Jamaican cuisine includes a mixture of cooking techniques, flavours, spices and influences from the indigenous people on the island of Jamaica, and the Spanish, Irish, British, African, Indian and Chinese who have inhabited the island. It is also influenced by the crops introduced into the island from tropical Southeast Asia. Jamaican cuisine includes various dishes from the different cultures brought to the island with the arrival of people from elsewhere. Other dishes are novel or a fusion of techniques and traditions. In addition to ingredients that are native to Jamaica, many foods have been introduced and are now grown locally. A wide variety of seafood, tropical fruits and meats are available.
Some Jamaican cuisine dishes are variations on the cuisines and cooking styles brought to the island from elsewhere. These are often modified to incorporate local produce. Others are novel and have developed locally. Popular Jamaican dishes include curry goat, fried dumplings, ackee and saltfish (cod). Jamaican cuisine has been adapted by Irish, African, Indian, British, French, Spanish, and Chinese influences. Jamaican patties and various pastries and breads are also popular as well as fruit beverages and Jamaican rum.
Jamaican cuisine has spread with emigrations, especially during the 20th century, from the island to other nations as Jamaicans have sought economic opportunities in other areas.
Development of the cuisine
The Spanish, the first European arrivals to the island, contributed dishes such as the vinegary escovitch fish (Spanish escabeche) contributed by Spanish Jews. Later, Cornish influences developed the Jamaican patty, an empanada styled turnover filled with spiced meat. African cuisine developed on the island as a result of waves of slavery introduced by the European powers. More Chinese and East Indian influences can also be found in Jamaican cuisine, as a result of indentured labourers who replaced slaves after emancipation brought their own culinary talents (especially curry, which Jamaican chefs sometimes use to season goat meat for special occasions).
Jamaican Cuisine and the Rastafarians
Jamaican cuisine includes Rastafarian influences. Rastafarians have a vegetarian approach to preparing food, cooking, and eating, and have introduced a host of unique vegetarian dishes to the Jamaican cuisine. They do not eat pork, and the strict ones do not eat meat, including poultry and fish. There are even some who believe in cooking with little or no salt and cooking in an ‘Ital‘ way.
- Acerola (locally known as “cherry”)
- Allspice (locally known as “pimento”)
- Avocado (locally known as “pear”)
- Black pepper
- Boniato (locally known as “sweet potato”)
- Browning sauce
- Calabaza (locally known as “pumpkin”)
- Yuca (locally known as “Cassava”)
- Chayote (locally known as “chocho”)
- Chondrus crispus
- Coconut milk
- Cow foot
- Dried and salted cod (locally known as “salt fish”)
- Green Banana
- Jerk spice
- Kidney bean
- Lima bean
- Malay apple (locally known as “apple” or “Otaheite apple”)
- Passion fruit
- Pig tail and ears
- Pigeon peas (locally known as “gungo peas”)
- Roselle (plant) (locally known as “sorrel”)
- Salt beef
- Scotch bonnet
- Sugar cane
- Tahitian apple (locally known as “June plum”)
- Taro (locally known as “dasheen” or “coco”)
- Ackee and saltfish
- Brown stew chicken
- Corned Beef
- Curry goat/mutton
- Curry chicken
- Escoveitch fish (similar to Spanish escabeche)
- Jamaican patties (beef, chicken, vegetarian, saltfish)
- Jerk chicken – grilled Jerk-spiced chicken/pork
- Oxtail with broad beans
- Saltfish with cabbage or callaloo
- Steamed fish
- Brown stew fish
- Cow foot and broad beans
- Stew Beef
- Stew Pork
- Pork chops
- Run down(salt mackerel and coconut milk or cream)
- Ital Stew, highly spiced vegetable and beans stew
- Fish tea
- Mannish water (Head and “man meat” of Goat soup) – said to be an aphrodisiac.
- Red peas soup
- Pumpkin soup
- Gungo peas soup
- Chicken soup
- Festival – Jamaican-style sweet fried maize dumpling
- Okra (also Okra and saltfish stew)
- Pepperpot soup
- Red Peas Soup
- Rice and peas – rice stewed with beans and coconut milk. Otherwise known as “Jamaican Coat of Arms”.
- Seasoned rice – pumpkin or Callaloo plus spices
- White rice
- Solomon gundy
- Yam, sweet cassava, dasheen, boiled green bananas, potatoes (sweet and Irish) and boiled dumplings.
- Spinners – dumplings shaped by “spinning” them in the hands.
- Stew peas – a stew of kidney beans (also known as “red peas”)
Breads and pastries
- Bush tea
- Carrot juice with spices such as nutmeg and vanilla
- Cucumber juice
- Ginger beer
- Guinness punch with spices such as nutmeg and vanilla
- Sorrel drink (Hibiscus tea)
- Irish moss (drink) (also called sea moss) a milkshake-like beverage. It is made from Gracilaria spp, rather than Chondrus crispus.
- Mango juice
- Otaheite apple juice (Malay apple)
- Peanut punch
- Sour Sop juice
- Tamarind drink
- Sky juice
- Suck-Suck (also called “serve mi long”)
- Tamarind Fizz
- Ting soda – often drunk in popular cocktail with white rum
- Pineapple Soda
Desserts and sweets
Other popular desserts include potato pudding, gizzada (a small tart shell with sweet spiced coconut filling), grater cake, toto (dessert) (a small coconut cake), banana fritters, coconut drops, plantain tart.
Tie A Leaf, or blue drawers is a dish made by combining a starch (usually cornmeal or cassava) with coconut milk, then wrapped and tied in banana leaf before boiling.
Asham is parched corn that is ground and combined with brown sugar.
Jamaican food abroad
Jamaican cuisine is available throughout North America, the United Kingdom, and other places with a sizeable Jamaican population. In the United States, a large number of restaurants are located throughout New York’s boroughs, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and other metropolitan areas. In Canada, Jamaican restaurants can be found in the Toronto metropolitan area, as well as Vancouver, Montreal, and Ottawa. Jamaican dishes are also featured on the menus of Bahama Breeze, a US-based restaurant chain owned by Darden Restaurants.
Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill is a chain of about 120 franchised restaurants found throughout the U.S. These restaurants sell Jamaican patties, buns, breads, and other popular Jamaican dishes. They also supply food to several institutions in New York.
- Deborah S. Hartz Authentic Jamaican breakfast Aug 1, 1991 Ocala Star-Banner page 44
- Dictionary of Jamaican English By Frederic Gomes Cassidy, Robert Brock Le Page page 420
- “Newsday – The Long Island and New York City News Source”. Pqasb.pqarchiver.com. 1987-02-04. Retrieved 2013-03-15.
- Media related to Cuisine of Jamaica at Wikimedia Commons
- clixlr8.com – A Recipe Guide On How To Bake Jamaican Sweet Potato Pudding By Elaine A. Ayre