Man About Town: Jerk chicken is only the beginning

Thanks to the launch of The Pepperpot Club, the new and very personal cookbook from Jonathan Phang, I'm getting to know Caribbean cuisine

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The Independent Online

It is hard being an aspiring middle-class foodie. Not only keeping up with new venues, pop-ups and trends, but new cuisines too.

You've just figured out the basics of, say, Peruvian food, and then a whole other region pops up, which peer pressure insists you try. By the time you have the time and money to return to Peruvian cuisine, someone new has appeared, won a Michelin star for their take on it and told everyone that the way they were doing it before was too Westernised, too polished and that his or her way is the way of his grandmother.

While this is going on, all your contemporaries suddenly quickly become boringly expert on another food they might have once eaten on a gap year, so too do the critics, who start talking about how a dish so obscure should be "spongy" or "crunchy" even though there is no real answer.

It was how I felt when I first went to dinner at the Rum Kitchen in west London recently. I am ashamed to admit I had not tried much Caribbean food beyond the takeaway, but it gives you a delicious introduction.

I was back there again this week for the launch of The Pepperpot Club, the new and very personal cookbook from Jonathan Phang. He said he wants to take people's conception of Caribbean cuisine beyond the snacks people get from the Notting Hill Carnival such as "jerk chicken and rice and peas" and to explore and reflect the rich and varied culinary history the area has to offer.

Phang claims this historically came about because of the various nationalities of the indentured workers there, something he himself knows something about, given that his father was Indian-Chinese and his mother was a combination of Portuguese, Scottish, Amerindian and Dutch Jewish (I hope he gets to celebrate all their national holidays).

I was once again impressed by the food at the restaurant (particularly the spicy saltfish fritters). So too seem others: the party was downstairs, but the restaurant upstairs was packed, while a number of famous faces have been photographed leaving of late.

Given that the country's connection with the Caribbean is much closer than to other countries whose food we've embraced, it seems timely that more attention is being shown towards their food. It looks like I might have to start learning more about it...