In the past, traditionally, Saturdays are soup days in Jamaica but now any day of the week can be a soup day, especially the rainy days. Soups are usually laden with meat, vegetables and starches and are served either as appetizers or a full meal. They are popular street food and are of many variations. There are 6 specific soups every Jamaican should know how to cook.
Beef soup is a hearty mix of beef, pumpkin, yam, cho cho (chayote) and carrots with flour dumplings. It is flavorful and delicious and is a Saturday favorite. The beef soup has similar pumpkin base broth to that of chicken soup, but with a beefy flavour. Beef stew is very hearty so it fills you up easily and is therefore considered a soup-stew.
Chicken soup made with pumpkin based broth gives a mouthwatering fusion on the taste buds. Any part of the chicken can be used but the breast and back are the two most common options. The chicken and pumpkin are the main flavors of this soup and vegetables, dumplings and ground produce are added to lend their flavors as well. Some people may add plantains to the mix, however this is not a very common practice. The soup thickens richly and flavorsome with the natural flavors of the ingredients.
Chicken Foot Soup
Chicken foot soup is perhaps the most popular version of soup on the island and is similar to the chicken soup except it is made with the feet of the chicken. It is usually flavorful and spicy, topped off with “spinners” (small, elongated dumplings). It is served commonly at parties, special gatherings and is often available at roadside food stalls. Kids and adults tend to love chewing on the feet which absorbs the spices and seasonings during cooking.
Red peas and Gungo soup
Red peas and Gungo soup have similar ingredients just different flavors because of the peas (beans).
Gungo Peas soup usually includes gungo peas (also called pigeon peas), beef, pig tails, yellow yam, coconut milk (also optional) and more. Pork lovers may also add a piece of ham bone if available.
Red Pea Soup is very similar to Beef soup, except Red Kidney Beans is now a main ingredient and traditionally salted Pigtail may be added or replaces the beef component. Other meat options such as Turkey neck, Chicken back or foot may be used as a base flavor component, if beef or pork is not among your favorite.
Manish water is a rather adventurous and authentic Jamaican soup. It is made with goat head, tripe and other organs, specifically from the male goat – the “ram goat”. Along with the meat content, green bananas, dumplings, carrots, fresh herbs and spices and a dash of white rum is added to the pot. It is a favorite at street events (street dance), wakes (setup), weddings and parties and is rumored to be an aphrodisiac among the male populi.
Fish tea is unlike the other soup variations. It is fish-based soup with a very thin broth because the ground provisions including green banana and cassava are cooked until they are very soft. Coconut milk is added for flavor and a myriad of spice and herbs gives it a rather delicious taste. Fish tea is also believed to be an aphrodisiac.
Photo: Xavier Murphy