Over the 26 years that the Jamaican community website Jamaicans.com has been in operation, it has collected over 400 recipes that allow its visitors to make authentic Jamaican flavors at home. The collection is especially welcomed by Jamaicans in the Diaspora who often have a difficult time finding restaurants that feature their favorite foods from home. The recipes at Jamaicans.com represent a valued source of inspiration for local cooks, an introduction to Jamaican dishes for the uninitiated, and the go-to resource for non-Jamaicans who want to replicate the country’s unique flavors. Searching for Jamaican recipes was especially popular during the COVID-19 lockdown as people sought comfort in homestyle food or just wanted to find something different to make for dinner! Below are the 13 recipes most requested by Jamaican food lovers in the United States in 2021.
1. Jamaican Patty
The Jamaican patty is the classic Jamaican food. It offers unique island flavors, and the bright yellow color of its pastry adds an element of fun to the dining experience. Beef is the traditional filling, but many tasty versions replace it with chicken, seafood, or plant-based choices. The flaky and buttery pastry surrounding the filling gets its color from turmeric, and while the patty is similar to an empanada, it is baked instead of fried. Being a Jamaican dish, it features various levels of heat, chiefly attributed to the scotch bonnet pepper frequently added to the filling. The patty reflects the influence of East Indian culture in Jamaica.
2. Oxtail and Beans
A thick dish similar to beef stew. This Jamaican stew combines oxtail with bacon, potatoes, butter beans, tomatoes, scotch bonnet peppers, and uses garlic, thyme, and onions as flavorings.
3. Cornmeal Porridge
Cornmeal Porridge is a favorite for breakfast in Jamaica. Easy to make, this creamy and comforting porridge is often the first solid food given to Jamaican babies who are being weaned off the bottle. To eat the porridge in the Jamaican style, dip hard dough bread in the porridge or break up some hard bread and add it to the hot cornmeal disk.
4. Jamaican Stew Peas
In Jamaica, stew peas refer to red “peas,” or kidney beans. This dish combines the peas with stew beef, pig’s tail, and coconut milk. Added flavorings include hot pepper and spices preferred by the cook and result in a hearty dish exceedingly popular in Jamaica.
5. Jamaican Fried Dumplings
While most people think of dumplings as being steamed or boiled, Jamaicans offer a fried version. It is believed that the fried dumplings were the original “journey cakes” – later known as “johnnycakes – that travelers in the old days took with them when they embarked on long journeys.
6. Jamaican Boiled Flour Dumpling
A traditional version of the dumpling, and while critics believe that boiled dumplings bring no nutritional value to a meal, no “real Jamaican” meal can be called complete with a few of the savory creations.
7. Curry Shrimp
Very easy to make and fast – it can be made in less than half an hour and the results will wow all shrimp-loving diners. It features Jamaican curry powder, bell peppers, and coconut milk, in addition to the luscious shrimp. While coconut milk isn’t generally added to curry recipes, its flavor goes well with the taste of shrimp. The bell peppers add a welcome note of color.
8. Jamaican Fried Chicken
A unique take on the familiar and well-loved chicken dish. To make authentic golden-brown and crunchy Jamaican fried chicken, marinate the chicken for at least two hours in a mix of garlic, ginger, thyme, paprika, salt, and hot pepper, then coat in a batter of flour, baking powder, and cornstarch for an extra crispy treat.
9. Jamaican Rum Cream
A perfect blend of Jamaican rum, cream, and island fruits and spices. This recipe approximates the popular Sangsters Jamaican brand. It is made with sweetened condensed milk, a good Jamaican rum, cream or half-and-half, chocolate syrup, coconut extract, and fresh-brewed coffee.
10. Jamaican Black Cake / Caribbean Christmas Cake
If you have nothing else for Christmas, you must have a Jamaican Black Cake, which has been described as “the most alcoholic cake you will ever eat.” A close relation of the British Plum Pudding, this is a decadent treat that features wine-soaked dried fruit, butter, brown sugar, eggs, and a good rum. Bake it a few days ahead of serving to get the appropriate melding of the alcohols and other ingredients.
One of the favorite comfort foods of Jamaica, Festival is a popular street food. It is often served with escovitch fish and is highly individualized as each cook has the leeway to add whatever spices and seasoning they prefer. Festival is a dough made of cornmeal and all-purpose flour that is deep-fried in oil. The traditional flavoring is vanilla, but feel free to add your own preference.
12. Peanut Punch
Jamaican Peanut Punch is extremely high in protein and is favored as an energy drink on the island. It is often sold by street vendors who add their own “secret ingredients” like Irish Moss. In its simplest form, the punch is a flavorful combination of peanuts, sugar, white rum, nutmeg, vanilla, and evaporated milk. For a non-alcoholic version, eliminate the rum (the punch is still excellent!).
13. Curry Chicken
This rich, hearty, and spicy dish is a favorite of Jamaicans and is the ultimate in Caribbean comfort food. It is inspired by the cuisine of East Indian communities and the style with which they cook chicken and goat meat. Jamaican curries tend to differ from Indian curries in the choice of seasoning, with Jamaicans using more turmeric in the mix. Curries tend to be unique to the cook, so go wild and add tomatoes – or not – or add coconut milk – or not – as you prefer. A perfect choice for an everyday dinner – and kids love it!
Photos – Deposit Photos