When you think of classic cuisines from around the world, places like France, China and Italy come to mind, followed by Japan and India. Each of these countries seems to offer something unique – a taste of its own. Flavours of Florida is low down on the list.
But if you actually spend time in the Sunshine State, you’ll notice something; it’s a real melting pot of food cultures. No – it doesn’t have a specific “cuisine” of its own. Instead, like so many places around the world, it’s a place where different flavours meet in spectacular style.
Florida’s food scene is rich and varied because of the European and Latin American influences in the state. In that respect, it is very much unique. No other place in the country has such a variety of diaspora with food cultures that have leached out to the wider public.
Here are some examples of the flavours of Florida you should try.
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Ceviche is a Latin American dish that has found its way into Floridian cuisine owing to its proximity to the Caribbean. Ceviche is unusual because it contains raw fish cooked in acids and brines and served with lemon, oranges and limes. But many restaurants now sell it and it is available in most downtown areas of the state,
While you’re in Florida, you’ll also want to try out the Cubano – also called the Cuban sandwich. Many restaurants in Miami and Tampa to the south of the state serve this. The Cubano is a sandwich made of ham, pork, melted Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard served in two slices of toasted Cuban bread. You can get the Cubano with fries, but it’s best with plantain – the traditional Cuban starch
The Spanish have had some influence in Florida because of the number of Latin Americans now calling the state their home. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that empanadas make an appearance. These are basically baked dough pouches filled with minced meat. They’re popular fast food in the state and super convenience food when you are on the move. To heat them, you just put them in the microwave or bake them in a stone oven. Many fast-food vendors and street food merchants sell them.
Florida has a lot of coastlines so it should come as no surprise that it offers some of the world’s best oysters. You can eat them as a snack along with a cold beer.
The best time to get oysters in Florida is between September and December. Oysters are most active at this time of the year and generally at their biggest. You can get oysters at other times of the year but there is a good chance that they will have been frozen. You can eat oysters directly from the shell – as the Europeans do – or you can eat them with horseradish sauce.
Floridians are also keen on their shrimp, mainly because of Florida’s location so close to the water. Most restaurants serve a pan-fried shrimp recipe. This is just shrimp coated in flour and then fried with some oil in a pan. They may serve it with lemon or tartar sauce, depending on where you go.
Locals love their BBQ dishes, with open fires being a popular method of cooking in the state. There are many BBQ chains in the state, such as Sonny’s BBQ and Bono’s BBQ. Florida BBQ tends to be a little different from the rest of the country because of the type of wood that restaurants use and the sauces that they use to marinate the meat.
Key Lime Pie
You can’t have a post about Floridian food without mentioning key lime pie. This dessert is made of lime juice, condensed milk, egg yolks and a pie crust. It’s perfect for people who love both sweet and tart tastes. Usually, restaurants serve it with whipped cream and lime garnish, though some will offer it straight out of the baking tray.
Florida is home to more than a million alligators, found mostly in the state’s vast swamps. Gator tail, therefore, is an opportunity for you to experience what this water-borne animal tastes like.
Most restaurants deep-fry gator tail in batter and serve it with fresh, spicy tomato salsa. It may also come with a lemon wedge and some salad. You can eat it as an appetiser or an entreé – the choice is yours. The taste is a mixture of chicken and fish.