When it comes to food, Jamaicans have a saying “half of your life gone” if you wilfully abstain from eating certain dishes. The saying loosely translates that you may very well be living a reduced quality of life as a result of your decision! Your tastebuds may never know the extraordinary glory of a true Jamaican meal, or the unforgettable experience of a foodgasm until you try the best foods on the land. Here are 9 Jamaican foods you must add to your food bucket list.
Fresh from the oven comes the golden yellow, half-moon shaped Jamaican patty. For more than half a century, the patty has held a firm position among the best Jamaican foods. This popular pastry has a flaky shell and incredibly delicious filling which these days can be beef, cheese, chicken, vegetables, ackee, lobster or shrimp. The patty is best eaten when warm and served with an equally warm, buttery bread that Jamaicans call “coco bread”. It is common as a lunch time meal or mid-morning snack, however there are smaller bite size variations known as cocktail patties which are a big hit at social events.
Jerk chicken or pork
The good thing about Jamaican jerk is you can find it almost anywhere on the island, sometimes in the most unexpected places. You’ll be walking along the road and the waft of smoke and sweet sauce from the nearby jerk pan, immediately sends a message to your brain that this food must be devoured. Your taste buds are piqued for the meat that has been prepared with jerk sauce, Jamaican natural spices and then slowly cooked over a grill. When done right, jerk chicken or pork is spicy and flavourful right down to the bone. Jamaican or not, don’t miss out on the island’s famous jerk – have it alone or with festival, rice and peas or bread.
Rice and peas
Jamaican rice and peas has the renowned title of being the most important dish to cook every Sunday in every Jamaican home. And to what does it owe such an undisputed status? The basic ingredients are rice and peas (kidney beans are more common but gungo/pigeon peas are also popular). However, the dish is incomplete without fresh coconut milk, seasoned with thyme and escallion, and the optional scotch bonnet pepper on top. Usually an entrée dish, rice and peas may be served with any meat and a serving of vegetables.
Seafood lovers, you haven’t lived until you have tasted real Jamaican escoveitched fish. It starts with a simple fish that is seasoned with salt and pepper and fried to a golden brown. However, this is where things start to get interesting. The fish is heavily decorated with rings of onions, fresh, bright orange carrots and scotch bonnett peppers heavily marinated with a peppery vinaigrette. In minutes, you can reward your taste buds with the strangely delicious, spicy, tangy taste. Escoveitched fish is a popular delicacy – and a great way to give the meat a break. It is best had with bammy, festival or bread.