About the food of Jamaica

Sunset on 7 Mile Beach, Negril, Jamaica. Photo by Chaoleonard.

Seems like everyone I know has been to Jamaica – usually, for a wedding, their honeymoon, or spring break.

Or a scary combination of all three. (I shudder to think).

While many visitors stick to strolling the soft sands and wading in the clear waters, some seek out other adventures, like ecological river tours, climbing sheer waterfalls, and exploring local museums.

While all this sounds fantastic, my stove top Adventure is clear. You see, back when I made the Caribbean Green Seasoning for Guyana, I totally wimped out on the amount of habeneros required. I used 1/4 of a whole habenero, when the recipe called for 6 habeneros.


That means I used 1/24th  of the recommended heat.


Thankfully, my friendly readers from Jamaica told me I could redeem myself this week.

So, with that in mind, I did some research. Turns out Jamaicans sure do love spicy food. The people are mostly of African descent, but also European, Chinese, and Indian. They eat everything from curries, to puddings, and from stir fried, to deep fried. Still, no matter the origin of the food, it is blasted with hot peppers (if not in the dish, then sloshed on top with hot sauce).

St. Jago de la Vega Cathedral. Spanish Town, Jamaica.

And, if you haven’t heard, jerk is the spiciest of the spicy.  Jamaican jerk is famous for tender, slow cooked, barbecued, smoked meaty flavor. The most popular forms are chicken  [Recipeand pork doused with jerk seasoning blend  [Recipe].  Everyone has their favorite.

For wimps like myself, side dishes help absorb the heat. You can cool things down with a carb load of peas n’ rice, which we tried when we cooked Barbados [recipe] (try not to be too stunned by my early photography), or baked yams, avocado slices, tomatoes, etc.

Then there’s the seafood – delicate and fresh as can be. They love it fried, roasted, grilled – you name it. Most interestingly, they load it up with a spicy vinegar sauce –  a Spanish inspired dish called Fish Escovtich  [Recipe]. And, buckle up, because this blast of a dish is popular breakfast food on the island.

A dish like that will give you perky morning breath.

You might want to calm things down with a sip of Sorrel [Recipe], an iced drink served in Jamaica around Christmastime. The drink is brewed and chilled sorrel, a.k.a. hibiscus flower, mixed with other aromatics, like fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, all spice, cloves, and more. Rum, which has a home in Jamaica, is often splashed in it as well.

Lover's Leap, a famous cliff in Jamaica. Plus maps and flag, courtesy of CIA World Factbook.

What are your favorite Jamaican foods?

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  1. John Goodenow says:

    Pull out all the stops and go for full-flava spicey jerk. It is ubiquitous in Jamaica in roadside shacks all over the place. And cool things off with a yellowbird. Or a rum punch.

  2. I’ve eaten at a ton of Jamaican restaurants in parts of New York where someone who wasn’t Jamaican would never go, and the food was never spicy. Oh it was full of lovely spice blends, but it didn’t burn your mouth from hot peppers. Not at all. Of course on request, any one of those restaurants would give you free as many Scotch Bonnet peppers as you could eat. The music is really spicy though: http://www.myspace.com/0/music-player?songid=68459

  3. Excited for the jerk recipe (if you make it!)

  4. you mention climbing waterfalls. i did that when i was younger and loved it. my favorite jamaican foods include patties with cocoa bread, jerk chicken with peas and rice, and bun n cheese.

  5. Sasha Martin says:

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. :)

    Brian, I’m not sure why I’ve heard otherwise… plus the one Jamaican restaurant I ate at (in Connecticut).. well, it was really, really spicy. Especially the patties.

    Mack, I’d love to do it in Jamaica. I did it once in Connecticut (the waterfall was frozen), so I actually climbed up the frozen “torrents” It was so fun.

  6. elisa waller says:

    love jamaica..love the music…love thelanguage….love the lifestyle….love the flag too! <3 have fun!

  7. I’ve never been to Jamaica but I love jerk anything!! And plantains.

  8. Paul Bowler says:

    Jerk chicken being barbecued in a barrel has to be one of the greatest smells on earth. Another favourite of mine is ackee and saltfish. Then there are all those wonderfull curries of course! It might be fun to cook up a goat curry if you can find the meat anywhere?

  9. Linda Condrillo says:

    Forget about the jerk, look at the sky! The clouds look like countries — especially the one next to the setting sun, it looks like the boot of Italy! Great shot. Your adventure sounds like heaven.

  10. Sasha Martin says:

    Katherine – I’ve fallen in love with plantains since starting this adventure… did you see the Tortas de Plantano? http://globaltableadventure.com/2011/06/16/recipe-plantain-cheese-turnovers-tortas-de-platano/

    Paul – goat is a little harder to come by – although I have found it frozen at one of our local meat markets.

    Linda – you’re so right – I see the boot!

  11. I really enjoyed this blog! Jerk chicken is one of my favorite types of Jamaican food, even though I don’t do well with spicy. What I found most interesting is how many natural products they use to create their dishes. Even though they enjoyed frying their foods, I noticed that grilling seems to be something they’re fond of as well, which only adds to the freshness of their meals. This post as inspired me to try different types of Jamaican foods and I can’t wait!

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