What makes food from Jamaica so delicious? Some say our food's got rhythm, and I think they may be right! The seasonings, the spices, the cooking methods all combine to give our food that special something.
Here are some descriptions of the best in Jamaican food, which you must be sure to try and sample while you're here.
Jerk Chicken or Jerk Pork
Internationally this is Jamaica's best known dish. Highly seasoned meat is barbecued, sometimes on pimento wood or leaves. Jerk originated with the Maroons in the parish of Portland, who would jerk wild pigs over a small pit.
Nowadays jerking is often done at roadside stands using oil drums cut in half, as well as in more upscale restaurants.
Ackee and Saltfish
This is Jamaica's national dish, eaten mostly at breakfast time, but also good for lunch and dinner. Its two main ingredients are salted cod, and our national fruit, ackee, which originated in West Africa.
These two components are combined with onions, tomatoes, peppers and other seasonings to make a delicious main dish.
Ackee and Saltfish Recipe
Fish, crab, lobster, shrimp cooked in a variety of ways. Fry, grill, steam, brown stew, escoveitch, garlic, creole and the list goes on! Remember though, we eat the whole fish, so you need to request headless service if you're squeamish!
Rice and Peas
Actually, you may not have much choice in whether you try Rice and Peas or not, as it is the standard accompaniment for most meat dishes. It is made of rice, red peas (kidney peas) or gungo peas (pigeon peas), seasonings, and coconut milk.
Bammy was the staple of the Tainos, the native people at the time of Columbus' arrival in Jamaica. It is a flat round bread made of grated cassava. It is usually fried, toasted or steamed, and served with fish and other seafood, or Ackee and Saltfish. Historically, it is the oldest prepared food in Jamaica.
A fried dumpling made with cornmeal, flour, salt and sugar. Originated at Hellshire Beach, St. Catherine. Served with fish and jerk dishes.
Johnny Cake/Fry Dumpling
Originally called "journey cakes", these fried flour dumplings are often served at breakfast as a substitute for bread.
Looks like a large banana, but must be cooked before being eaten. Can be fried, baked or candied. The most popular version is fried.
Some of the most delicious food can be had from roadside vendors. The authentic Jamaican atmosphere only adds to the flavour.
This can be had from roadside vendors, peeled and cut into small bite size pieces. Crunchy, sweet, juicy.
Every Jamaican will tell you that the mangoes you get abroad taste totally different from those you get here in Jamaica. Main reason - Jamaican mangoes are allowed to ripen naturally on the tree. Favourite varieties are East Indian, Julie, Bombay, Number 11.
Burgundy on the outside, snow white on the inside, with a unique delicate flavour.
Our corn is not sweet, but savoury, crunchy and sometimes spicy. Available in season from roadside vendors.
Sold at roadside stalls, usually with a sign saying "Ice cold jelly". Drink refreshingly healthy coconut water directly from the coconut, and then ask for the nut to be cut in half so you can enjoy the jelly inside.
Sweet Potato Pone
Trust me on this, it might not look delicious, but it is! A compact pudding made of sweet potato, coconut milk, sugar and spices. Yummm.
Rum and Raisin Ice Cream
Not rummy enough to make you drunk, but delicious enough to make you giddy.
Otherwise known as Christmas Cake, or to non Jamaicans as Rum Cake .
The Jamaican equivalent to potato chips/crisps. Green bananas (which we eat as a starch like the potato) are thinly sliced, salted and fried. Sold in small packets in supermarkets.
A sticky, tangy sweet made from the flesh of the tamarind fruit, combined with sugar and rolled into balls. Available at supermarkets and pharmacies. A favourite among Jamaican children.
Spicy and delicious. Available in season at seafood restaurants. Reputed to be good for the male constitution!
Red peas/Gungo peas
Thick, filling and flavourful. These soups may be served with or without meat - usually salted pork or beef.
Hot and Spicy
Try to imagine as least five times hotter than anything you've ever tasted. River shrimp "parched" (heated with no or very little water) with lots of salt and fresh peppers. The best pepper shrimp is found in Middle Quarters, St. Elizabeth, from vendors along the road.
A delicious starter made of ground up red herring, onions, hot peppers, vinegar, oil and spices. Usually served on crackers. Delicious commercial versions available in supermarkets.
Of course. Just remember, our rum is likely to be a lot stronger than any you may have had before. And be warned, our white rum is brutal. Appleton Estate rums are the most popular. Try rum and coconut water.
Here's an easy to make Jamaican Rum Punch Recipe
Jamaica's favourite Christmas drink. Made from the sorrel plant, a bushy shrub which turns deep red towards the end of the year. Usually home-brewed with rum and ginger. Commercially made non-alcoholic versions now available.
Award winning fizzy grapefruit drink. Available at bars and supermarkets.
Non-alcoholic, made from Jamaican ginger. Commercial versions are carbonated. D&G Ginger Beer is particularly good.
Blue Mountain Coffee
Even the instant is good. And although not grown at Blue Mountain level, High Mountain Coffee is good too.
There is much more to our food than the dishes outlined here. It would be a shame to visit us and not get a taste of something new. Be adventurous, and visit as many restaurants in Jamaica as you can.
Click here for more on Jamaican Food and here for Jamaican Fruits.
Here are some great Jamaican recipes:
Ackee and Saltfish Recipe
Jamaican Rice and Peas Recipe
Jamaican Curry Chicken Recipe
Johnny Cake and Festival
Jamaican Rum Punch Recipe
Jamaican Rum Cake (Fruit Cake) Recipe
Jamaican Bread Pudding, Jamaican Banana Bread Recipes
Jamaican Easter Bun Recipe
Traditional Jamaican Desserts - Blue Drawers and Toto
Sweet Potato Pone