“Sell me a large fry chicken, leg and thigh please?”
“Wha kinda gravy wid dat? Curry goat or oxtail”
“Gimme di oxtail gravy deh”
This is the usual conversation at most if not all Jamaican cook shops or restaurants.
Gravy is a sauce made from the juices of the cooked meat mixed with stock and other ingredients. In Jamaica the other ingredients are decided based on the meat being prepared, for example a curried meat will have curry seasoning included while a stew will not.
In Jamaica, gravy is an integral part of a meal. Some people like having it on the side, or spread over the food; some may like to have a lot of gravy while others will take just a small amount.
Either way there is hardly any Jamaican that does not like having gravy on their food.
There are a few different versions of gravy (based mainly on the meat and cooking technique) but as with everything there is always a preference.
Here are the top 5 gravy preferences on the island:
Oxtail – is prepared using a combination of slow braise and stewing technique. Besides the regular grounded seasonings used in cooking most meats, some people add a bit of brown sugar, soy sauce, browning to help with colour and some allspice before marinating the meat whether overnight or for a few hours. The meat is browned then cooked in beef broth seasoned with carrots, onions and scotch bonnet peppers. Near the end of the cooking time, Broad beans or Butter beans are usually added. The gravy from the Oxtail dish is unmatched, the meat simply falls off a rather tender and juicy bone. Consider yourself lucky if you get a piece of Oxtail in your meat whenever you ask for this gravy; it is also possibly the only gravy you may have to pay for at a restaurant.
2. Curry Chicken/Goat
Curry Chicken/Goat – the highlight of this gravy is the colour it gives to the dish. Curry Chicken and Curry Goat have different taste profiles due to the meat difference but one thing they have in common is being spicy, aromatic and flavorful. Usually for either Curry Goat/Chicken, the curry powder is burnt in the oil before the meat gets added. Slices of carrots, diced potatoes and slices of ginger may be added to the stew. The gravy is rich and thick with the addition of the vegetables and seasoned to taste. Curry gravy is another popular one added to the Fried Chicken dishes in restaurants.
3. Brown stew
Brown stew – pork / chicken – For this gravy option, the meat is cut into bite size pieces and marinated in an aromatic blend of herbs and spices. It is then browned in the pot – fried until both sides are a golden brown – then simmered in its own juice with veggies, peppers, browning sauce, ketchup and other sauces. Some people may opt to use a branded Browning sauce while some people create their own. Either way the gravy from this stew is dark, thick, rich and tasty.
4. Cow foot
Cow foot – there is definitely a love/hate divide on this gravy particularly because not a lot of people gravitate towards eating “cow foot” nevertheless the meat is delicious and so is the gravy. There is not a lot of meat on the bone but the flavour comes primarily from the bone and bone marrow. The process of cooking is very involved and includes scalding the meat before seasoning and pressure cooking. Butter bean is added close to the end of the cooking time to top off the flavour and taste. This stew is labelled as an aphrodisiac in the Jamaican culture and often recommended for people experiencing a hangover to have.
5. Stew peas
Stew peas – whether vegetarian, vegan or loaded with meat, this hearty stew is a flavorful blend of Kidney beans cooked in a delicious coconut sauce with garlic, onions, scotch bonnet peppers, bell peppers, pimento, garlic and thyme. Small cylindrical dumplings are also added to this stew. Traditionally salted beef or pigtail is the meat of choice and most households do a two meat stew.