The simple mention of the ‘Traditional Jamaican Food‘ can motivate the need to teleport directly back to the astounding restaurants that blended your adoration for the famous and traditional Jamaican dishes in the first place. There’s something about the seasoning and spices added in this type of Caribbean cooking that can transform even the toughest critic into the smoothest foodie, and this will probably be your experience once you track down that Jamaican dish that reverberates with your spirit… or your palate.
So let’s start and find more about these traditional watering Jamaican food recipes…
1. Ackee and Saltfish (Codfish)
Ackee and codfish, or ackee and saltfish as it is more widely known is Jamaica’s National Dish. It is made with the ackee fruit, which was imported to the region from West Africa. Now the fruit grows in abundance in Jamaica and has become an island staple, served side by side with stewed salted codfish sautéed with vegetables, herbs and spices.
Many people do not know how to cook ackee and saltfish. The ackee fruit must be ripe before harvesting. The ackee is ripe and ready for picking when the ackee pod opens to reveal the yellow fruit inside. The yellow part inside is the only edible part of the fruit. Ackee can resemble scrambled eggs when cooked.
2. Jerk Chicken/Pork/Fish
Jerk meals originated in Jamaica and are extremely popular in the islands and across the world. The meats are cooked in a particular way to achieve the unique jerk flavour and in most cases, a special homemade sauce is used to obtain the distinctive spicy taste. To cook Jerk Chicken, you will need to marinate the chicken with Jerk seasoning, which usually includes ginger, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, scotch bonnet pepper and pimento.
Sometimes the ingredients are also dry-rubbed onto the meat. The meat should be allowed sufficient time to marinate in the seasoning before being slow-cooked on an open grill, often over hot coals. Jerk Chicken is delicious on its own, but even better when served with bread or festival on the side.
Jamaican food is an introduction to the oxtail for many people. Like most stews, oxtail is first marinated with herbs and spices, browned/shallow fried in hot oil for colour, then slow cooked on a low heat or pressure cooker. It is best served with rice and peas, and is one of the most hearty and delicious dishes in Jamaica and eaten in many countries.
4. Curry Goat/Mutton/Chicken
Curried meats especially goat, mutton and chicken are very popular in Jamaica. Curry which originates from South Asia is served with a Caribbean twist by adding ingredients such as garlic, onions, ginger, hot peppers, herbs and spices including Jamaican curry powder. The meat is then cooked on low flame to slowly release the flavours. In Jamaica, a handful of diced/cubed potato is often added to increase the thickness of the sauce/gravy.
The preparation of the Jamaican Escovitch fish starts with a fried whole fish, usually red snapper, which is then topped with pickled vegetables such as carrots, onions, peppers, pimentos, and chow (chayote). Jamaican Escovitch Fish is usually served with bammy (see side dishes below).
6. Fish Tea
Jamaican fish tea is not tea as the name suggests, but a flavourful spicy fish soup. Jamaican Doctor Fish is typically used for this fish tea/soup and is a very appetising meal. This dish contains green vegetables and bananas and is considered an aphrodisiac. It is often served with Jamaican water crackers and sides of festival or bammy.
7. Rice and Peas
Jamaican Rice and peas is a side dish that brings Jamaican dishes together. In Jamaica, peas refer to beans, red kidney beans in particular. Coconut milk and other spices add to the flavour of Jamaican rice and peas, which is often paired with jerk chicken.
Festival is a versatile side dish usually served alongside jerk chicken or fried fish and can be paired with other dishes as well. It is made with cornmeal, sugar, flour, spices, milk or water. The combined ingredients are fried until golden brown, and the result can be compared to that of floats sold in other Caribbean countries, just in a cylindrical shape.
Callaloo is a vegetable that even kids find irresistible when cooked just right. The leafy green vegetable is served as a side in Jamaica with most meals, but it can also be made into a super tasty soup. It has a flavour comparable to spinach and is usually sautéed with salt fish (optional), onions, garlic, and perhaps even scotch bonnet peppers and a touch of salt and pepper to flavour. Don’t be surprised if you see it included in your traditional Jamaican breakfast plate.
Bammy has a dense doughy texture and is made from Cassava. The bammy is usually soaked in coconut milk until saturated, before being steamed or shallow fried until golden brown. It is a versatile side dish popularly served with Callaloo or Ackee and saltfish. Some people eat bammy for breakfast with syrup, but it works just as well alongside your main dish.
Hope your taste buds have been excited and you are eager to experience some or all of these dishes! Which is best will depend on your taste. However Jamaican Jerk Chicken is extremely popular, as is ackee and saltfish, and Oxtail stew with rice and peas.