Traveling is not complete without having a cut of local food. Whether you are a meat lover or going frenzy over a seafood platter, a true wanderer gets to enjoy a gastronomic discovery every once in a while, while walking in circles exploring the culture of each destination.
Like many other countries around the world, Jamaica is one of the places where spices, herbs, and century-old recipes create an institution for their dishes. Indulge in a tropical feast while exploring the rich flavors of authentic traditional food in Jamaica from different areas of this Caribbean melting pot. If you are wondering what is in store for you in your upcoming Jamaican getaway aside from reggae music, consider this popular traditional food in Jamaica for a complete mouth-watering adventure.
1. Ackee and Saltfish
This fruit and salt cod fusion is considered the Jamaican National Dish with a long history way back from the 18th century. Sautéed with tomatoes, onions, garlic, chili peppers, and other aromatic spices, this unique combination is definitely an exotic dish one has to try. The Jamaican fruit ackee, which originated in Ghana and is widely grown in Jamaica, and the salty codfish is cooked in perfection in a single pot after an overnight preparation. Though fresh ackee has a delicate texture, it is also known for its poisonous property if not handled properly, so let the professionals do the cooking and better don’t let the opportunity to try it when you are in Jamaica. Ackee and Saltfish is usually served for breakfast or dinner combined with other traditional food of Jamaica including breadfruit, rice meal, dumplings or even with the favorite variety of banana cuisine.
The next dish is a spiced and curried cuisine that from the word itself, is made from goat meat. This creamy and thick-saucy dish is undeniably the second most-served food in Jamaica. Exotic meat lovers will surely get ecstatic to find a local restaurant to order it. Together with potatoes, garlic, onion, chili pepper, and other herbs and spices, chunky pieces of goat meat are slow-cooked long enough for the goat curry to be flavorful and tender to the bone. A hearty dish for every meal of the day that is a perfect pair for rice with peas which is also a Jamaican traditional food. Aside from its appealing rich flavor, goat meat is known to have essential benefits for human health with less saturated fat than other meat which makes goat curry a special dish that is always welcome in the plate and stomach of most Jamaican.
3. Banana cooking: fresh, fried, boiled
Speaking of the banana cuisine, which is considered a perfect partner for Ackee and Saltfish, it is another easy yet fulfilling addition to everyone’s plate. Taking advantage of its abundance in Jamaica, plantain can be served even for snacks, specifically the sweet banana chips that your kids will fall in love with. Adults can always grab a cold beer and have a banana chip on the side while having fun with locals. Aside from frying, boiling green bananas is a great substitute for rice or bread while indulging in other Jamaican traditional food. If you can’t wait to have the taste of this tropical fruit then just have it fresh and take a bite to your heart’s content. You will never have a hard time to look for other Jamaican dishes and you won’t be surprised to know that the main ingredient of that cuisine is made from banana too!
4. Callaloo (stewed leafy vegetables)
This dish is a popular staple in the Caribbean table that you can find it in Jamaica all day every day. Originated in West Africa and have different varieties all over the Caribbean, Callaloo is definitely a delicious dish known as a good source of essential nutrients and a sure hit for all vegetarians. Made by cooking green leafy vegetables including taro, amaranth, and Xanthosoma, locals steam it together with onions, scallions, scotch bonnet pepper, and additional salt to taste. Usually served for breakfast, this cuisine is perfect with green boiled plantain, dumplings, or breadfruit among other traditional Jamaican food.
5. Bammy (cassava flatbread)
Made from cassava, Bammy or Bami is known to be the Jamaican flatbread that even kids would love to eat. Shaped like a disc, lightly salted then soaked with coconut milk before pan frying, everyone cannot resist the addictive taste of this dish. Readily available in most food kiosks in Jamaica, this comforting bread has a long history and was eaten by Jamaica’s early inhabitants, the Arawaks. This crispy and golden brown bread is best when toasted and is a perfect partner for Ackee and Saltfish, goat curry, or simple fried fish such as sprat as a substitute for usual rice meal.
6. Roti (Jamaican flatbread)
The fried green plantain smells heavenly but anyone can’t resist the aroma of freshly baked roti. An ultimate comfort food and a good substitute for rice, this round flatbread which is similar to known pita bread and Mexican tortilla is made from wheat flour, baking powder with no leavening. Roti is a popular Jamaican staple and is often eaten as a wrap for other traditional food in Jamaica such as the goat curry, chicken chickpea, and the famous Ackee and Saltfish. Without filling, a simple roti is also good to go with just a spread of butter while exploring Jamaica.
7. Oxtail stew
Oxtail stew is a favorite of most Jamaican. A slow-cooking cuisine that delivers a flavorful meat with rich thick sauce and usually mixed with butter beans, tomatoes, onions, and other herbs and spices. A soul-satisfying dish that is good to eat any time of the day while devouring with a serving of hot steamed rice, fried plantain, or bammy. Locals love to nibble and suck the bones in each serving to savor the flavor on its meat and the juicy sauce with organic fat so don’t stop yourself digging in. After all, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
8. Mannish water (goat soup)
Considered as a legend in Jamaican cuisine, this comfort food is boiled for the meat to be tender to the bone to achieve a flavorful goat soup. Usually made from head, feet, balls, and other parts of a male goat, the soup of mannish water is aphrodisiac and a star in parties and local events around Jamaica. Cooked with vegetables, bananas, dumplings, pumpkins, scotch bonnet peppers, and other herbs and spices, the soup of this dish is thick, rich and spicy. Don’t worry, they will not blame you for asking another serving right before you sip the last drop from your bowl.
Exotic food experience you will never regret!
Not sure what to dig in? There are more flavors to discover and endless delicacies to try when in Jamaica aside from jerk chicken so start with this list if you are in doubt what to bite first. Exploring Jamaica will never be complete without having a taste of this authentic cuisine and the best way to experience it is to go out from your resort and dine with locals. Remember, locals always know the best spots and the best deals around the neighborhood. What are you waiting for? Grab a ginger beer and figure your way to these treats now!
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