Jamaican food is favored around the world for its spicy, unique flavors. The ingredients used to create Jamaican dishes tend to be very healthy with plenty of unprocessed meats and portions of vegetables, fish, and beans. Many Jamaican dishes include influences from Chinese, European, African, and Indian foods, creating eclectic blends of delicious foods. With a keen emphasis on health, Jamaican culture takes great care and consideration when preparing national specialties. Many medicinal spices and herbs are used in cooking including allspice, garlic, hot peppers, and garlic, all known to promote digestion and general health.
Jerk & Curried Goat
Jerk is one of the primary styles of cooking in Jamaica. It’s made with the main ingredient pimento, also known as allspice. The next important ingredient is the Scotch Bonnet pepper, often compared to the habanero pepper in heat intensity. Additional spices are thyme, cloves, salt, garlic, cinnamon, and scallions. Jerk dishes are created by dry-rubbing or (wet) marinating meat with the very spicy Jamaican jerk mixture. Jerk chicken is the best-known Jamaican jerk dish. Sausage, shrimp, fish, beef, lamb, and tofu are also used in jerk foods. Curried goat is a Jamaican specialty traditionally enjoyed during special occasions but eaten more regularly in modern day Jamaican society as goat meat has become more affordable to the average family. Curried goat is considered an Indo-Jamaican food typically much more spicy in India than in Jamaica.
Ackee & Saltfish
Jamaica’s national dish is ackee and saltfish which is traditionally eaten each Sunday. Ackee is a fruit historically imported into Jamaica from Western Africa in the late 18th century. Ackee and saltfish is made with salted cod fish which is sautéed with tomatoes, spices, onions, Scotch Bonnet peppers, and ackee fruit that is boiled before it’s added. Once finished, the dish is then often topped with fresh tomatoes and/or crispy bacon. It is eaten both as breakfast and with dinner and served with dumplings and other types of bread as well as boiled bananas or fried plantain.
Bammy & Festival
Jamaican bammies are a type of flatbread similar to bread eaten by the Arawaks in ancient times and made from a bitter type of cassava. Jamaicans ate bammy for centuries until bread with wheat flour was imported following WWII and became the more popular choice. Wheat-based bread was widely eaten around Jamaica until the 1990s when both the Jamaican government and the United Nations campaigned for the return of the traditional staple. Bammy came back into mass production and has been marketed as a convenient and modern bread product ever since. They are served with almost any dish and also eaten on their own. The Fish and Bammy Festival is an annual event happening at Old Harbour in Jamaica. The festival feature is just as it sounds: fish and bammy. Stalls are set up around the harbor with a wide variety of locally made bammy and seafood, including fish and shrimp. Reggae blares from a sound system and live music is also offered.
Jamaican Street Food
Jamaican Street Food
Cheap, healthy, and delicious, street food is a big part of Jamaican culture. Exploring the choices in Jamaican street food, most will find that jerk pork and chicken is most widely available barbequed over a smoker or grill and served up with a type of fried dough or roasted breadfruit (a type of fruit from a tree from the Mulberry tree family). Sweet bread with beef patties are another popular type of food found throughout street stalls as are rotis, a tasty wrap filled with curried goat, chicken, or beef, showing an definitive east Asian influence. Jamaican patties, half-moon pastries filled with spicy meat filling, are also a heavy-hitter on the street food circuit.
When heading to Jamaica for a tropical vacation, drinks will almost certainly be on the mind. Jamaica is world-famous for its top beer, Red Stripe, which is known for its original small, stubby shaped bottle and cool, easy-going taste. Jamaican rum has also gained worldwide reputation throughout the liquor industry. Every Jamaican rum is distinct in flavor; compare it to the many different types of whiskey and scotch. Jamaican rum can be bold with potent flavors but it is mostly enjoyed with mixed cocktails so customizing the taste is easy. Jamaican bartenders are some of the best out there with reputations for creating some amazing drink combinations including the Jamaican Waterslide with lemon rum, pineapple, and coconut.