The Guadeloupe Islands are known for fresh seafood and the beachfront restaurants that serve it. // © Guadeloupe Islands Tourist Board
Feature image (above): Guadeloupean food trucks serve everything from grilled conch to hand-churned coconut ice cream. // © Jad Davenport
It’s fair to say that most U.S. residents would have trouble pointing out the Guadeloupe Islands on a map. The French, however, have come to know Guadeloupe as the “Pearl of the French Caribbean.” The archipelago is sandwiched between Antigua and Dominica in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles. While the overseas region of France offers white-sand beaches, rainforests and incredible scuba diving sites, Guadeloupe is perhaps best experienced through its traditional local eats and street food.
Visitors who want to taste the best of Guadeloupe should head to the nearest food truck and order a “bokit.” The messy fried-bread sandwich comes in two sizes, large or extra-large, so you might as well plan on skipping a meal that day.
For each order, the cook will roll out the dough to the appropriate dimensions and toss it in the deep fryer while the stuffing for the sandwich sizzles on the grill. Just about anything goes inside a bokit, from hamburger and conch to grilled fish or ham and cheese. The fried-bread sandwich is then finished with a heap of shredded cheese, a fried egg and spicy mayonnaise.
Smooth, flavorful coffee is one of Guadeloupe’s best-kept secrets, and nowhere is this more evident than at Le Domaine de l’Habitation La Griveliere, the oldest coffee plantation in Guadeloupe. Coffee has been grown here, on the slopes of La Soufriere volcano, for more than 300 years, and La Griveliere continues to process coffee and cocoa beans the traditional way. Seeing just how much work goes into one cup of coffee is, without a doubt, an eye-opening experience.
Aged between 3 and 5 years, La Griveliere’s coffee beans are remarkably sweet. Its French-style bourbon beans are 100 percent Arabica, and you don’t need to sweeten the coffee or cut it with cream — it’s already that delicious. La Griveliere is also home to one of the tastiest hot cocoas on the planet. Its cocoa beans are mixed with hot milk, bitter almond syrup and cinnamon. Grab a steaming cup at the on-site restaurant or bring home a bag of mix to share with friends and family.
Life’s a beach at shoreside restaurant Le Rivage. Located on the sands of Basse Terre’s Bananier Beach, Le Rivage serves down-to-earth Creole cuisine as surfers hang ten.
Guests can sip on a delightful (and strong) version of Guadeloupe’s ubiquitous cocktail, planter’s punch. The fruity rum drink is served in a sugar-rimmed pint glass and garnished with star fruit. Rather than enjoy it on an empty stomach, wait for your carbohydrate-loaded main dish to arrive. Entrees such as conch or stewed goat are served with hulking sides of breadfruit, rice, plantains and mashed potatoes.
Before leaving Le Rivage, do yourself a favor and order another island favorite, cod-fish fritters. Le Rivage spices up its version with shredded coconut, papaya and pumpkin. If you don’t mind having bad breath for the foreseeable future, be sure to slather the fritters in the restaurant’s garlicky version of “dog sauce.”
“In hotels and tourist shops, we call dog sauce ‘Creole sauce’ so as not to scare tourists who might thing the sauce is either made for dogs or made of dogs,” explained Sandra Venite, Guadeloupe Islands Tourist Board’s regional manager of U.S. and South America. “We call it dog sauce for a reason though. When dogs like something, they drool. This sauce is so good that it makes you drool like a dog.”
My friends and I lapped up an entire bowl at Le Rivage and had to beg for seconds. Though not on the menu, most restaurants serve a version of dog sauce — made of diced peppers, onions, garlic, herbs, white vinegar and olive oil.
The idyllic island of Les Saintes lays claim to a pastry so important to locals that the recipe has been kept secret for generations. Indeed, Les Saintes is the only place in the world where visitors can sample an authentic Guadeloupean “le tourment d’amour,” and if there’s a pastry out there that can make you feel the “agony of love,” this is it. The pie crust is flaky and buttery, and fresh coconut, guava or pineapple jam layers over sponge cake to create a slightly gooey, yet delicate, center. It’s the right level of sweetness that doesn’t overpower the taste buds — and of course, it’s best enjoyed the same day it comes out of the oven.
By the ferry docks, look for older women lugging around decorated baskets. These entrepreneurial bakers sell packs of four pies for about $2.50, and they are happy to tell you how they think the pastry got its name. Just don’t ask them for the recipe.