Jamaican food refers to the collection of dishes and drinks from the Jamaica island. Jamaican food is mostly a fusion of native Jamaican food and foreign influences of people who came here and inhabited the island. A wide variety of meats, seafood and tropical fruits are used in Jamaican foods. Jamaican cuisine has evolved with time and Jamaican recipes have also been exported to other nations along with Jamaican population that has moved out from here to seek better opportunities.
Jamaican dishes reflect the influence of Spanish, Indian, British and Chinese cuisines. The flavorful cuisine of Jamaica is due to its multicultural diversity. Jamaican patty is one such dish, which is actually a modified version of the Spanish dish called empanada. This patty is filled with spiced meats.
History of Jamaican Cuisine
It is believed that Christopher Columbus was the first visitor to Jamaica. He visited Jamaica towards the end of 15th century and at the beginning of 16th century. His travel anecdotes suggest of a dish which is similar to modern day Jamaican Jerk. Columbus described that Arawaks (people who lived in Jamaica at that time) preserved their meat for long winters by rubbing allspice, pepper and seasalt over it.
The Spanish were the first Europeans who came to Jamaica. They brought with them lots of unique dishes like vinegary concoction or Spanish escabeche. When Chinese immigrants arrived they introduced Cantonese or Hakka style of cooking. At the turn of 17th century, many African slaves were brought to Jamaica to work in various tea plantations and other gardens by colonial Europeans. East Indian and Chinese influence is prominently observed because these labors were brought to work in fields. They replaced African slaves in numbers. Goat Curry is one of the popular Jamaican dishes. Curries were introduced by East Indian labors and today curries are integral part of the Jamaican food culture. Jamaicans prepare different types of curries using goats, chicken and beef and serve it during all special days and festivals too.
Foreign Influences on Jamaican Cuisine
Foreigners from Spain, Britain, Africa, China and India have inhabited Jamaica over a period of time and their influence can be seen in Jamaican recipes. Often foreign dishes have been modified to include local ingredients.
Ingredients Used in Jamaican Foods
Here are some of the popular ingredients included in Jamaican cuisine-
Ackee: This is a fruit of a tree native to Africa. It is imported in Jamaica from Africe. The fruit has many uses in Jamaican food as well as medications. Oil from ackee arils is rich in various essential nutrients.
Allspice or Jamaican pepper: A spice used for flavouring Jamaican food.
Breadfruit: The large fruit from the breadfruit tree is used in cooked, fermented or otherwise in processed form in Jamaican recipes.
Cassava- A woody shrub native to North America. Its flour is used to make the popular bammies.
Jerk spice: A hot spice mixture used while marinating or dry rubbing pork or chicken.
Salted and dried cod is commonly used in Jamaican food.
Popular Jamaican Recipes
Ackee and Saltfish: This is the national dish of Jamaica. It is made of salted fish and the fruit of the Ackee tree.
Jerk chicken: Grilled and jerk-spiced chicken. Jamaican jerk spice is a hot spice mixture that is used to marinate or dry-rub the chicken.
Jamaican patties: Patties with beef, chicken, cheese or vegetable filling are a popular part of Jamaican food
Jamaican spiced bun: A bun which has been spiced by adding spices during the process of preparation.
Mannish Water: Goat soup said to have aphrodisiac properties
Fish tea: A spicy soup made of fish and vegetables
Rice and peas: This dish is made with rice and a legume like kidney beans or pigeon peas, and forms a protein rich diet.
Bammie: This is a traditional Jamaican flatbread made from cassava flour.
Carrot juice that has been spiced and flavoured with vanilla or nutmeg
Ginger beer: A sugared beverage flavoured with ginger
Jamaican ice cream is a popular dessert in Jamaican food, which is made with coconut milk rather than regular milk or cream. It contains fruits like mango for flavouring.
Gizzada is a tart with sweet coconut filling
List of Jamaican Dishes
Breakfast: During a typical Jamaican breakfast dishes like fried dumplings, seasoned callaloo, boiled green bananas, saltfish and ackee are served.
- Callaloo: This is a popular breakfast dish in most of the Caribbean countries, different types of greens and vegetables like okra are used in the preparation of the dish. The recipes for callaloo vary largely from region to region within Jamaica. The choice of vegetables will purely depend on the taste preferences of the eaters involved.
- Ackee and Saltfish: This is the national breakfast dish of Jamaica. Ackee is considered as a National fruit of Jamaica. The yellow, fleshy arils of the fruit are consumed. The arils are washed and cooked for about half an hour before serving. Dried saltfish is another favorite breakfast dish of Jamaicans.
Meals: Lunch and dinner are very elaborate affair in Jamaica. Various vegetable, meat and fish based preparations are served during lunch and dinner.
- Goat Curry: This is the traditional dish of Jamaica. The Jamaican goat curry is prepared and served during all special occasions and regularly too. The goat curry is prepared with goat, lots of vegetables and typical Jamaican seasonings.
- Cowcod Soup: This is one of the notorious, but popular Jamaican dishes. This is supposed to be aphrodisiac soup, and is normally served in food stalls. The soup is prepared with white rum, pepper and bananas.
- Escovitch Fish: This is a special type of fish preparation involving vinegar. This fish preparation was introduced by Spanish Jews some centuries ago. The fish is fried and marinated with vinegar while making this dish.
- Jamaican Jerk: This is one of the popular Jamaican dishes of all time. Fish, pork or chicken is marinated with spices like Scotch bonnet pepper, thyme, nutmeg, pimento. The jerk is served with rice, hot sauce and peas and local breads.
Jamaican Cuisine: Trivia
Jamaican breakfast typically consists of ackee and saltfish, seasoned callaloo, boiled bananas and dumplings.
Many restaurant chains in the United States serve Jamaican foods. Golden Crust Caribbean Bakery & Grill is an eatery that supplies Jamaican patties in New York