Vital Ital Dish Featuring Coconut Rice | Recipe by: Onika Best (Vegan Friendly)

Delicious, great, satisfying, healing, excellent: words the 5 of us used to describe the dish today’s guest is sharing with us. Our plates were handed to us as we sat under a chastity tree in the yard on an overcast afternoon.

Chastity tree leaves and seeds

Homecooked ital food was on the menu for this creative family who invited us to have lunch with them while we had an acoustic jam session and good conversation.

Before we get to the recipe, a little note about terminology. Sometimes it feels a bit awkward or unfair for me to use the word ‘vegan’ all of a sudden, because the word ital was used to describe a certain type of food exclusively for as long as I can remember. The wholesome natural food made within the Rastafari community is known as ital. It could be sap or sip (soup) with peas, coconut milk and herbs like fine thyme and marjoram or boiled ‘strong food’ like ground and tree provisions, herbs, fruits, spices and seasonings or oats, corn meal, barley, coconut milk and sago with nutmeg, cinnamon and a bayleaf or rice and peas with a vegetable stew. The fundamental thing about ital food and the way it’s prepared is that natural ingredients are mostly used and it brings out the true taste of whatever is put into the meal using the fruits, roots, grains, flavours and vegetables of the land.

Onika’s coconut rice, herbed squash and cucumber with fried eggplant & veggie frank.

Sometimes, depending on the cook or which island in the region you go to, an ital dish might look a l’il different and include macaroni pie, veggie francs, soy chunks, ital fries (peas and veg), gluten, (soy-based) granburger or sometimes fish but in general, it’s closer to ‘vegan’ in palette. Before the word ‘vegan’ came to town (only the past few years in Barbados), ital was more than a style of cooking but a way of eating that sprung from a livity.

A lot of villages in ‘Bim’ usually have an ital shop, ital man or ital woman who makes and sells nourishing home-cooked food using mostly natural ingredients where you’re guaranteed a good healthy meal for a decent price. Since The Good Life Eco Cafe (now close but then innovative) ‘started the ball rolling’, more vegan venues in commercial spaces are springing up around the island, like ‘Don Garden Kitchen’ offering lighter choices for people who love flavour-filled greens and grains without meat or dairy. Whatever you eat, you might very well love today’s meal as much as we did.

On that note, meet today’s homecook. Onika Best is an excellent drummer, artiste, creative entrepreneur and member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church – originally from Bermuda, and living longtime in Barbados with her beloved family (Asher, Princess, and Aiden.) Her husband, Shawn ‘Asher‘ is an emcee, exceptional chef and into photography and decor. Onika also happens to be my cousin and a sister musician who has gone on many joint adventures in Bim, Bequia, and Denmark.

Through the years we have shared deep conversations on life, smiles, belly-laughs and tears and rolled up at different venues, bringing music wherever our feet landed.

Her hands are at home on the drum and mine strumming the guitar, yet we both enjoy using them to make meals for loved ones.

Here’s Onika‘s recipe for making her aromatic bed of coconut rice alongside a serving of herbed squash and pumpkin and a piece of fried eggplant.


  • Brown rice
  • Brown lentils
  • Curry
  • 1 pack Coconut milk powder
  • Squash
  • Coconut oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • Cucumber 
  • Eggplant 

How to make:

  1. In a pot, boil the brown rice and lentils with a tinge of curry until it is close to a porridge. 
  2. Add a pack of coconut powder and stir until creamy.
  3. For the salad, add a a dash of coconut oil, garlic powder pepper, the cucumber and squash.
  4. Cut and fry eggplant.

The key is putting it on the plate. You must use 21 tablespoons of love.

Today’s recipe by Onika Best

Good conversation, good music, good food & good company

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