When dining at the W Retreat & Spa – Vieques Island in Puerto Rico I was able to sample the above dish, crafted by Executive Chef Fernando Coppola. The philosophy of the hotel’s dining program is locally-sourcing ingredients — mainly from their organic farm — and taking traditional Puerto Rican dishes and adding a Vieques twist. The above dish is a gambas- or shrimp-based dish made even more local with a sauce of local rum and sambuca.
“There is a traditional drink here in Puerto Rico called Chichaito,” explains Chef Coppola. “This drink is a concoction made with local white rum and anise liqueur. It’s drank as a chupito, in an shot glass. This drink is usually served when families or group of friends gather together to celebrate a special occasion or simply to be together. This was my inspiration to create this dish, which I call ‘Jumbo gambas al chichaito.’”
The rum balances out the licorice essence of the sambuca, giving it a sweeter quality that goes well with the shrimp and delivers true Puerto Rican flavor. Interestingly, while the Caribbean as a whole is known for their rum Puerto Rico is known as the Rum Capital. By law all their rums must be aged in oak barrels for at least one year, giving the liquors a high quality taste. Additionally, Puerto Rico is home to numerous distilleries, including two very notable ones, the local Don Q Rum as well as the world’s largest rum distillery, Bacardi.