Are you considering a trip to Jamaica? Well, on the list of things not to be missed, immediately mark the kitchen. The Jamaican food is in fact particularly interesting and waiting to be discovered. Tasty, rich in spices, it is the result of continuous contacts and exchanges between different cultures that have taken place on the island over the centuries.
The first Europeans to arrive were in fact the Spaniards following Christopher Columbus. Let’s not forget that Jamaica was then a British colony and had strong Chinese, Indian and African influences due to Asian immigration and the slave trade. Everything has mixed with local habits and ingredients, creating a rich and fascinating heritage of recipes. Tropical fruit, fish, beans, roots, spices, rice, sugar cane, are still skilfully mixed today, turning into unique specialties in the world.
Are you ready to get to know the scents and flavours of this Caribbean island? Then let’s discover Jamaican foods.
Ackee and Saltfish
Many consider it the Jamaican national dish. It certainly contains two very popular ingredients on the island. Ackee is a tropical fruit that belongs to the lychee family. It grows only in Jamaica and probably derives from another fruit originally from West Africa, which arrived in the Caribbean through slaves.
By “saltfish” we mean salted and dried cod. Once it has been soaked, the fish is boiled. Separately, sauté onion, pepper, chilli and thyme is prepared. Add diced tomatoes, cod and then ackee and serve with plantains, green bananas, fried dumplings or breadfruit fruits. Peculiarity is that this dish is part of the typical Jamaican breakfast.
If at breakfast you find it hard just to hear the word “fish”, do not worry! In the Caribbean, and therefore also in Jamaica, cornmeal porridge with milk (cow or coconut), sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon is widespread. You can then add chunks of tropical fruit, but also almonds or walnuts.
Another recipe that you can easily find when you wake up instead of cappuccino and croissant. These are the leaves of a plant belonging to the amaranth family. They are shredded and stewed with shallots, garlic, thyme and the Caribbean red pepper (Scotch Bonnet). As soon as you wake up, they can bring them to you on a plate together with boiled green bananas, gnocchi or slices of fried plantain, roasted breadfruit fruit or pickled cod or mackerel.
They are a staple of Jamaican cuisine. For breakfast as well as lunch and dinner, these pancakes with dried and salted cod are a real treat. What makes them really special is the fact that the batter, based on water and flour, is enriched with onion, garlic, pepper, sweet chillies, thyme and, for those who want, spicy sauce.
One of Jamaica’s most famous dishes and, they say, the favourite recipe of Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt. What makes this meat particularly delicious (it can also be chicken) is the typical preparation technique of this island. “Jerk” is the method of rubbing the parts with a mix of spices and leaving everything to marinate before cooking.
Originally it was a smoking process but today pork or chicken are usually simply cooked slowly on the grill or on the grill. It seems that the origins of this habit are African. What is certainly essential for the final success is the sauce, the Jerk Sauce, used for the marinade. It is prepared by mixing Scotch Bonnet, olive oil, a dash of vinegar, onion, garlic, pepper, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, lime juice and allspice. This is the name of a spice widely used in Caribbean cuisine and obtained from the dried fruits of the Pimenta Dioica plant. Someone also adds a drop of rum, just so as not to miss anything.
If you love sweets try these puff pastry stuffed with plantain! The ripest fruits are boiled with sugar, vanilla and the inevitable spices. The pastry is filled and then closed in the shape of a crescent.
And after having talked so much about eating, don’t you want to drink something? Let’s find out more about Jamaican drinks, apart from rum. Sorrel is an infusion prepared with hibiscus flowers. It can be hot or cold and is perfect to accompany some of Jamaica’s most typical specialties, such as Jerk Pork. When the Christmas holidays approach, Sorrel becomes an intriguing punch with rum, ginger and cloves.