Cou-Cou & Flying Fish Recipe

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Cou-Cou & Flying Fish Recipe

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Barbados, the gem of the Caribbean, boasts a rich culinary heritage that reflects its history and diverse cultural influences. One dish that stands out as a symbol of Barbadian cuisine is Cou-Cou and Flying Fish. This delectable combination is not only a treat for the taste buds but also a testament to the island’s unique blend of flavors and traditions. In this article, we will dive into the history, ingredients, preparation, and cultural significance of Cou-Cou and Flying Fish, as well as provide you with a step-by-step recipe to recreate this delightful dish in your own kitchen.

A Taste of Barbadian History

To understand the essence of Cou-Cou and Flying Fish, one must delve into the history of Barbados. This small island nation in the Caribbean was once a British colony, which significantly influenced its culinary traditions. However, the roots of this dish can be traced back to West Africa, as the base ingredient, cornmeal, was introduced by African slaves during the colonial period.

The African Influence

African slaves brought their culinary knowledge and adapted it to the ingredients available in Barbados.
Cornmeal became a staple in their diet, leading to the creation of Cou-Cou.
The British Connection

British colonization introduced the concept of “flying fish,” which is abundant in the waters around Barbados.

The combination of African and British culinary influences led to the development of Cou-Cou and Flying Fish.

The Key Ingredients

Before we dive into the preparation, let’s familiarize ourselves with the primary components that make Cou-Cou and Flying Fish a culinary masterpiece.

Flying Fish

The star of the dish, the flying fish, is a staple in Barbadian cuisine.

Known for its tender, delicate flavor, flying fish is often considered the “national fish” of Barbados.

It can be prepared in various ways, such as fried, steamed, or stewed.


Cou-Cou is a smooth, creamy porridge-like dish made from cornmeal and okra.

Okra serves as a natural thickening agent, creating a unique texture and flavor.

Cou-Cou is often likened to polenta in terms of its consistency.

Seasonings and Accompaniments

Aromatic seasonings like thyme, garlic, and onions add depth to the dish.

A flavorful tomato-based sauce, locally known as “souse,” is commonly served alongside Cou-Cou and Flying Fish.

Preparing Cou-Cou and Flying Fish

Now, let’s explore the step-by-step process of preparing this iconic Barbadian dish.

A. Ingredients (Serves 4):

For the Flying Fish:

4-6 fresh flying fish (substitute with other white fish if unavailable)
2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Cou-Cou:

1 cup cornmeal
2 cups water
1 cup okra, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 sprigs thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Souse:

1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup diced cucumbers
1/2 cup diced onions
1/4 cup lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
B. Preparation:

Clean and season the flying fish with lime juice, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

To make the Cou-Cou:

In a pot, bring water to a boil.

Gradually add cornmeal while stirring continuously to prevent lumps.

Add chopped okra, garlic, onion, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring regularly, until the mixture thickens and becomes smooth (about 15-20 minutes).

Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm.

Heat a pan with oil over medium-high heat and fry the seasoned flying fish until golden brown and crispy on both sides (about 3-4 minutes per side).

Remove from heat and set aside.

To make the Souse:

In a bowl, combine diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, lime juice, salt, and pepper.

Toss well to mix all the ingredients thoroughly.


Place a portion of Cou-Cou on each plate.

Top with crispy flying fish.

Spoon the Souse over the fish and Cou-Cou.

Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs and a slice of lime.

Cultural Significance

Cou-Cou and Flying Fish go beyond mere sustenance; they hold a special place in Barbadian culture.

National Pride

This dish is considered the national dish of Barbados, symbolizing the island’s identity and heritage.

It is often served at national events and celebrations, showcasing the island’s rich culinary traditions.

Family and Community

Preparing Cou-Cou and Flying Fish is a labor of love often passed down through generations.

Families and communities come together to share not only a meal but also stories, traditions, and laughter.

Celebrations and Festivals

The Barbados Food and Rum Festival prominently features Cou-Cou and Flying Fish as a highlight.

It is also a must-have dish during the island’s vibrant Crop Over Festival, a celebration of Barbadian culture.

Cou-Cou and Flying Fish is more than just a dish; it’s a cultural emblem of Barbados. Its unique blend of African and British influences, combined with the island’s own flavors, has created a culinary masterpiece that continues to delight locals and visitors alike. By trying your hand at this authentic Barbadian recipe, you not only savor the flavors of the Caribbean but also immerse yourself in the island’s rich history and traditions. So, why not embark on a culinary adventure and enjoy a taste of Barbados in your very own kitchen?

Variations and Adaptations

While the classic Cou-Cou and Flying Fish recipe remains a beloved tradition, there are various regional and personal adaptations to explore. Here are a few variations that you can experiment with:

Gravy or Sauce Options:

Some Barbadians prefer to serve Cou-Cou and Flying Fish with a rich, flavorful gravy instead of the Souse mentioned in the traditional recipe.

Gravy variations can include tomato-based sauces, coconut milk-based sauces, or a combination of both.

Vegetarian Options:

For those looking for a meatless alternative, Cou-Cou can be served with various vegetarian or vegan toppings.

Consider topping your Cou-Cou with sautéed vegetables, tofu, or even a plant-based curry.

Seafood Variations:

While flying fish is the classic choice, other seafood options like mahi-mahi, kingfish, or snapper can be used to create a unique twist on this dish.

Experiment with different fish species to explore new flavors.

Spices and Seasonings:

Feel free to experiment with spices and seasonings to customize the flavor profile to your liking.

Add a dash of hot pepper sauce or scotch bonnet pepper for some heat, or incorporate spices like paprika, allspice, or bay leaves for depth of flavor.

Serving Suggestions and Pairings

Cou-Cou and Flying Fish is a satisfying dish on its own, but it pairs wonderfully with various side dishes and beverages to enhance the dining experience:

Side Dishes:

Serve with a side of coleslaw, macaroni pie, or a simple salad to complement the meal.

Fried plantains or breadfruit make excellent side options for added texture and flavor.


Traditional Barbadian beverages like rum punch, mauby (a local herbal drink), or coconut water are perfect choices.

For non-alcoholic options, consider fruit punches or iced tea.


Conclude your Barbadian feast with a sweet treat like Bajan coconut turnovers, cassava pone, or sweet potato pie.

Bringing Barbados to Your Table

While enjoying Cou-Cou and Flying Fish at a beachfront restaurant in Barbados is an unforgettable experience, recreating this dish at home can be equally enjoyable. It’s a culinary journey that allows you to connect with the island’s history, culture, and flavors.

Whether you’re preparing it for a special occasion or simply to satisfy your craving for authentic Caribbean cuisine, this dish will transport your taste buds to the sunny shores of Barbados. As you savor the flavors of the island and share the experience with friends and family, you’ll be creating your own memories and traditions around this iconic Barbadian delight.

In conclusion, Cou-Cou and Flying Fish is not just a meal; it’s a celebration of Barbados’ culinary heritage. From its historical origins to its enduring cultural significance, this dish embodies the essence of the island. So, don your apron, gather your ingredients, and embark on a gastronomic journey to experience the flavors of Barbados in the comfort of your own kitchen.


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