Cou-Cou is a combination of cornmeal and okra and is considered to be a part of the national dish in Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda and the British Virgin Islands. The dish is known as Coo-coo in the southern part of the islands and as fungi in the northern area. Both the components of the dish are easily available and inexpensive.
An implement known as the cou-cou stick is usually utilized to cook the dish. The long and narrow stick with a broader base is similar to the cricket bat in appearance. It is considered to be essential for stirring the coo-coo in the cooking pot. The mixture of cornmeal and okra thickens easily over heat and has to be stirred constantly while applying slight pressure.
The flying fish is the commonest accompaniment to the cou-cou which is also served with beef stew and corned beef at times. The dish is customarily served as a part of the Friday evening meal across the islands of Barbados and adjacent areas.
The dish may also be cooked without okras in the Virgin Islands and Antigua and goes by the name of fengie, fungi or fungie. The taste of the dish is quite bland which is usually eaten with the accompanying rich gravy.
Origin of the Cou-Cou Recipe
The dish has its roots in West Africa and can be compared with the African staple, fu-fu. The hearty meal is starchy and filling which helped to satiate the appetites of the slaves brought to the West Indian islands including Barbados and Antigua.
Cou-Cou Recipe: Ingredients and Preparation Overview
Cornmeal and okra pods are the main ingredients of the dish which is seasoned with salt and cooked with cold water along with some butter or margarine.
The method of preparing the Coo-coo is quite simple as it involves only boiling. The cornmeal is mixed with cold water and kept aside until the okras, cut diagonally, are boiled with the remaining water. The addition of the cornmeal to the boiling mixture requires certain skill as the cornmeal tends to lump together once it is immersed with the okras into the boiling water. The Cou-cou stick becomes necessary here and it is used to stir the mash vigorously until a porridge like consistency is achieved.
The dish is seasoned with salt and served with a teaspoon of butter or margarine added to it.
Cou-Cou- Serving Suggestions
The traditional way to serve the dish is with the Flying fish gravy. These two dishes together constitute the National dish of Barbados. The other popular ways of serving the dish include:-
- Eating the dish along with corned beef or beef stew is a popular alternative.
- Fried chicken is served with cou-cou for the American tourists in Caribbean.
- Yellow cornmeal coo-coo is generally served with Frizz fish, a gravy made by steaming salted codfish.
- Pieces of the frozen cornmeal & okra mush are often deep-fried and served with syrup for breakfast on Saturdays.
- Restaurants in Caribbean islands also serve the cornmeal dish with steamed Dolphin and cucumber pickles.
Cou-Cou Recipe Variations
- Fungee- It is made with cornmeal and water, it becomes the National dish of Antigua and Barbuda when consumed with pepperpot, a spinach and meat stew.
- Fish and Fungi- It is a kind of cornmeal mush and is a popular dish of the Virgin Islands. It is usually served with boiled fish gravy poured on top of it.
- Breadfruit Cou-cou- It is a popular variation of the traditional cornmeal porridge that is prepared with breadfruit and green bananas. It is served with fish based dishes.
- Polenta- It is a staple food of North Italy and prepared with cornmeal and served as an alternative to bread.
- Caribbean Coo-coo- This is a standalone dish made with coconut milk, chopped onions and cornmeal. It is garnished with freshly ground black pepper before serving.
- Coosh- It is a thick cornmeal porridge that can be prepared with either boiling water or milk. Traditionally eaten with maple syrup, it had become a staple dish of the American soldiers during the Civil War.
Cou-cou Nutritive Value
A single serving of the dish usually consists of 166 calories. The nutritive value of the dish is enhanced by the accompanying gravy which generally consists of protein. The coo-coo is inordinately rich in sodium and potassium with the total amount of carbohydrates being about 32g. The butter added also increases the fat content which can be controlled by using a low calorie alternative like margarine.
A local Barbados company has recently started marketing an instant cou-cou powder known as “Real Bajan Cou-Cou Mix”.