Jamaican Food: What to Eat in Jamaica Island?
After I wrote a lengthy and informative post on the things to do in Jamaica, a few of my regular readers emailed me to find out Jamaican food, what one can eat in Jamaica. They wanted to know are there any special local dishes that a tourist to Jamaica should try.
I promised them to get a list of foods that one should eat in Jamaica. Though seafood is predominantly eaten, the way the Jamaicans have learned to cook is innovative.
Their original way of cooking is African. After several decades, when they started cultivating the native vegetables, fruits, and spices in Jamaica, they now cook in their own new way.
One could find a lot of similarities in cooking the chicken in some parts of India. However, the Jamaicans gave some weird names to their dishes.
For example, ‘jerk chicken’. Well, doesn’t it make you curious about this particular Jamaican food? Naturally, you would want to try. Kudos! Their technique has delivered!
15 Delicious Jamaican Food
So, here I am, with the list of Jamaican foods. Hope you will also find it useful.
The reason for the name ‘jerk’ is due to the use of a native Jamaican spice called ‘jerk’. I don’t mind mentioning below some of the ingredients but I think you won’t be interested.
Just for this jerk chicken, I will mention the two major ingredients.
- Scotch Bonnet-a kind of bell pepper
- Native black pepper called ‘allspice’.
The Jamaican chef makes a mixture of local spices and grinds them to a powder. Then, the dried chicken meat is rubbed with the spicy powder. This is called ‘jerk cooking’.
Jerk chicken is ubiquitous in Jamaica. You can spot small kiosks that dot the highways.
I think when the Jamaicans found the tourists started liking the jerk chicken, they became innovative applied the same way of jerking on other meats such as pork, mutton, beef, and fish.
Therefore, jerk chicken or mutton should be your first choice of Jamaican food when you are touring Jamaica.
Ackee is 100% native Jamaican food. They use dried codfish in this dish. Here is a cultural shock for you. Apart from the fish, you find chunks of a fruit called ‘ackee’.
When this seasonal fruit is available, the mini roadside restaurants would display a board outside the premises announcing the ‘ackee and codfish’.
The Caribbean Islands consider the ‘ackee’; as their national fruit.
It is widely used in Jamaican cuisine. So, plan your trip to Jamaica when the ‘ackee’ season is on.
Stuffed Jamaican coco bread
There is no relation to cocoa in this Jamaican dis. The ‘coco’ here means coconut milk. The bread is made with coconut milk.
The bread is split into two halves, meat is stuffed in between they call it ‘patty’.
This native Jamaican food is now widely sold in American bakeries.
Bammy is an authentic flatbread of Jamaicans and other Caribbeans.
It is made from ‘cassava’ and is considered a staple for the peasants of Jamaica. Cassava is a starchy root and looks similar to the Asian ‘tapioca’.
When I read about the Jamaicans’ food habits and preferences, I assumed they don’t eat sweets at all.
I was wrong. They bake cakes and pastries. Bulla cake is sweet. Even their coco bread is sweetish in taste.
From the looks of it, the Bulla cake must taste like a tea cake that is not very sweet and devoid of any nuts and icing sugar
Oddly, the Jamaicans use ginger while making the dough for this cake.
It is a sweet and savory Jamaican dish even though it is a pastry. The Jamaicans make the patty and stuff it inside the coco bread, seal it on asides and take a bit juicy bite on the coco bread.
The patty itself is filled with red or white meat, veggies, and cheese.
Jamaican cuisine includes a peculiar way of making stew/soup. In this particular dish, the meat used is the tail of an ox!
Yes, the tail of an ox or any other cattle. I have never heard of a dish made of cattle tail. But then, I suppose it is natural if we are used to the meat of the wings of a chicken!
When you are touring Jamaica Island, try a bowl of hot ox-tail soup. Don’t forget to share here about its taste.
We are aware that dumplings (momos) are some kind of boiled dish that originated in Myanmar and Nepal. But the Jamaican have improvised the humble dumplings by frying them.
The stuffings include any white meat including lobster or a read meat. When a boiled dumpling is fried, it may look like this.
Similar to the highly popular ‘vada’ from South India, the fried version of a dumpling will have a crispy outer layer. When you take a bite, you will find the soft inner stuffings.
I must salute Jamaica cooks to have innovated the dumplings.
Imagine a sweet-tasting fruit that belongs to the jackfruit family is served roasted!
In Kerala, India, jackfruit is sold in several forms including jackfruit chips and jackfruit halwa, a dessert.
I wonder how the Jamaican knew about Malabar cooking.
What do you make of this Jamaican food from the photo above?
From what I read, the ‘callaloo’ is a leafy vegetable that resembles the widely eaten ‘amaranth’ in India.
In South India, the ‘amaranth’ is known as ‘keerai’. Maybe this word is transformed into ‘callaloo’ in Jamaican and in iother Caribbean Islands.
Similar to the South Indians who attach the word ‘keerai’ to various edible leaves, the West Indians’ callaloo too appears in different forms on the Caribbean Islands.
In Jamaica, the callaloo is eaten along with rice or coco bread.
Unlike the Indians, the West Indians don’t mash the leaves but rather fry the leaves and suate it with salt and condiments.
In order to eat in Jamaica, I think one has to pick up a few words in Spanish. Here is an interesting twist while preparing the mackerel fish.
The whole fish is first fried and then marinated in vinegar that is mixed with several spices and vegetables.
So, ‘escabeche’ is a way of cooking, just like ‘jerking’ the chicken. It is not uncommon if you find ‘pork escabeche’ or ‘beef escabeche’ on the menu card.
Is ‘mackerel’ a seasonal fish?
Run Down (Rondon)
Another odd name for a fish stew in Jamaica. The locals love this Jamaican food. Mackerel is the fish used in this dish. The thickness that you notice is because of the addition of coconut milk.
In place of fish, you can also find the meat of a crab or lobster floating in the thick soup.
It must taste slightly sweetish because of the coconut milk in spite of adding a few local herbs and spices.
Cow Cod soup
Don’t assume anything before you read further about this Jamaican food. Neither a cow nor a cod is involved in cooking this stew that is actually made of a bull’s penis. The Jamaicans consider it an aphrodisiac.
More shock for you before you decide to eat in Jamaica. The other ingredients of this broth include white rum and scotch bonnet pepper.
Oh, what a composition
I wonder why the Jamaicans call it tea because it looks like a soup. Legends say those who drink this fish tea will behave strangely.
One could expect that because of the weird ingredients that go into making this tea/soup. Yam and green banana are both vegetables but they are used to brew this meat stew.
I have more surprises for you. Pumpkin, potato, and casanova are added ingredients. Yes, you will get a thick gravy.
If that is not enough, finally, the Jamaicans’ favorite coconut milk is also added in large quantities.
Stamp and Go
What a name! Jamaican cuisine is full of surprises.
This is a snack. A fish fritter to be more exact. It is eaten with callaloo.
An ardent gourmet would stay in Jamaica for a fortnight to devour anything Jamaican.
So, folk, there are lots of special foods to eat in Jamaica. I will do some research on what you can drink in Jamaica, the king of the Caribbean Islands.