Taste of the Caribbean: Oil Down, Grenada’s National Dish
If you’re ever in Grenada and lucky enough to receive an invitation to an Oil Down, don’t fetch your robe, spa slippers or Musical Massage CD’s. A rub down is not in your future. Instead, get ready for a unique cultural experience that is as fun as it is filling.
The dish itself is serious comfort food, generally combining breadfruit, coconut milk, saffron, dumplings, callaloo and a salted fish or meat like codfish, smoked herring, salted beef, or pig’s tail. Everything’s cooked together in one big pot over an open flame outdoors, as pictured above, with the key ingredient – the flavorful oil that’s released from the coconut milk as it simmers – inspiring the name.
The party is an all-day affair drawing together whole neighborhoods, often to the beach, to prepare the meal. Everyone pitches in to help – peeling, cutting and seasoning meat and provisions, tending to the fire, mixing drinks – all have a role to play. Once all the ingredients are in the pot, though, the party really begins. Oil Down usually cooks for a few hours, leaving ample time to take some rum, catch-up on old talk, and just kick back.
Obviously, there’s a tremendous spirit of unity and camaraderie that comes with every Oil Down. Hand-to-hand, brothers and sisters from shared communities coming together to cook and eat as one from the same pot – Oil Down is a beautiful expression of the best of Caribbean culture.
There’s nothing quite like experiencing an Oil Down in Grenada, but you can try to replicate it at home. Here’s a scaled-down recipe from our friends at the Grenada Tourist Board that could feed your family tonight!
- 1 large full breadfruit
- 1 whole hot green pepper
- 2 blades chive
- 1 sprig thyme, parsley, celery
- 1/2 to 1 ounce saffron, or
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 8 ounces salted meat (pig’s tail or pig’s snout)
- 5 to 6 cups coconut milk
- salt to taste
Soak salt meat to remove some of the salt. Cut breadfruit in half. Divide each half into two or three sections. Peel and core, then wash thoroughly. Place meat in a pot. Arrange breadfruit over meat. Add seasoning and coconut milk. Cover and bring to a boil. Add saffron or curry powder and cook until meat and breadfruit are tender, the liquid is absorbed, and oil is seen around the breadfruit.
Oil Down can be served plain, with a salad, or with ochro slush. Dumplings, plantains, callaloo leaves, or various other vegetables may be added as well, since like the party that bears its name, just about everything mixes well in an Oil Down.