Ten (un)Savoury Jamaican Menu Items

Ten (un)Savoury Jamaican Food Menu Items

One thing that takes centre stage at any Jamaican gathering is food. No get-together is complete without it, so disappointment is sure to set in if the ‘staff of life’ isn’t part of the proceedings. Jamaicans continue to live their history in some of the items that find their way to table, some of which are unheard of by people from other cultures. One thing is sure, the legacy of slavery has taught us to be frugal, so nothing is wasted when animals are butchered. Also, some not-so-common fruits are incorporated in our diet. Here are  ten (10)  things Jamaicans eat that foreigners might find unsavoury.

  1. Bussu Soup – This is a specialty from Portland. Bussu is a small shellfish found in the Rio Grande river. For the soup, Bussu is shelled and boiled with ‘food’ and vegetables. Being a part of Portland’s culture, Bussu is important enough to have its own festival each year. This rare shellfish is prepared in a variety of ways at the festival and has the reputation of being an aphrodisiac.
  2. Feet – Chicken, cow, and pig feet are regularly consumed in Jamaica. Chicken feet is the all-important ingredient in ‘Chicken Foot Soup‘ and is a recent addition to stewed peas. Few people serve ‘chicken foot’ on their own. ‘Cow foot’ and ‘pig trotters’ are cooked with butter beans and their gelatinous quality make them reputedly good for the joints.
  3. Cow Cod Soup – The main ingredient in this soup is a bull’s penis. Other ingredients include dumplings, green bananas, rum. vegetables and yam.  Cow Cod Soup is reputed to be an aphrodisiac and is mainly prepared in rural areas.
  4. Fish Head & Fish Back – You’d think because of the eyes and the lack of flesh, plus the amount of work it takes to suck fish bones clean, that ‘fish head’ wouldn’t be a menu item. Not so, there are people who specialize in buying Jack or Snapper heads and ‘cooking them down’. Fish Back is exactly what it sounds like—the cuttings that are left after fish is filleted—and is used in ‘Fish Tea’, which is another soup Jamaicans enjoy.
  5. Jackfruit – This pungent fruit with a gummy residue comes from the same family as breadfruit and used to be maligned by many for its smell. The flesh consists of sugary-sweet, yellow bulbs that surround large seeds, which can be baked or boiled and eaten. Jackfruit is now recognized as a superfood. These days, Jackfruit is pegged and sold on the streets of Kingston & St. Andrew.
  6. Mannish Water – This soup is prepared from goat entrails, head and feet. It has a distinctive flavour and a ram goat or ‘rammy’ is the meat of choice for this dish. Green bananas, boiled in their skin, and other forms of carbohydrate complete a good pot of Mannish water. No part of a butchered goat is wasted as roasted goat testicles are a delicacy in some quarters.
  7. Organ Meats – Kidney, Liver, and Tongue are sold in markets and supermarkets and are a rich source of iron. Light (Lungs) is no longer a staple for Jamaicans, but in the old days, these meats were regular Sunday morning fare with green bananas.
  8. Susumba/Gully Bean – This bitter, green berry grows just about anywhere, including back yards and gullies and does not need tending. It is cooked with rice, mackerel, saltfish, or in soup and has a reputation for being good for high blood pressure.
  9. Tinkin’ Toe – For the more formal among us, Stinking Toe—comes from the Courbaril tree, which is a hardwood commonly found in the Caribbean, Central, and South America. The pods take their name from their shape and on the inside, a dry, edible pulp surrounds the seeds. The smell is unpleasant, but kids get a kick out of eating the powder and there’s no need to ask where Tinkin’ Toe got its name.
  10. Tripe – Old people call this ‘instrall’ which translates to entrails. On the island, cow tripe is eaten as an entrée and is sometimes curried. It is prepared after copious cleaning with plenty of boiling-hot water. Served with butter beans, tripe is a delicacy for some persons.


  • Joy L. Campbell

    J.L. Campbell is an award-winning, Jamaican author who writes romantic suspense, women's fiction, new and young adult novels. She has written sixteen books, seven novellas, and two short story collections. Campbell's mission is to write stories that entertain and educate readers. She is also a certified editor, and writes non-fiction. Visit her on the web at http://www.joylcampbell.com

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