If you haven't eaten very much Caribbean food before, then perusing the menu at a Caribbean restaurant can feel a bit confusing. Knowing what some of the common ingredients are can really help. This way, you can read the descriptions of various dishes and have a better understanding of what you'll be getting when you order.
Callaloo is a type of green vegetable that is used in a lot of Caribbean soups and stews. It looks a lot like Swiss chard or kale once it is cooked down. The greens are very nutritious, and they have an almost herbal flavor with a hint of bitterness. One common menu item is callaloo and codfish. This is, as it sounds, a dish made with cod and green vegetables.
2. Pigeon Peas
Pigeon peas are not all that different from any other dried pea you may see in American cuisine. They're often used in rice dishes as a source of protein. Many vegetarian dishes will contain pigeon peas. If you like peas in general, you'll like them.
3. Scotch Bonnets
This is just a type of chile pepper. It happens to be the one that is most commonly grown throughout the Caribbean. It's a relatively hot pepper, but it does have a lot of flavor and a hint of sweetness, so it adds a lot to dishes. You'll see Scotch bonnets in many stir fry dishes and stews. If you order such a dish "mild," the restaurant will simply use fewer Scotch bonnets when preparing it.
4. Pepper Sauce
Dishes made with pepper sauce may not actually be as spicy as you think. This is a bottled condiment and not something the restaurant typically makes. If pepper sauce is listed as an ingredient in a dish, you can expect it to have a bit of heat, but not too much. If the restaurant had really wanted to up the heat, they'd have used Scotch bonnets.
You'll usually see these on the dessert portion of the menu. Plantains look like bananas, but they are much starchier, so they are usually cooked before being served. Some restaurants batter and fry them, and others fry them unbattered before topping them with cinnamon and sugar.
Hopefully understanding these common ingredients makes it easier to find new foods to try at your local Caribbean restaurant. If there's anything you still don't understand, ask your server to help explain.