Caribbean Candies for Your Sweetie
by Anders Elmgren
Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and it's time to start planning on how to show your special someone how much you care. But getting the same old box of chocolates or the same boring candy doesn't really say "I love you" like they used to. Instead, why not try these sweet treats from the Caribbean? Or better yet, you could make the trip and get them fresh and enjoy them at the beach!
Peanuts provide a popular flavor for Jamaican candies. They're used in pinda cakes, or peanut cakes, made by boiling brown sugar and peanuts. Add some sesame seeds and now you have a Wangla (a treat also popular in Belize). Other traditional Jamaican candy flavors include plantains, used in tarts and pastries, and corn, most popularly used for making Brown George or asham. Brown George, sometimes called asham, is a mixture of dried ground corn and salt or sugar.
But the most popular Jamaican flavor might be coconut, and the most popular of these candies is something called the Busta. Named after former Prime Minister of Jamaica and national hero Sir Alexander Bustamante, the candy is a chewy, dark brown candy made from sugar, coconut, and ginger. The hard texture is supposed to represent the backbone of Sir Alexander Bustamante, who was revered as a hero of the common man. The candy was supposedly popularized by its low price of 4 for a penny.
Tamarind is a popular plant ingredient used throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. It is used for tamarind balls, a kneaded mixture of pulp and sugar rolled into bite-sized treats. Tamarind, or as the locals say 'tambran,' balls typically contains brown sugar, granulated sugar, tamarind, pepper and a mix of other spices such as garlic, salt, and even hot sauce depending on the local recipe. What you end up with is a sweet and spicy treat with a kick.
While you're visiting one of the resorts in Mexico, be sure to get your significant other a variety of Mexican candies. There's the popular De La Rosa Mazapan, a chewy peanut-based treat made with marzipan. Duvalin is a staple for many children growing up in Mexico, and will certainly appeal to your sweet-toothed valentine. It's a soft and creamy milk candy that comes in three flavors: hazelnut and strawberry, strawberry and vanilla, and hazelnut and vanilla. For the chocolate lover, there's Bubulubu, a chocolate-covered strawberry and marshmallow candy that locals accuse of being addictive! Or try a Carlos V bar, marketed as the "king of chocolates."
For a more homemade flavor, try making a batch of alegria, a grain-based confection that kind of looks like a Rice-Krispie treat. Made with the highly nutritious amaranth grain, many call the traditional food "the happiness candy." There are many recipes for it online, and many like to add their own twists by adding dried fruit or various nuts.
Looking for desserts? Be sure to check out these Delectable Desserts. And here's a recipe for the Busta from The Jamaica Gleaner's website. Enjoy!
Grated dried coconut
Remove coconut from shell
Scrape the brown part off the back of the fruit
Grate the coconut
Freeze it before use (optional)
Caramelize the sugar
Add the grated coconut
Cook for 20-25 minutes
Test for readiness and then add the ginger and salt; blend ingredients
Pour contents on to grease paper on a flat surface
Spread flat to the desired height
Cool for about 10-20 minutes (it must not be too hot or too cold)
Cut into bite-sized pieces
Let it cool then eat!