...all the foods the Jamaicans love.
Specialty Jamaica food is like no other: Few other cuisines mix such a range of spices and tastes - sweet, hot and savory - as Jamaican cooking.
Jamaican food wouldn't be the same without the spices, seasonings and colors from Allspice, the pimento berry, nutmeg, ginger, thyme, and scotch bonnet peppers.
All are integral, and distinct flavors of Jamaica Food.
The informal merchants in the open marketplace started combined peppers, thyme, and garlic in small plastic bags for cooking, and Jamaica's mouthwatering delights are created by a variety of flavors, making Jamaica food very rich.
Scallions, onions, allspice and parsley are well suited to growing in the tropical climate and are a standard addition to most Jamaican recipes. Jamaican food is full of fire, making the most of pungent spices and peppers, and those amongst us with a sweet tooth will be pleased to know that desserts are not overlooked in Jamaican cooking either!
To help you get acquainted with the many and various Jamaica foods, we have compiled three articles by experts on the subject. The first one, by Denny Phillips, gives us a little bit of an historical overview on the origins of some of the more unique Jamaican dishes.
Foods of Jamaica
Yea Mon - Jamaican Cuisine
The cuisine of Jamaica is definitely unique and quite flavorful, bringing with it a blend of the island’s local harvest and spice. The island’s food is represented by Jamaica’s motto, "Out of Many, One People".
Jamaican inhabitants have come from around the globe, including the British, Dutch, French, Spanish, East Indian, West African, Portuguese and Chinese, who brought with them their own unique cooking techniques, flavors, and spices, blending them with the island’s bountiful harvest.
The original inhabitants of Jamaica were the Arawak Indians, who died out after the arrival of the Spanish in 1509, due to disease and overwork. The Spanish then began importing slaves from Africa to replace their workforce.
The Spanish brought with them their own culinary influence. As well, many Spanish Jews also arrived during the Spanish rule and contributed their influences to Jamaica’s cuisine, such as a dish still popular today, Escovitch fish.
In 1655 the English took over Jamaica from the Spanish and turned much of the land into sugar plantations. The English influenced the development of one of Jamaica’s most popular foods, the Jamaican Pattie, a spiced meat turnover that is the equivalent of the island’s hamburger. Many varieties of Jamaican patties are found in many grocery freezers today.
A century later, indentured laborers of Chinese and East Indians replaced the African slaves after emancipation. These immigrants influenced the curry dishes that grace nearly every Jamaican menu today, such as curry goat, chicken and seafood.
A point of interest is in the Jamaica population of the Maroons. The Maroons are people descendant of escaped slaves of the Spanish, fierce fighters who took to the hills and were never recaptured. They settled in a remote hilly region south of Montego Bay in Cockpit Country.
The Maroons now live in a completely self-sustained existence off the land and are known as the island’s greatest herbalists.
As we can see, Jamaica’s food is influenced by its history. "Bammie", a toasted flat cake eaten with fried fish today, was made from the cassava grown by the Arawaks. The Maroons, slaves who were always on the run, devised a way of “jerking” meat (through spicing and slow cooking pork) that is popular in Jamaica today.
Breadfruit, yams, root vegetables and ackee were brought from Africa to cheaply feed the slaves. It is said the breadfruit arrived with Captain William Bligh on the Bounty. And, as mentioned, the Chinese and East Indians brought with them their contributions of exotic flavors in their curry and other spices.
Added to the contributions of the foreign influences, indigenous vegetables, such as cho-cho (a squash-like vegetable) and callaloo (similar to spinach) are also popular in Jamaican cooking today, along with the island’s fruits of bananas, coconuts, mangoes and pineapples. Among the more exotic fruits popular in Jamaica are guineps, pawpaw, sweetsops and the star apple.
The native pimento tree brings allspice to many Jamaican dishes, as do ginger, garlic, nutmeg, and the Scotch Bonnet peppers, which are considered some of the hottest peppers on earth. The Scotch Bonnet is essential to making the jerk pork, chicken and fish for which Jamaica is famous.
The Maroons marinated meat for hours in a mixture of peppers, pimento seeds, scallion, thyme and nutmeg, and then cooked it slowly over an outdoor pit lined with pimento wood. Jerk stands can be found all over the island today offering tourists and inhabitants alike the unique spicy flavor, famous all over the world.
Negril, located on Jamaica’s western shore, is famous for its “hippie” era. Hippies set up a colony there and enjoyed a laid-back lifestyle and “ganja”. From here, vegetarian meals abound.
Middle Quarters, an area of the south coast, offers dried peppered shrimp which is sold by the bag. Stamp and Go (salt-fish fritters eaten as an appetizer) and mackerel Run-Down (pickled fish cooked in seasoned coconut milk until the fish just falls apart or literally “runs down”), as well as boiled green bananas and yams are served over the whole island.
Jamaica is also quite famous the world over for its Blue Mountain coffee, which gets its name from the Blue Mountains where the coffee beans are grown. The coffee industry in Jamaica began in 1725, when the governor brought seedlings from Martinique and planted them on his estate.
Mountains cover approximately four-fifths of Jamaica, with the Blue Mountains reaching a height of 7,400 feet. The coffee is planted on terraces along the mountain slopes, 1,500 to 5,000 feet above sea level, and which is often shaded by avocado and banana trees.
[see our other pages on the famous "Blue Mountain Coffee"]
Jamaica’s national dish is salt-fish and ackee, an island breakfast dish. Ackee, when cooked looks and tastes much like scrambled eggs. Ackee is poisonous until it is ripe and is always served cooked.
Rice‘n peas is also a popular island dish, but is not really peas but beans (usually red kidney beans.) Other favorite Jamaican dishes include red pea soup (again kidney beans, salted pig tails, beef and vegetables), hard dough bread, fish tea (a fish bouillon), Johnny cakes (fried or baked breads), mannish water (a spicy soup made from goats’ heads), bulla (a spicy bun), stew peas (a soup of red peas or gungo peas), Solomon Gundy (an appetizer made of pickled fish) and festival (a type of bread).
As one can see, Jamaica offers a vast variety of dishes influenced by the island’s history. From British, Spanish, African, East Indian and Chinese, the cuisine of Jamaica is quite flavorful and often spicy, and is a culinary experience that all will enjoy.
Denny Phillips has traveled to Jamaica and was fascinated by the country, their culture and cuisine. Denny has created several articles inspired by her love of cooking, traveling and art. Read other articles by Denny on her websites: http://www.goodcookingcentral.com and http://www.vacationtravelquest.com
Dining Out with Jamaica Food
In this article, Lee Breeze, a Jamaican travel expert, looks at various dining options and what you might encounter. Again, the Jamaica food is the focus.
Sample the Many Flavors of Jamaica
Dining in Jamaica can be as simple as a stool at a roadside stand or as elaborate as a fine dining restaurant inside a 5 star resort.
The island of Jamaica offers a wide variety of restaurants and culinary styles to sample. The traditional cuisine of Jamaica is typically light, island fare with distinctive spices and flavors.
Those looking for the traditional Jamaican experience will definitely want to check out the jerk huts on Jamaica's northern shores. Here, spice rubs and grills set over oil drums create one of Jamaica's signature dishes, jerk chicken. For the health-conscious diner, Jamaica also offers Rastafarian I-tal cuisine.
I-tal cuisine does not contain salt and follows the strict dietary guidelines of the Rastafarian sect. Various vegetable and soy dishes are prepared to delight your taste buds -and the consciousness. Look for the red, gold and green band and/or a picture of a lion to distinguish these restaurants.
If you are looking for a quick pick-me-up, meat or vegetable patties (a type of filled pastry) with coco bread are among the many light meals you can find throughout the country.
If you are looking to have a casual sit-down experience as you enjoy your Jamaican delicacies, you'll find a wide range of establishments, from local watering holes to fine restaurants.
Laid-back Margaritaville Sports Bar and Grill and neighboring posh restaurant, Marguerite's, offer the best of both worlds in Montego Bay. Evita's in Ocho Rios combines Jamaican cuisine with Italian flavor, bringing an international flavor to hometown spices. Chance's in Negril serves up good pizza along Seven Mile Beach.
However, a visit to Jamaica doesn't mean a diet of just local cuisine. The island's eating establishments employ some of the most talented chefs in the Caribbean. Chefs from the United States and Europe prepare elegant dishes in the French, Continental and American style of cooking.
All of these cuisines and more are a feature of the elaborate buffets that are often a feature at the major resort hotels. These buffets display a variety of local dishes along with other, more-standard fare, and they are almost always reasonably priced.
Entertainment is often provided by a local reggae band. Even if you are not staying at a particular hotel, you can call on any given night and make a reservation to enjoy the resort's buffet. These grand buffets are loaded with the best of Jamaican and American cuisine.
The buffet at the All-Inclusive ClubHotel Riu Ocho Rios, for example, offers a full breakfast, with on the spot cooking stations, traditional Jamaican lunches and several types of theme restaurants to choose from for dinner, including a steak house, Italian, and Asian eateries.
Sunset at the Palms in Negril offers an Asian Fusion restaurant, in addition to their sumptuous buffet and poolside grill. Many All-Inclusives offer theme nights on their main buffets as well.
Although punctuality and politeness are staples of Jamaican culture, most restaurants are relaxed and casual places to meet and eat.
In Jamaica, restaurants are social outlets where friends and family dine, share stories and enjoy each others company. Even the chefs participate in the social experience by telling stories, making jokes or just sitting down at the table to see what is going on.
Whether you are making new friends or sampling new dishes, Jamaican restaurants offer a wonderful balance of camaraderie and tasty treats.
Lee Breeze is a Content Associate for BookIt.com®. Visit BookIt.com® [http://www.bookit.com/travel_guide.html]Travel Guides for Additional Travel Articles, Reviews and Helpful Travel Tips.
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