Jamaican Cooking Tips

5 Things You Don’t Know About Jamaican Rice and Peas

Jamaican rice and peas
Written by Denise Clarke

 

Jamaican rice and peas

Jamaican rice and peas

Here’s some real food for thought, “What would Jamaican life be without rice and peas?”

We know many Jamaicans home and abroad hold the dish dear to their hearts. But few know the history behind that steaming cauldron of rice and red beans simmering in coconut milk with the sweet aroma of Jamaican spices.  Here are five things you may not have known about rice and peas.

  1. Rice and peas was adopted from the Akan tribe hailing from Ghana and Ivory Coast in West Africa. The dish, which still exists in those countries today, is known as Waakye and of course consists of the usual rice and beans. However, the Akans add sorghum leaves and baking soda, while Jamaicans flavor the pot with thyme and pepper.
  1. One half of this popular dish is the staple, rice. Rice was popular in West African culture and the slaves brought the recipe with them to Jamaica and passed on the knowledge to their descendants. To help them adjust to their new, horrid environment, the slaves cooked food that was familiar to them, including rice and peas.
  1. Jamaican rice and peas has been nicknamed Coat of Arms. Use of this term was first noted in 1930, when A. Bain Alves recalled how hundreds of men and women at a race meeting in Kingston could get up to “a quattie rice and peas” also known as Jamaican Coat of Arms. Fast forward decades later and “Jamaican Coat of Arms” is still ascribed to our rice and peas.
  1. Have you ever wondered why Sunday is the most popular day for serving rice and peas? It’s certainly not coincidental. The practice dates back to the days of slavery. Back in the 1700’s, slaves were only allowed Sundays off from their backbreaking work. And on this day, the best foods were served – chief among them was rice and peas.
  1. And the undisputed title of “Most Eaten Jamaican Food” goes to … Jamaican rice and peas! From generation to generation, Jamaicans have been loyal to this dish and there are few occasions when rice and peas does not make the menu. In addition to being an important part of Sunday entrée, rice and peas holds center stage at weddings, funerals, festivals and nearly every special event in Jamaica. No longer reserved for Sundays, you can even find rice and peas on virtually every restaurant menu on the island.

About the author

Denise Clarke

  • Michael Auld

    There are two strains of domesticated rice. (1) China, 8-11, 000 years ago; and (2) Mali, 2,000 years ago. Chinese rice was taken to the Caribbean by Europeans. “Peas” or red kidney beans originate in Mexico and the Andes. Jamaicans, like other Amerindian cultures in the Caribbean and N. And S. America, got their beans locally from the Taino. Rice and peas is a combination dish with habanero or Scotch Bonnet peppers, another Taino introduction to JAMAICAN cuisine. The coconut milk’s origin is still in question since the plant originated in the Pacific and may have floated to the Americas by sea currents prior to European entrance into the Caribbean.