Restaurants divide fairly neatly into generally very expensive French cuisine or the more moderate créole. There is not much evidence of the plat du jour as there would be in France. Children may find créole food rather spicy. Fast food hamburger bars are not common.
A delightful blend of French, African, and Indian influences is found in Créole dishes, and the cuisine is quite distinctive. Basic traditional French and African recipes using fresh local ingredients; seafood, tropical fruits and vegetables are combined with exotic seasonings to give original results rich in colour and flavour. Here are local specialities not to be missed:
Ti-boudin, a soft well-seasoned sausage; court bouillon de poisson or blaff is lambis (conch), red snapper or sea urchin cooked with lime, white wine and onions; ragout, a spicy stew often made with chatrous (squid), or conch, or with meat; colombo, a recipe introduced by Hindu immigrants in the last century, is goat, chicken, pork or lamb in a thick curry sauce; poulet au coco, chicken prepared with onions, piment (hot peppers) and coconut; chunks of steakfish (usually tuna, salmon, or red snapper) marinaded and grilled; morue (salt cod) made into sauces and accras (hot fishy fritters from Africa) or chiquetaille (grilled), or used in feroce d’avocat, a pulp of avocados, peppers and manioc flour; langouste (lobster), Crabe (crab), écrevisses, ouassous, z’habitants (crayfish), gambas (prawns) and vivaneau (snapper) are often fricaséed, grilled or barbecued with hot pepper sauce. Also popular are crabe farci (stuffed crab) and oursin farci (stuffed urchin).
Main dishes are usually accompanied by white rice, breadfruit, yams or patate douce (sweet potatoes) with plantains and red beans or lentils. Christophine au gratin; a large knobbly pear-shaped vegetable grilled with grated cheese and breadcrumbs, or a plate of fresh crudités are delicious, lighter side dishes.
Exotic fresh fruit often ends the meal; pineapples, papayas, soursops and bananas can be found all year round and mangoes, mandarin oranges, guavas and sugar apples in season. Ice cream (glace) is also a favourite dessert.
As in other Caribbean islands the main alcoholic drink is rum. Martiniquan rum has a distinctive flavour and is famous for its strength. There are two main types: white rum (blanc) and dark rum (vieux) which has been aged in oak vats and is usually more expensive. Ti punch is rum mixed with cane syrup or sugar and a slice of lime and is a popular drink at any time of the day. Shrub is a delicious Christmas liqueur made from rum and orange peel. Planteur is a rum and fruit juice punch. There is a huge choice of Martiniquan rum, recommended brands being Trois Rivières, Mauny, Neisson and St Clément. There are different brands on Guadeloupe. French wines are available, although even red wine is usually served as a cool drink with ice. The local beer is Lorraine, a clean-tasting beer which claims to be ‘brewed for the tropics’. Corsaire, made in Guadeloupe, is bitter tasting and insipid. Locally-brewed Guinness, at 7% alcohol by volume, stronger than its Irish counterpart, is thick and rich. Malta, a non-alcoholic beverage similar to malt beer, is produced by most breweries and said to be full of minerals and vitamins. Thirst quenching non-alcoholic drinks to look out for are the fresh fruit juices served in most snackbars and cafés. Guava, soursop, passion fruit, mandarin, and sugar cane juice are commonly seen. Tap water is drinkable.