The chef shares her favorite spots and must-eat dishes on the tiny Caribbean island.
Every July, the Caribbean island of Nevis—which is home to only 11,000 people—hosts a festival to celebrate their abundance of mangos. Forty-four varieties of the succulent stone fruit grow along the isle, and the Mango and Food Festival showcases them all. Over the course of four days, the island puts on a series of events featuring chefs—both local and internationally-known—who teach classes and cook dinners, making sure to keep mangos at the heart of every course.
This year, chef and TV personality Judy Joo was the celebrity chef in attendance, and she highlighted mangos in a few different Korean dishes: green mango kimchi, mango soy ginger chicken BBQ, mango marinated Korean fried chicken, and mango yuja-infused posset. When she wasn’t cooking, Joo spent time exploring the island, often in search of the best food, and we got to tag along as Joo took over Food & Wine’s Instagram.
Here are Joo’s must-know tips when traveling to Nevis:
Go to Sunshine’s Bar and Grill for the vibes, the food, and the Killer Bee cocktail.
Sunshine’s Bar and Grill, owned by a Rastafarian man named Sunshine, is one of the most famous restaurants on the island. The house specialty is a rum punch called The Killer Bee, topped with Angostura bitters and fresh nutmeg. Joo says, “The ‘killer’ part is a secret ingredient, rumored to be the local moonshine or Hammond, a type of bush rum. My executive chef and I had one each at lunch and then went back to cook, and we both cut ourselves within the first five minutes. We were seriously flying high. Beware of the killer bee’s sting!”
Make sure to snag a taste of Hammond.
When the English outlawed rum-making throughout Nevis, “Hammond” became the code word for the home island brew, as Hammond was the official in charge of enforcing the rum prohibition. If you’re in the know, Joo says, “Most of the village shops will sell this illicit cane spirit behind the counter. We asked nicely at a few places before someone was willing to share some with us. Usually it is infused with a fragrant medicinal local root, ‘kakanda,’ which is known as the Nevisian natural Viagra.”
At Wilma’s Diner, don’t miss the famous Goat Water.
Due to a steady influx of immigrants from India, the cuisine across Nevis is heavily influenced by Indian flavors and ingredients. Joo says, “The result is a tasty mix of local ingredients, such as fiery scotch bonnet peppers and coconut, combined with typical Indian spices such as curry, nutmeg, cloves, cumin, and coriander.” At one of the most famous restaurants, Wilma’s Diner, Joo urges travelers to make sure to order Chef Wilma’s Goat Water. Joo says that this savory stew, made with chunks of bread fruit, “is best sopped up with freshly fried coconut johnny cakes.”
Always pair seafood with a local drink.
Whether spiny Caribbean lobster, conch fritters, or swordfish, Joo says that all kinds of seafood “are elevated to perfection when washed down with a Carib, Ting, or Foreign Extra Stout, aka ‘Caribbean Guinness.’”
The local village shops have the best homemade rotis—look for the hot boxes on the counter where they’re kept warm.
“Rotis are stuffed with spiced curried chicken or fish and usually made fresh every morning. Patties are another local ‘must try.’ These empanada-like pastries showcase a variety of fillings such as salted fish, spiced chicken, and mango jerk pork.”
For more on Caribbean cuisine, check out these recipes.