Top Five Foods to Eat in Jamaica

Mary Song loves to travel whenever she is able to. She also enjoys maintaining a huge organic garden, and playing with her two dogs and two cats. She likes to write about Caribbean hotel deals for Best Travel Deals, and she has 13 years of experience in travel and real estate marketing.

Jamaican culture is a unique blend of African, European, Chinese, Middle Eastern and South American influences. This island is a true melting pot of different ethnic groups, and that means a mix of flavorful food and drinks that are reason enough to travel across the Caribbean.

After a relaxing day in the sun and water, I love to mosey around the island where I can easily find my favorite combinations of flavors. Even the touristy restaurants inside of hotels and resorts have amazing food. Whether it is fruits and veggies, or meats done right, I cannot get enough of the following five dishes.

Jerk Chicken

Jamaica is famous for its flavorful and bold use of spices, and especially in this national dish. Nothing displays this better than Jerk chicken. What makes Jerk sauce so delicious is the hot and spicy, yet sweet flavoring it gives the meat.

Interestingly, a richer taste is achieved starting with what they feed their chickens. The best locally grown grains and seeds for the chickens, instead of imported feed, makes all the difference. Once the chicken is ready for cooking they take seasonings from the island including the wonderful local sweet and spicy Scotch Bonnet peppers along with thyme, onions, scallions, nutmeg and cinnamon and rub these onto the meat.

Escovitch-style Fish

This delightful seafood is cooked in the Escovitch style. It is marinated expertly with onions, vinegar, lime, salt and pepper to fully bring out the ocean-fresh tastes. This brilliantly fresh seafood concoction has a boost of Jamaican spice to it as well as a delicious spin on red snapper fish.

Jamaican Patty

This dinner pastry looks like a Spanish empanada, but I would like to propose the Jamaican patty has divine origins. It is filled with veggies or minced meat with flavors that are spicy and complex. It usually has some combination of onions, tomatoes, garlic, thyme and annatto seed with the meat or veggies inside the flaky pastry shell. The patty is best sandwiched inside a sweet coco bun to offset some of the spiciness.

Plantains

These banana-like starchy fruits have always been a perplexing part of the produce section here in the US. They are mysterious yes, but also delicious and misunderstood. Once cooked, you've got yourself the perfect snack or side dish to any meal. In Jamaica, they serve them up sweet and piping hot which surprisingly makes this fruit a great partner to the spicy hot main courses like Jerk Chicken or Patties.  Like most delicious foods, this sweet potato of the tropics is best when it is fried, buttered, salted and peppered.

This is really easy to make at home, so try this recipe if you want to have a taste of the island before embarking on a journey across the Caribbean:

You will need 1 quart of frying oil, salt and pepper and two ripe plantains. Heat up the oil in a deep, large frying skillet on medium-high. Peel the plantains, cut them in half, and then again lengthwise so you end up with four thin pieces for each plantain. Next, fry them until they get tender and golden brown. Use a paper towel to rid the plantains of excess oil and add salt and pepper to taste, and you have yourself a tasty Jamaican treat.

Callaloo

I love this leafy green, which isn't surprising because I also love spinach. Callaloo is far less bitter than spinach and just as healthy so it's pretty much perfect to put in any dish. You can put it in patties, steam it on the side, juice it, or my favorite, put in traditional Jamaican Pepper pot Soup.

This meal has been cooked since the beginning of human life on Jamaica with the Arawak Indians. They used to keep the soup boiling on a fire and add new ingredients every day. Traditionally, this is a complex and strange concoction with pig's tails and other meats, but it sure is tasty.

Part of what makes Jamaica so wonderful is the strong and blended culture that is exemplified in the country's food. All of these foods are sure to leave a fond memory in your heart and stomach. 

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(Photo: Simon Thomas via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

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