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What Is a Ducana?

By Lakshmi Sandhana
Updated May 16, 2024
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An unusual dessert, ducana is a type of dumpling made with sweet potato and coconut. Popular in Caribbean islands such as the Grenadines, Antigua, and St. Vincent, this dessert shares similarities with bread pudding. Cooked by wrapping the ingredients in foil, banana leaves, or cloth and steaming or boiling it, ducana is quite easy to prepare. It is typically served with stewed or salted fish.

As a dessert, it goes very well with pineapple salad drizzled with a bit of pineapple syrup. The major ingredients are grated sweet potato, flour, and coconut. Cooks also use raisins, sugar, salt and some spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. To add further flavor, they add a little vanilla extract. Variations of the recipe include ingredients like caster sugar, butter cornmeal, and cassava.

To prepare ducana, cooks grate coconut and sweet potatoes. They sometimes use a blender or grate it by hand. If using a blender, they may add a little plain water or coconut water or milk to speed up the grating process. They mix the grated ingredients with sugar, flour, raisins, and spices in a bowl. The consistency of the batter should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon evenly.

Cooks cut foil paper to the desired size or use pieces of cloth or banana leaves as wrapping. They dish out the batter onto the wrapping and fold it securely so that it covers the mixture entirely. They make sure that the batter doesn't ooze out of wrapping.

Rolled up in foil or in banana leaves with twine, ducana have the appearance of little flattened cylinders. Cooks submerge them in boiling water and cook them until they are firm. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a half an hour. After removing them from the water, cooks set them aside to cool for around 10 minutes before unwrapping them.

For many islanders in the Caribbean, the dish is a staple eaten with salt fish and tomato sauce. Some restaurants serve it with salted cod and a local combo called chop-up. Chop-up is a combination of okra, eggplant, and spinach. This dessert can either be sliced and served slightly fried or eaten cold.

It is sometimes made on days when the islanders traditionally avoid meat, such as Good Friday. On such days, they mostly prepare seafood and dishes like ducana that go well with fish. Ducana and salt fish is a favorite combination for many of Caribbean descent and is a must-have for tourists traveling through the islands.

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