Goat Water Is A Montserratian Dish With Multicultural Origins

Goat water is the Caribbean staple you've yet to hear of. As the name suggests, this dish contains goat, though it isn't thin like water; in actuality, it's a stew, and it's somewhere in the middle of the consistency scale. There's no rule determining which cut of goat meat must be used, just that it must come from a male goat. As a result, it's often a mixture of numerous parts along with herbs, spices, onions, tomatoes, breadfruit, dumplings, potatoes, and yams. Depending on the recipe, some of these ingredients are omitted or replaced.

In most variations, goat water is spicy. On its own, goat meat has a mild, gamey flavor with less fat than beef. These meats, such as lean beef, are sometimes undesirable because they're not naturally tender and juicy, but the other ingredients in goat water make up for any flavor loss. The preparation also matters, and in Montserrat, Antigua, and other Caribbean islands, the process must be conducted just right.

The proper way to prepare goat water

Caribbean locals believe that goat water should be prepared in a specific way. The ingredients are placed together in a pot and heated over a wood fire, and the smoke created by the wood lends additional flavor to the mix. Before adding all the components, though, the meat must be covered with cold water, simmered, and skimmed until it reaches an ideal texture. Then, the rest of the ingredients are added, along with flour, since it's good for thickening food.

Before you can even get to the cooking step, you must first prepare the goat meat and other ingredients. Virginia Allen, a Montserratian local who mass produces goat water every Friday for locals, explained to Hungry Travelers how she goes about the process. "[I] wash the goat meat and cut it in bits. Then put in the seasoning — sea salt, onion, garlic, clove, big, sweet seasoning peppers, and flour," she said. When the product is finished, some cooks choose to further boost the flavor with rum or whisky.

The stew's origins and cultural impact

Goat water is actually a Montserratian spin-off of Irish stew. Instead of goat, Irish stew is traditionally made with sheep meat, and unlike goat water, its focus is more on potatoes and vegetables than herbs and spices. However, many goat water recipes do call for these ingredients, in the same way some Irish stew recipes include more seasonings than others. In this way, goat water is a brainchild of both Caribbean and Irish cuisines.

The soup has become so prominent that it was named the official dish of Montserrat. Beyond simply being popular, it's often served at weddings under the name "mannish water." As legend has it, the stew is said to enhance sexual performance and libido in men.

Suffice it to say, goat water can be found all throughout the small island, from local restaurants to festival booths. The People's Place, located at the top of Forgathy's Hill, is one highly-rated eatery that serves up the national dish. A slew of reviews on The People's Place's TripAdvisor page recommended stopping by on Fridays and Saturdays to try the famed food. "The goat water was very good, [as well as] rich and brown. [It has] allspice and clove, [and is served] with crunchy bread to dip it in," one review reads.