’s the national dish and a lot of Bajan culture centers on the Flying Fish. After all, this delicacy ranked No. 3 on National Geographic’s Top 10 National Dishes!
The Fish That Flies
The Flying Fish is a part of Barbados much like its national flag. You see its image on the island’s dollar coin, artwork and even official logos—not to mention they make up half of Barbados’ cuisine. With all these appearances, you’re probably wondering why it’s called the “flying” fish.
The flying fish is a tough little species that thrives in tropical waters and has the ability to glide on the water for 45 seconds at speeds up to 20 miles an hour, mostly to get away from predators. If you’re ever swimming in Bajan waters, you may see this foot-long, sleek fish sailing right past you with nearly translucent, wing-like fins.
Flying Fish & Cou Cou
Bajans are famous for the flying fish because they are the only islanders that know how to de-bone them. Caught mainly in December and June by Bajan fishermen, this flavorful, slightly-oily fish is often shallow-fried with breadcrumbs and finished off with local Bajan seasoning. For the national dish, Bajans steam the fish and smother it with a spicy Bajan gravy, then serve it over Cou Cou—a cornmeal, okra, water and butter mixture.
The annual Oistins Fish Festival is a big deal to Bajans, it’s where they showcase their flying fish skills—mainly how they scale and bone them. In recent times, locals have also added wild-caught Mahi Mahi and flavorful Red Snapper to their seafood diet, but the flying fish remains the star!
Where to Try Flying Fish in Barbados
Enter any place that serves food in Barbados and the Bajan menu will offer something with flying fish. Bajans are known to serve fish without bones, so any fish you order really is a delicacy.
For the traditional national dish, check out Mustor’s near the marina in Bridgetown. They make some of the best Flying Fish and Cou Cou in the area, which you’ll enjoy with sweet coconut milk or a tropical cocktail. The kids don’t like seafood? No problem. Mustor’s homemade burgers are also excellent!
If you want to try flying fish with an American flair, try out Oistins Fish Fry in nearby Oistins—their Fried Fish with Macaroni is unbelievable. This restaurant is also a hotspot for local Bajans and tourists who celebrate Fish Friday and like to socialize over fresh, delicious food and local calypso and reggae music. You’ll be in great company!
Afterward, check out the Sandals Barbados beach resort, located between Bridgetown and Oistins, right within the good-food action! Finish your flavor-rich day with afternoon tea, a Bajan tradition from the island’s British colonial past.