Okay so not everyone knows all the terminology used in the recipes, or maybe some of the ingredients are not available where you are.
This page is intended to answer many of your questions so that your cooking experience can be more enjoyable.
While I am by no means a cooking expert, if there are any questions not addressed here, please email me and I will try and get an answer for you, and maybe update this FAQ at the same time.
The green Anaheim chile is a variety which was cultivated as far back as 1900 for canning, in a factory in Anaheim, California. Also known as California Chile and Chile Verde. Developed from Pasillas in New Mexico, it was the ninth version, which was the ideal size for canning - a very precise 15 cm long by 4 cm wide and with minimal heat level. With its modest heat level it is widely used for all purposes. Heat level 2. 1,000 to 10,000 Scoville heat units. Prolific bearers of long, thin, 2-celled fruits. May be used green or red - hotter when red. Red chiles are left on the bush until turning leathery, then dried in the sun to later be ground into powder and sold as Chile Colorado. (Capsicum annum). 78 days.
(Information from Chile peppers A/B/C)
- See Callaloo.
- Averhoa bilimbi. Small, sour, cucumber-like close relative of Carambola.
- Also known as bodi beans, yard-long beans, snake beans and Chinese beans. String beans are similar to bora, which are often sold in Guyanese markets by the "parcel" or bunch. Depending on the cost, a parcel can be anywhere from 20 to 50 bora or string beans. Use your discretion when cooking this vegetable.
- Solanum melongena. Eggplant. Also called bygan.
- What can I say ... there is no true equivalent to breadfruit other than its close relative jackfruit. Breadfruit is sometimes commonly known as breadnut, although the former is seedless and the latter is the seeded member of the same species of plant. (More on breadfruit). Breadfruit is a large light green spherical vegetable with a prickly skin and with a creamy flesh inside. Although called breadfruit, it is cooked as a vegetable. Depending in the recipe, the cooked flesh of the breadfruit could be approximated by cassava.
- Breadnut is a close relative to breadfruit, in that it is the seeded variety of the same species of plant. Breadnut, as opposed to breadfruit, does set abundant seeds, which are dark-brown, about 2.5 cm long, and which fill the space occupied by edible pulp in seedless breadfruit varieties. Read more on breadnut. Substitutes for breadnut include chick peas (channa) and chestnuts.
- Browning is similar to Guyanese "burnt sugar" or "caramelized sugar". It is one of the ingredients that
is used when you're making the famous "Guyana Black cake". To make it, use brown sugar and a little water, and bring to a boil in a heavy, oiled saucepan. When it starts to thicken, remove from heat, leave it to cool and add some wine (port). Note if you add the wine when the sugar is hot prepare to clean up your kitchen. In other words, add it gradually, stirring all the time. Some prefer stout instead of wine.
- Spinach and swiss chards are close substitutes for callaloo, also known as "bhagee" or "taro leaves". Callaloo leaves tend to be thicker than spinach but the flavour is similar. Callaloo is not normally eaten raw, though.
- Averhoa carambola. Carambola, also known as "five finger" in Guyana, and as "star fruit" here in Canada, is a pale light green to yellow fruit, with a five-pointed star cross-section. It has a few small seeds, is very juicy, and is a bit tart when green, and sweet when ripe. It is used for preserves, as a garnish and for making fruit drink.
From the Hindi karela.
- Caramelized bitter-sweet extract of the cassava root, used in cooking Pepperpot. Bottled cassareep is often sold in West Indian stores so you might not have to make it.
- This dark brown to black root is also called yucca or manioc. The Amerindians in Guyana use it to make cassava bread. Tapioca is also extracted from cassava.
- Also called channa dhaal or chick peas.
- This term comes from East Indian cuisine, and refers to the method of roasting vegetables until soft, and mashing them with spices. Garlic is usually placed on top, with very hot vegetable oil poured over to bring out the falvour before mixing it into the vegetables.
Cherries, as in 'West Indian cherries'
- Malpighia punicifolia. These cherries are a bit smaller and more tart than the cherries normally available in North America. They are bright red and about the size of a large raspberry.
- This is a mixed oriental spice marketed in Guyana as "chinese spice". Chinese spice is chinese five spice, and is a combination of spices, star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, licorice, nutmeg, and Szechuan peppercorns. Different manufactures use different combinations, but the dominant flavour is anise and cinnamon.
- According to The Cook's Thesaurus, this includes preserved Sichuan mustard greens, preserved Sichuan kohlrabi, snow pickle (red-in-snow), and salted cabbage (winter pickle).
- Not coconut water! Coconut milk is the white liquid that is produced from grated dry coconut flesh (cous-cous), when squeezed in water.
- Scotch bonnet pepper, also known as habañero pepper.
- See Gheera.
- Cherimoya, also called "custard apple". This large, tropical fruit tastes like a delicate combination of pineapple, papaya ,and banana. An irregular oval in shape, the cherimoya has a leathery green skin with a scaly pattern. The flesh, peppered with large, black seeds, is cream colored and the texture of firm custard when completely ripe.
Dhaal is an East Indian food based on split peas. I have heard the term "dhaal" used to refer to a sauce made from split peas, and also to refer to the main ingredient, i.e. the split peas, itself. Then there is dhaal puri, with is a roti filled with cooked and ground split peas. I guess in the recipe you'll just have to determine the context.
Channa dhaal is another variation made with chick peas (channa).
Dhaal is a Hindi name for all members of the legume or pulse family. Commonly used are: Arhar, Channa, Masur, Mung, Labia (black-eyed peas), Rajma (red kidney beans).
- See eddoes.
- This is simply the coconut you normally see in the supermarkets, the brown fibrous nut about 5 or 6 inches in diameter and slightly ovoid in shape. Dry coconut is the term use in Guyana to differentiate this stage of the coconut from the "water coconut" stage, where the coconut is young and the flesh is soft inside. Water coconuts, or "green coconuts", are sold at the roadside or in the markets, and bought for drinking.
- Aprin, Dunks. Rhamnaceae Ziziphus mauritiana. Dunks, commonly pronounced "dungs", is a small 1 to 1½ inch long berry-like fruit, with one seed or pit, and crunchy flesh which can be slightly tart when green and sweet when ripe. It is green when green (unripe) and greenish-yellow when ripe. I have never seen an alternative. Related to jujubes also known as chinese dates.
- Eddoes are solid, roundish root tuber, also called taro root and dasheen.
- Green onions. In Guyana they are called "shallot", as opposed to "shallots" or green onions. Sort of like "sheep" v.s. "sheeps", and "deer" vs. "deers".
- See Carambola.
- East Indian cooking margarine or clarified butter, and is butter fat which has had all the milk solids extracted from it by boiling.
Gheera or jira
- Cumin. An East Indian spice.
- This is not a Golden Delicious apple. It is a tart-sweet fruit with a thin greenish-yellow or yellow skin, yellow flesh, and a single spiny stone.
- Small, very pale light green berry with one seed or pit, and extremely sour. I am not sure if there is an alternate.
Psidium guajava. Guavas (gwah'vas) are fruits which are round, about 3 - 4 inches in diameter, and pale yellow when ripe. Inside, there are hundreds of tiny seeds (not unlike strawberry seeds) throughout the deliciously juicy cream or pink flesh ("white lady" or "pink lady" guavas, respectively).
Guavas are eaten fresh, seeds and all, or are made into jam or jelly, "guava cheese" (one of my favourites!) or "guava stew" (another favourite). Guava cheese is based on the puréed flesh of the fruit, and is similar to ju-jubes ("jub-jubs" in Guyana), although they are more moist and tastier. Guava stew is made from sections of the outer ¼ inch layer of the guava which has no seeds. The flesh is stewed in water, sugar and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg), cooled and used as required as a topping for ice cream or with toast.
Similar to scotch bonnet pepper. Very flavourful and extremely hot.
This chile belongs to the Capsicum Chinense family, of South American origin. In Mexico it is planted exclusively in the Yucatan Peninsula, where it was probably introduced from Cuba, which might explain its popular name "Habanero". The Habanero is the world's hottest chile, heat level is 10, (or an impressive 300,000 units on the Scoville scale). For the uninitiated even a tiny piece of Habanero would cause intense and prolonged oral suffering. Underneath the heat is a delicate plum-tomato apple-like flavour. The riper red ones have a sweetness that gives them a mouth-watering appeal. Grown in Mexico and the Caribbean. It has an irregular spheroid shape, with a small point, and is around 5 cm long by 3.25-4.5 cm wide. It is available in green, yellow, scarlet and deep red. It has a number of close relatives such as Scotch Bonnet and Rocoto. It is used mainly raw because it loses subtlety, but not heat, when cooked. Seed catalogues list from 75 to 125 days to harvest. This is in addition to 50 to 80 days of indoor growth and up to 30 days for germination. Slow to germinate, must be grown in warm, moist conditions. The Habanero when ripe or dried and powdered has a unique apricot scent.
(Information from Chile peppers G/H/I)
- This is a black catfish about 6 to 8 inches in length, which lives in muddy freshwater and which has a very tough armour-plated shell. Hassars (casadura in Trinidad) live for a very long time out of water and are bought live at the market and killed just prior to cooking. To the best of my knowledge, curry is the predominant recipe in which hassar is used.
High wine is an interim product in the "pot still" distillation of
rum. It consists of 75% alcohol and 25% water.
Read more on rum distillation.
- Asafoetida. Dried gum resin from the root of various Iranian and East Indian plants. Has a strong fetid odor - definitely an acquired taste.
- Also known as mangrile, Indian black onion seeds, kala jeera, and nigella. This Indian spice looks like small roundish dark brown / black seeds, like black sesame seeds. It is used in making achar and stuffed fried carila. Also used to make garam massala.
Lap chung or Lap chong
- Chinese dried sausage.
Low mein noodles
- Low (rhymes with "how") mein noodles are fine or medium egg noodles.
- Red-skinned fruit pears with white flesh. Bland when green and quite juicy sweet and refreshing when ripe. When ripe, the skin gets darker (blood) red. Also called "cashews" in Guyana.
- One of the main fruits of Guyana, the mango is actually of Indian origin. There are many varieties of mango as evidenced by their differing shapes (round, long, kidney shaped) and sizes. The most popular Guyanese mango is the Buxton Spice, commonly called "spice mango". More on mangoes.
- See kalunji.
Married Man Pork
Massala or Marsala
- Ground spice used often in East indian cooking. Massala recipe and Garam Massala recipe.
- Mauby is a classic Caribbean drink made by steeping the bark of the carob tree Colubrina reclinata. There is no equivalent.
Mein, as in 'Low mein' and 'Chow mein'
- [Egg] noodles. Low mein noodles are medium egg noodles whereas Chow mein noodles are fine egg noodles.
- This is a combination of cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, clove, pimento, ginger.
- Okra is another name for this vegetable which is really a green pod, about 6 inches long, pointed at the bottom, and having a fuzzy exterior. Inside, it is filled with little soft seeds and is a little slimy. Giambo or gumbo are also names for okra, although gumbo is also a thick and tasty okra soup made with fish.
Pakchoy or Pak choy
- Choy Sum (bok choy hearts). Bok choy.
Papaw or Paw-paw
- Carica papaya. Papaya.
- Cajanus cajan. The equivalent that we may see in the supermarket is congo, no-eyed or gungo peas. The Epicurious Dictionary says that pigeon peas "grow in long, twisted fuzzy pods. The peas are about the size of the standard garden pea and are usually a grayish-yellow color. Pigeon peas can be eaten raw but are most often dried and split. They're available dried in many supermarkets and can often be found fresh, frozen and canned in the regions where they're grown, as well as Latin American and Indian markets. Pigeon peas are cooked like dried beans."
- Worcestershire sauce, unless otherwise stated. The Epicurious Dictionary says that it is "a spicy brown sauce made with shallots, white wine, vinegar, gherkins, parsley and various herbs and seasonings. It's served with sliced meats such as pork, tongue and beef."
Plantains are a relative of bananas, although they are not interchangeable as a food.
Plantains are generally larger than bananas, green to yellow skinned (which is thicker and more fibrous than banana peel), and used for cooking. They are not eaten as a fruit the way bananas are. Also, in Guyanese popular cuisine, bananas are not fried in dishes the way plantains are.
- The plums commonly available in Guyana are small ovoid yellow plums, about 1½ inch long, with a central pit and tart yellow flesh. They are used to make drinks or wine. Plums available in North American are not a direct equivalent, but nonetheless can be used as a substitute in drinks and wine, provided the plums are slightly green (unripe).
- Jumbo shrimp. A note about the preparation of prawns and shrimp -- I have noticed that in North American restaurants, the central blackish "vein" that runs down the length of the prawn/shrimp just below the surface of the back, is often left in. Sometimes even the shell of the prawn is left on. In Guyanese cuisine, not only is the prawn or shrimp shelled, but the vein is removed by making a shallow cut along the back of the shelled prawn/shrimp, and removing it prior to cooking.
- Purple berry about ¾ inch in diameter, with a single seed in the middle. There is no equivalent.
- Also known as chapatis, these are round flat unleavened breads eaten with curries. Similar to pita breads and tortillas.
Rum is distilled from the fermented products of sugar cane,
- Manilkara achras. Also known as naseberry (Jamaica). Heavenly reddish-brown fruit, about 3 inches in diameter, with a few black almond shaped seeds. Extremely sweet flesh inside a paper thin skin. My favourite fruit. Incidentally, the sap of the sapodilla tree is used to make chicle, at one time the main ingredient in chewing gum.
Scotch Bonnet Pepper
- Similar to habañero peppers. Very flavourful and extremely hot.
Very closely related to the Habanero chile, the Scotch Bonnet (or Bahamian, Bahama Mama, Jamaican Hot or Martinique Pepper) is just about as hot. Heat level is 9-10. It has a similar apple-cherry tomato flavour. Like the Habanero, it is spherical, although rather more squashed in shape, and it is smaller 3.25-4 cm in diameter. Native to the Caribbean, it is available in the UK in green, yellow, orange, white, brown and red as well as multi-toned. It is great for salsas and sauces. (Capsicum chinense).
(Information from Chile peppers S/T/U)
- Soya sauce.
- Blood-red flowers of the sorrel bush, about 1½ inch long and roughly cone-shaped. Sorrel is used to make sorrel drink or sorrel wine, especially around Christmas time. There is no equivalent.
- Light green fruit, about 2 - 3 inches long and 1 inch in diameter, and very sour.
- Soursop is an odd shaped green fruit with a creamy white flesh and lots of black seeds inside. It is tart-sweet and used for drinks, yogurts and ice creams. Someone I know who went to Costa Rica says they call it "guanabana". Cherimoya (custard apple) can be used as a substitute.
Spice, as in 'piece of spice'
- Spice in the form of a bark; similar to cinnamon.
- A very tall (over 10 ft) and robust grass (1½ - 2 inches in diameter), from which all sugar in the Caribbean is made. Other products made from sugar cane include rum, high wine and molasses. In Guyana, there are many sugar plantations, the product of which is sugar cane. Ripping the hard skin with one's teeth and sucking on the sweet fibrous flesh inside is a treat for many Guyanese children.
- Inocarpus edulis. The fruit of the tamarind tree is a tapering, many-seeded pod, up to about 10 inches long. When unripe, the pod is greenish brown and firm. When ripe, the pod becomes hollow as the seeds and flesh pull away from the pod, and the seeds are then covered with brown flesh. At all stages, tamarind is very sour. When it is mixed with sugar and water, tamarind juice is a popular drink in Latin America and the Caribbean. There is no equivalent.
- Tamarind paste.
- Xanthosoma sagittifolium. Tannias are root tubers. This tropical plant is an important food crop. The small underground bulbs provide a staple carbohydrate throughout the Tropics. They are eaten grilled, fried, as puree in soups or barbecued whole.
- See Callaloo.
- The tilapia is a small freshwater fish of the cichlid family. Brook trout can be used as a substitute.
- Stomach lining of ruminants such as cows or oxen. White, tough, fibrous and rough on one side, not unlike the texture of tongue. More on tripe.
MSG (monosodium glutamate) Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is the sodium salt of glutamate. When MSG is added to foods, it provides a similar flavoring function as the glutamate that occurs naturally in food. MSG is comprised of nothing more than water, sodium and glutamate. [See "Everything you need to know about Glutamate and Monosodium Glutamate"]
Small berry-like hot red peppers, with a very strong and characteristic flavour. Used fresh in cooking. My absolutely favourite pepper! If you don't have wirri-wirri peppers, habañero (scotch bonnet) peppers have a very similar flavour, although they are a bit hotter.
Very hot. Grows to 1.3 cm. Round red pepper. (Capsicum frutescens)
- In Guyanese cuisine, yams are not sweet potatoes as sometimes referred to here in Canada.
Yams are root tubers just like the sweet potatoes they are confused with. Guyanese sweet potatoes differ again from the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes we get here in Canada.
Someone asked me to make some suggestions as to a three course meal -- appetizer, entrée and dessert -- and I came up with the following suggestions that I would like to have. Note that each course has several suggestions -- one from each course should be sufficient! J
- Soup: Shrimp & Callaloo, Callaloo Soup with Crab, Pumpkin Soup
- Crab Backs
- Broiled Prawns with Dip
- Salads: Sea Trout Salad, Four Bean Salad,
- Cassava Puffs
- Fried Breadfruit, Fried Plantains
- Yam and Spinach Croquettes
- Curries with Rice and/or Roti or Dhaal Puri: Curried Hassars, Curried Beef or Goat
- Sweet and Sour Chicken with Fried Rice or Low Mein
- Pigeon Peas and Rice
- Callaloo Cookup
- Cookup Rice
- Baked Custard
- Coconut Cream Custard
- Coconut Ice Cream
- Fruit Flan
- Fruit Salad
- Guava Brown Betty
- Mango Fool
Of course this is not a definitive list, and I am no chef. I just know what I like to eat! Feel free to experiment with other combinations.
|5 1/3 tbsp
|1 cup sugar
|1 cup margarine
|1 cup flour
|4 tbsp flour
|2 tbsp sugar
|2 tbsp margarine
|1 cup flour
- Aromatic bitters, e.g. Angostura™ bitters.
Bundle, as in 'bundle of spinach'
- In the markets of Guyana, vegetables are often divided into "parcels" or "bundles" or "bunches". There is no standard by which all such parcels or bundles are sized; they vary from vendor to vendor, and from item to item. Bunches are fairly straighforward, as in a bunch of bananas, and not so straightforward as in a bunch of dasheen bush. I guess market forces determine what a good bunch, bundle or parcel size should be, for any given item. I suggest a rule of thumb would be that these measures are roughly equivalent to a good handful of the stuff.
- Candying citrus is an old art. The candied peel is perfect for garnishing fruit salads and molds. Candied peel can also be used to decorate cakes. Recipe for candied peel.
- East Indian version of a wok.
- "Normal" bananas found in North American supermarkets, i.e. long, thick and yellow when ripe. In Guyana, there are several types of bananas, e.g. apple, fig, and red bananas.
- Cheese (without any qualification as to type) normally refers to cheddar.
- Grated dried coconut flesh, although true cous-cous is actually a sort of grainy pasta-like cereal native to North Africa.
- This is coconut used for cooking, and is the coconut normally seen in the supermarkets in North America. So, if there is a dry coconut, is there a "wet" coconut? Not really. The other form of coconut is "water coconut", which is the young (green) coconut, used specifically for coconut water and coconut jelly. These coconuts are commonly sold at the roadside in Guyana for drinking purposes. When green coconuts get old, the outer fibrous covering gets brown and dry, and is removed to give copra and the nut commonly used for cooking. The flesh of the dry coconut is white, thick, and hard, as opposed to the translucent, thin, soft water coconut jelly. See also, coconut milk.
- Which essence you say? If you see the term "essence" by itself, it is safe to assume that it refers to vanilla essence.
- Butter, lard and margarine are all examples of fats which are used daily, and may be used for cooking. Alternatively, if you are on a low-cholesterol diet, you might want to substitute vegetable oil for these fats, where possible.
The general term fish means different things to different people, especially to people in diverse parts of the world. In Guyana, there are many different types of fish, both "sweet" water (freshwater) and salt water. The very name "Guyana" means "land of many waters", so it should come as no surprise that there are many species of fish in her waters.
Having said that, for the purposes of these recipes, it would be safe to use a "conventional fish" for dishes which do not specify type. By "conventional" I mean a scale fish having white flesh.
In Guyana, sea trout, snapper (saltwater fish), tilapia and banga-mary (freshwater) are examples of good candidates for "fish" dishes, as opposed to, say, hassar. In North America, cod, halibut, Boston bluefish, and sole (saltwater), and brook trout (freshwater) are a few examples of good candidates, as opposed to, say, salmon or tuna.
- This is the name of a drink, made with mangoes or sweet potatoes.
- When something is described as being "green" it is unripe.
- Ginger root.
- This is a general term used to describe green vegetables (usually green leafy vegetables such as callaloo, bhagee, pak choy, etc.), although I have heard the term used to describe any sort of green vegetable.
- Underground root vegetables, such as cassavas, eddoes, dasheen, tannias, yams, etc.
- Romaine lettuce.
- Basil (the seasoning).
- Long slender basket used to wring cassava juice from grated cassava. The matapee has loops at either end. To use, the upper end is firmly fixed and a stick is put through the lower loop. This stick is used to twist the matapee, squeezing the juice into the bowl placed below.
- Minced or ground beef.
- Peanuts, unless otherwise stated.
- Pineapple is commonly called "pine" in Guyana.
- Cleaned pig or cow intestines, used in making black pudding.
Pepper, as in "Salt and Pepper"
- White or black ground pepper, depending on the dish.
- This is the type of squash that is available in Guyana and is not the
pumpkin-type squash you get in North America. The Guyana squash is like a
huge zucchini and the skin is pale light green. The flesh inside is even
paler and quite delicate with a high water content.
- A tawah is a cooking utensil of East Indian origin, and is basically a 12 inch (approximately) round flat plate made of cast iron. It is typically used for making rotis and puris. A cast iron frying pan is an excellent substitute for a tawah.
- A piece of peel, or the outer covering of an orange or lemon, used in flavouring.
- The Epicurious Dictionary
- Search for ingredients, look up metric equivalents, etc.
- Coosemans Guide to Specialty Produce
- A good information resource on specialty ingredients. Includes lots of pictures.
- The Cook's Thesaurus
- Guide to tropical fruit.
Graeme Caselton - Chile Head
- A comprehensive website on pepper, also called chillies.