If you've been to the island, all of these traditional foods listed here may look and taste slightly different than what you had. That's because everyone's version is different, and of course their version is the best. Which makes eating in Jamaica one of our favorite activities! Our list isn't exhaustive but is what we've personally experienced and enjoyed in Jamaica.
Ackee and Salt Codfish is Jamaica's national dish , and an interesting and delicious dish at that. Ackee was brought to Jamaica in the 18th century, and grows on the island quite well, hanging in pod clusters from the tree. To be eaten it requires some timing because the fruit is poisonous if eaten too soon before it's ripe.
The fruit in the pod resembles a small walnut below left , and bursts open when it's ripe revealing a black seed inside below right.
Once open, the fruit surrounding the black seed is extracted and prepared, resembling scrambled eggs when its done. Ackee is usually eaten for breakfast, and it's very tasty!
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We had it several ways: first it was stewed with tomato, garlic, onions, bell pepper, spices, and of course, the salted fish - which is usually cod but sometimes mackerel. Ours also had some heat, so there was a scotch bonnet in there somewhere too. Another variation was simply like a scramble with just the ackee and fish. This version reminded me of some of the sardine dishes we had on our Venice lagoon island food tour. We thought the salted cod was similar in taste to Italian bacala codfish that's a traditional food in Italy. Served with rice, it's delicious. Ackee and codfish is also a popular filling for Jamaican patties, so if you see this, give it a try.
So what goes on the plate with your jerk chicken? The ubiquitous rice and peas is found everywhere and with every portion of jerk chicken we've ever had. Readily available and easy to prepare, the rice is cooked with coconut milk and spices. But don't look for little green peas. In the West Indies and Jamaica most all types of beans are referred to as 'peas'. We've had this served with black beans but it mostly comes with the red kidney beans preferred by Jamaicans.
When we first heard the word callaloo , we thought it was a slang phrase for something - what we weren't sure. We love sauteed greens and were pleasantly surprised when served this dark green and flavorful veggie. This is another food that is served with most meals as a side.
Callaloo is typically chopped and sauteed with onions, garlic and often scotch bonnets. It's nutritious, tender, and eaten with any meal, even breakfast.
Here's a yummy thick and starchy vegetable that's often sliced, fried and eaten for breakfast in bread-like cakes, but can be had at most anytime of day. Passed down from the flatbread eaten by Jamaica's original inhabitants the Arawaks, this dietary staple is made from grated cassava root that's dipped in coconut milk then fried until golden. You may have had a similar dish if you've been to coastal Belize or the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica , where the West Indies traditional flavors have planted roots, and similar dishes are made. Bammy is often served as a side dish along with callaloo and other dishes.
We came across a street vendor that had sweetened his recipe a bit, which was very nice. I'd love to try these with some honey or jam. Coco bread is a flour and yeast bread with a little coconut milk and sometimes a little sugar added, that's found throughout Jamaica. Cut into squares and folded over once, the bread is typically used for sandwiches. We've had everything from fried snapper to beef patties stuffed into the fold - think of a small crusty bun or a type of dinner roll.
It's Jamaica's version of sweet white bread and is a real filler-upper, so bring your appetite! Pocket sandwiches, turnovers, empanadas, and Greek pitas are all good, but in Jamaica the foldover stuffed sammie is called a patty. The circle of flaky dough is typically stuffed with sauteed ground beef, onions, and spices then folded over on itself to form a half circle. The edges are pinched together to close the pocket and then baked until nicely browned. These are eaten anytime of day and vary in ingredients along with the number of street vendors selling them.
We love the patties stuffed with ackee and saltfish. The dough is usually a soft sunny color like Jamaica itself, rendered so from the turmeric or curry that's added. Some vendors will also use carrots or sweet potato in the dough making it more of an orange color. Jamaican carrots might very well be the brightest orange carrots we've ever seen. We eat Jamaican patties on their own with our hands, and have recently seen people posting pics of their patty sandwiched in between Coco bread. That's just carb overload, and not really a traditional way of eating patties.
Everyone's favorite, jerk chicken is aromatic, smokey, and sometimes spicy hot. Then it's slow cooked on an open grill over hot coals made from native wood. You'll find it on the menu at local restaurants, but we seem to always find someone cooking it up as street food. Trust us. You haven't had jerk chicken until you've had it in Jamaica, grilled in a metal drum on the side of the road! This is a stick to your ribs stew that combines garlic, onions, ginger, hot peppers, and lots of Jamaican curry, slow-cooked to blend all the spice flavors with the meat.
If you've never tried goat before, the taste alone is similar to lamb, especially the lamb we had in Patagonia roasted on the spit, where the drippings baste the meat giving it tons of flavor and very little gaminess. But this goat is stewed, often with potatoes and carrots thrown in along with some fresh herbs. Most often it's served with peas and rice on the side. The aroma of it as its cooking is tantalizing.
Jamaican Jerk Seasoning Mix
It's thick and rich, and just might become your new favorite Jamaican dish We hope you give it a try. The dish is traditionally served with dumplings and boiled green bananas and is eaten for any meal. The dish gets its name because it's slow-cooked until it has a thick creamy consistency and the fish is falling apart or 'run down'. Given the oily fish that's typicallly used, the flavor is milder than you might think, but even so, you'd better like the taste of fish.
The term 'escovich' generally refers to its preparation, so the ultimate flavor of the dish can be quite different depending on the ingredients. We once had a parrotfish, fried beyond recognition, or we wouldn't have accepted it so be sure and ask what kind of fish you're getting.
The fish is pan-fried until crisp then drenched in the escovitch - a vinegar base with spices along with the vegetables that have been pickled in the vinegar sweet peppers, carrots, onions, garlic, and the ever present scotch bonnet for a little zest. Some places will refrigerate the fish overnight after covering it with the sauce.
It's then served chilled much like a ceviche. We've only had it served hot straight from the frying pan. Whichever way you have it, it will usually be served with bammy or fried plantains. Don't forget to order a cold Red Stripe to go with it - perfect with this dish.
simple jamaican cooking new tastes for life Manual
This might seem more like a sweet treat than a dessert but it's so popular for dessert in Jamaica you've gotta try it. These are simply prepared: fresh coconut meat is cut into small chunks then boiled with brown sugar and spices of the chef's choice. While still hot they are 'dropped' together and made into small cakes. Sweet and yummy! If you love sticky sweet desserts, Jamaica sweet potato pudding might be your new favorite, though it's not the kind of pudding you might think.
Finely grated sweet potatoes are combined with coconut, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon and other spices, and often raisins and a little rum. The mixture is then baked until set. Jamaicans prefer it softer on top and firmer on the bottom.
That's how we've always had it and it's one of the best dishes to eat in Jamaica. This Jamaican Jerk Seasoning Mix is great on chicken, seafood, vegetables, and even more. Which is probably one reason why I have so many spices and mixes hanging on the back of my pantry door. It was definitely missing the spice and oomph that the Jamaican jerk seasoning mix would bring. So I did what I should have done in the first place, and realized that I could just make the spice mixture myself.
It was a little too spicy for the kids, but it was perfect for me. Use it on your steak, sprinkle some on your veggies — or do what I do and liven up your morning scrambled eggs by mixing a bit in. If you are looking for a way to add a little spice to your menu, this Jamaican Jerk Seasoning Mix is an easy way! Like what you see here? Make sure you are following Taste and Tell for more recipes and ideas! Subscribe to my free recipe newsletter to get new family friendly recipes in your inbox each week! Find me sharing more family-friendly inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram.
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Read More. Leave this field empty. A little too spicy for me. I uaed six tsp of sugar, migjt try btown sugar next time.