Jamaica offers a buffet of dishes that define the island and its people. Here’s a list of 10 that are worth trying on a visit to Jamaica:
1. Jerk chicken
Probably the most well-known dish in Jamaica, jerk chicken is a spicy grilled chicken dish that may have originated from the Taino people, but perfected by African slaves in the 17th century.
Jerk is a style of cooking where meat (chicken, pork, beef, seafood or goat) is grilled slowly on charcoal and pimento wood. The meat is marinated for several hours with Scotch Bonnet peppers, allspice, and garlic.
Jerk chicken is moist and smoky, and this tasty meat is a must when visiting Jamaica.
2. Ackee and saltfish
Ackee is a fruit native to West Africa. When African slaves arrived in Jamaica in 1778, they brought along ackee. Now ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, and when the fruit is ripe, it’s used to make Jamaica’s national dish, Ackee and saltfish. The dish consists of codfish, boiled ackee, onion, Scotch Bonnet peppers, tomatoes, and spices. It’s served throughout the day but you can often find it for breakfast.
Johnnycakes are fluffy fried dumplings. It was originally known as “journey cake” because it was the most packable food. Workers and travelers used to pack johnnycakes before embarking on long journeys. Johnnycakes’ ingredients include flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, butter, and water. They are shaped like balls and deep-fried.
4. Jamaican patties
Jamaican patties are Jamaica’s version of empanadas. Jamaican patties are a flaky and thin pastry filled with a meat filling. There are many variations of Jamaican patties. The most popular are beef patties made of ground beef, Scotch Bonnet peppers, onions, and spices.
5. Goat curry
In Jamaica, goat curry originated from the Indian workers brought by the British to Jamaica in the 17th century. This flavorful and staple dish goes well with rice and peas and roti. The meat is slow-cooked with chili, garlic, onion, ginger, and other spices. A knife is not required when eating goat curry as the meat is tender and cut in cubes.
6. Rice and peas
The Jamaican rice and peas dish is actually a rice and beans dish. Traditionally, the rice is cooked with pigeon peas, coconut milk, onion, and garlic. These days you can find rice and peas using all sorts of beans, including kidney beans.
Rice and peas is best eaten with goat curry or jerk chicken.
7. Fish tea
Fish tea is a soup dish, loved by Jamaicans, especially on a rainy day. Made of fish broth, herbs, and a few root vegetables, fish tea is light and is served in restaurants as a starter. It’s also known to cure a hangover.
Gizzada or Jamaican coconut tart is a popular dessert found throughout Jamaica. This sweet delight consists of a pastry shell filled with sweetened and spiced shredded coconut. It’s best paired with a cup of tea or strong coffee without sugar.
9. Twice-fried plantains
In Jamaica, you get to try plantains boiled or fried and the crispy twice-fried plantains are the best side dishes in Jamaica. Twice fried plantains or tostones are also found in Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Tostones are deep-fried till they’re crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Besides jerk chicken and all those delicious dishes we listed, Jamaica is also known for its rum. Naturally, most of the fantastic cocktails are made from local rum.
When in Jamaica, if you’re 21 and above, try these cocktails that include rum: Jamaican Rum Punch, Dirty Banana, and Flaming Bob Marley. Flaming Bob Marley has three layers that reflect the Rastafarian flag. You can try the Flaming Bob Marley shot or The Flaming Bob Marley frozen cocktail.