Dominica: Crab and Callaloo Soup

ISL1012Steve Manley

We can hear them scrambling through the darkness in the jungle of Dominica. They have us surrounded. Outnumbered. “When I shine my light in their eyes,” whispers our guide, Martin Carrierre, “grab them from the rear. Fast.”

But my husband, Steve, isn’t quick enough. “What do I do now?” he asks, lifting his left sneaker. Attached to it by a claw is a land crab. Consider this: In 1655, British Admiral William Penn and his men fled at the sound of land crabs, thinking it was Spanish cavalry.

We came here with Martin for dinner. We need his expertise in the jungle and the kitchen for a special island dish: crab and callaloo soup. ∏he first step is to enter the underbrush at night and catch the main ingredient. “It’s easy,” Martin told us. Easy, yes, unless you botch the grab and find one of these puppies attached to your Nike.

Fortunately, no one loses a digit and later we “dive in with all 10,” as Martin puts it. He has simmered the crabs in a rich coconut-milk broth, thick with chopped yam, green bananas, flour dumplings and the spinach-like callaloo. We crack claws and lick up every drop of sauce, leaving behind only a mountain of empty shells. “This,” Martin says, surveying the mess with approval, “is not for decent people.”