On the Caribbean island of St Kitts, the fresh fish is sold direct from the fishing boats, market stalls display a colorful range of tropical fruit and there’s always something interesting cooking on the road-side barbecues. If you love to eat, here are some of the local food specialties I enjoyed on my visit to St Kitts.
Relax with an ice cold local beer
The local’s choice of beer as you settle into the relaxed Caribbean vibe, is a locally brewed Carib, made just outside Basseterre at the Carib brewery. Smooth and thirst quenching, this is an easy drinking lager and the same brewery offers the slightly more robust Stag and Skol. For local soft drinks look out for Ting, a refreshing grapefruit soda and Peardrella, a fizzy pear soda that are often used as mixers, or the fatigue busting Ginseng Up, with energizing Korean ginseng.
Rum – the spirit of the Caribbean
Every Caribbean island has its favorite rum and St Kitts is no exception. Even though sugar production on the island ended twenty years ago, you’ll be offered a deceptively strong rum punch at every opportunity and each bar takes pride in their own special blend of rum, fruit juices, cane sugar, bitters and a sprinkling of nutmeg. You’ll find the locally produced rums under the Belmont Estate and Brinley Gold Shipwreck brands, flavored with mango, coffee, lime and coconut, which can be found in the duty free stores and bars. As an alternative try the clear CSR spirit made from cane juice, which is often combined with the local grapefruit soda to make a ‘Ting with a sting’.
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Locally caught lobster and seafood
While lobster might be considered a luxury in many parts of the world, it abounds in the waters around St Kitts and can be found in some form on practically every menu from the swankiest restaurant to the most rustic beach shack. Grilled lobster on the beach an un-missable St Kitts experience, at the relaxed Reggae Beach bar or the more upscale Spice Mill, both on Cockleshell beach, where many cruise visitors like to spend the day. In Basseterre you’ll also find lobster on the menu at Ballahoo overlooking the circus, and at Fisherman’s Wharf on the edge of town, as well as a wide choice of local fish in most restaurants; look out for Mahi Mahi, coconut shrimp and grilled grouper.
Conch fritters & Conch chowder
Another seafood dish that you’ll find on restaurants and beach bar menus is Conch (pronounced Conk), a large sea snail with a pretty pink shell that’s sold in the craft markets. The conch has a chewy texture, so it’s chopped finely and mixed with a flour and egg batter to make deep fried conch fritters, served as a delicious lunchtime snack with a piquant dipping sauce. Another tasty dish is conch chowder, a creamy soup with garlic and finely chopped vegetables served with bread on the side (at Ballahoo in Basseterre it’s actually served in a large bread roll).
Organic and veggie at Ital Creations
Veggies, vegans and those looking for healthy food choices should take a short taxi ride from Basseterre to Ital Creations, a small organic farm that sells vegetarian dishes, juices and smoothies from a trailer just off the main road. It’s on the Bypass road close to the airport (look out for the yoga sign) and you could ask your taxi driver to stop here as part of an island taxi tour. At lunchtime they serve veggie burgers and wraps filled with hummus and avocado or order one of their home-made banana or carob cakes washed down with a bottle of red sorrel juice or a moringa smoothie. While it’s being prepared take a look at the trees laden with mango and papaya, and walk between the vegetable beds where owner Judah Fari and his wife grow salads and health giving plants such as lemongrass, moringa and aloe.
Roti – a tasty fast food snack
Sample a tasty Caribbean style Roti from one of the restaurants or street-food vendors of Basseterre. This soft chapatti wrapped around a filling is originally an Indian dish that’s popular on St Kitts as a fast food or lunchtime snack. Choose from a range of different fillings, especially chicken, shrimp or vegetable all in a light curry sauce. You’ll find Roti on many lunchtime menus in Basseterre, on the Frigate Bay Strip or at Cockleshell beach.
Fresh fruit smoothies in Basseterre
Market stalls selling fresh fruit are dotted around the streets of Basseterre but you can get your fruit fix in the form of a chilled fruit smoothie. Seek out for the colorful Refresh Juice Bar van on Bank Street for smoothies made with frozen yoghurt and fresh fruit puree; try the St Kittitian with mango, guava and strawberry. The queue of locals marks out The Smoothie King on the corner of Princes and Fort Street, where owner Pedro blends a different fruit smoothie each day. Our banana, guava and strawberry smoothie was so cold it made my brains freeze (but in a good way!)
Street food – St Kitts style
Spicy jerk chicken and pork is served all over the Caribbean and on St Kitts you’ll find street-food vendors serving cooking barbecued meat over oil drums along Bay Road that runs along the seafront of Basseterre. Many stalls set up on Friday and Saturday, since this is when the Kittitian’s love to stop to buy their favorite cooked meats for a weekend dinner. Take time to check out a few different vendors as they sometimes have traditional dishes such as black pudding and goat water (it’s actually a spicy stew of goat meat and breadfruit). Wash it all down with fresh coconut water from a green coconut sold at the roadside stalls.
The sweet taste of St Kitts – Sugar cake & Guava Cheese
If you have a sweet tooth look out for local treats such as Guava Cheese, a jelly sweet made of guava fruit puree and sugar with lime juice to give a mouthwatering sweet and sour flavor. Once set, the jelly is cut into pieces, sprinkled with sugar and sold in bags by street vendors or supermarkets. Be sure to buy a couple of bags, as the first will be empty by the time you’re back to your hotel. Sugar cake is often made by Kittitians at home, a crumbly cookie made from coconut and cane sugar, spiced with ginger sometimes studded with peanuts. You’ll find it sold by many street food vendors around the streets of Basseterre.
The St Kitts national dish – Salt fish and Johnny Cakes
You can’t leave St Kitts without trying its national dish of salt fish and Johnny cakes, yes there is actually an official national dish! The salted, dried cod fish was easily preserved on board ships that sailed the Caribbean, with the flaky fish stewed in a sauce of onions, tomatoes and peppers. It’s served with a Johnny cake (originally a ‘Journey’ cake since it would be eaten at breakfast or on your way to work), a deep fried cornmeal dough ball that’s best eaten as fresh as possible. In Port Zante, the street food stall run by Ms. Moore behind the post office is reputed to offer the best Johnny cakes in town, served in a large size like a bread roll with a filling of salt fish or chicken. You’ll also find vendors on Fort Street in Basseterre selling salt fish and Johnny cakes as a takeaway lunch with their traditional accompaniment of white coconut dumplings, plantains and breadfruit. Enjoy!
Where to stay on St Kitts
Check out prices and book hotels on St Kitts via Booking.com. I stayed at and can recommend the following;
Visitor Information for St Kitts
To plan your visit to St Kitts check out the tourism board website at www.stkittstourism.kn or follow their social media channels: Twitter @StKittsTourism | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | Pinterest |
British Airways flies to St Kitts from London Gatwick twice a week on Saturdays and Wednesdays with the flight going on to nearby Antigua. There are regular ferries every day to Nevis, with a journey time of 45 minutes from Basseterre, making it easy to plan a combined stay on both islands.
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My visit to St Kitts was hosted by the St Kitts Tourism Board and some of the experiences and meals mentioned in this article were provided on a complimentary basis. Some of the links in this article are affiliate links which provide a small commission to support this blog.