Whether or not you’re a foodie, you certainly do have to spend significant portions of your life eating food. And it certainly adds to your reputation as a Jamaican when you not only know how good food, but you know how to cook them as well. Here are 10 dishes that every Jamaican should be able to prepare.
1. Jerk chicken and jerk pork
Jerk meat dishes are loved everywhere for the spiciness and smoky flavour that many swear are as a result of super secret ingredients in the jerk seasoning. So what are these secret ingredients? Most likely allspice – a spicy seasoning made from dried pimento berries, scotch bonnet pepper, onion, thyme and ginger. If you’re aiming for the authentic jerk taste, allow the meat to marinate in sauce made from the spices, and then slow cook on a grill with pimento wood. And that’s real Jamaican jerk! However, if you’re using the oven you may also want to add bottled jerk sauce to your list of ingredients and forget about the pimento wood.
2. Ackee and Saltfish
Ackee and saltfish is an easy-to-prepare dish that’s quite sumptuous and gaining fans beyond the country’s borders. As the country’s national dish – every Jamaican should know how to prepare it. The saltfish is put to soak hours before preparation to remove excess sale. When it’s cooking time, the saltfish and ackee are washed and boiled separately. When boiled to satisfaction, the saltfish is de-boned, flaked, and sautéed in onions, scallion, thyme and black pepper, then combined with the ackee for one of the most heavenly creations ever to grace the tastebuds.
3. Curry chicken and goat
Succulent and juicy to the bone, curry chicken and curry goat are two very popular dishes at many Jamaican gatherings. Jamaicans have developed a special love for curry! You’ll need curry, garlic, allspice, thyme, scotch bonnet pepper, black pepper and vinegar. The meat whether chicken or goat is first seasoned with the spices and allowed to marinate. The next crucial step is what Jamaicans call, “burning the curry’ which involves heating the oil with curry powder until the colour starts to change. Finally the meat is added and allowed to slowly simmer until tender and cooked to perfection.
This belly-filling dish can be found at almost every Jamaican restaurant. But for cooking this dish at home, you first need an ounce of patience – cooking may take an hour and a half or even longer. To get the taste just right, the meat is fried on high heat until both sides are a dark brown colour. (Some persons skip this stage and just add browning during cooking.) Then, the oxtail meat is cooked in a pressure cooker for 20-30 minutes until the desired softness is reached. The pot is then seasoned with local herbs and spices along with carrots and optional butter beans and simmers until the sauce is thickened.
5. Red Peas Soup
Red peas soup is a delicious hot soup that is sold all over the island. However, the best bowl of soup is the one you make at home. It uses mostly the same ingredients as other soups with the exception of a healthy dose of red kidney beans which give the dish its unique flavour and colour. Some cooks swear that red peas soup could never be complete without a small addition of pigtails, however, others insist it is just as tasty without it. A bowl of red soup is especially welcomed when it is raining.
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