Jamaica’s Ministry of Tourism is currently (as in 2017) working to promote Jamaica as a gastronomy destination, inspired, no doubt, by the island’s spicy and mouth-watering cuisine that has grown in popularity outside of the country’s borders in recent years.
For those people who love Jamaican food and want to know more about it, here is a list of indigenous Jamaican dishes that you dare not miss when you visit Jamaica.
If you’re staying at a hotel you would definitely find some of these dishes being served there but there might be a few that you have to hit the road to find, at a restaurant located off-property.
You may also want to try some of our favourite beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic. An ice cold Red Stripe beer is quite refreshing, while a sip of Appleton rum can be quite exhilarating. Sorrel, ginger beer and a wide array of fruit juices are also available.
Ackee and Saltfish (Codfish)
Ackee and saltfish (salted cod fish) is Jamaica’s national dish. Ackee and salt fish can be eaten with a wide variety of foods, but is preferred with items such as boiled dumpling, yam, potato, roast breadfruit, fried dumpling.
Roasted then sliced and fried, the breadfruit is an important and versatile starch in the diet of Jamaicans. It can be eaten with just about any type of meat, fish or vegetable. Goes well with ackee and salt fish, callaloo and salt fish, corned beef, pickled mackerel, mackerel in tomato sauce, brown stew chicken. The breadfruit can also be boiled but is usually preferred roasted and fried.
Bulla and Pear (Avacado) or Cheese
During pear season, (in the summer) a favourite snack for Jamaicans is pear with bulla, a small, round and flat cake made with flour, molasses and spices. Bulla is, traditionally, a snack for children but is enjoyed by everyone when accompanied by pear. Bulla is also enjoyed with cheese.
Bun and Cheese
Eating bun and cheese is an Easter tradition in Jamaica. Of course, bun and cheese is available all year round but bakeries bake special Easter Buns (with fruits and raisins) for the season and is something Jamaicans look forward to.
Two slices bun, one slice cheese and you’ve got a delicious sandwich. Try it.
Callaloo and saltfish
Callaloo and saltfish may be considered an alternative to ackee and saltfish and is enjoyed in a similar manner to the national dish.
Another popular Jamaican delicacy. Prepared similarly to the sweet potato pudding but cornmeal replaces sweet potato as the main ingredient.
Curried Goat with White Rice
Curried goat (or curried mutton), preferred mostly with white rice, is a favourite of many Jamaicans who enjoy when the meat is well seasoned and peppery.
Fried Fish & Bammy or Festival. Also Escovitch Fish
Fish, seasoned with spices and sometimes peppered to eye watering degree, fried and eaten with cassava bammy, is another Jamaican specialty that should not be missed. Sometimes festival (seasoned and fried flour dumpling) is used to accompany the fish but either way, it is a delicious meal.
Escovitch Fish is fried fish which is then marinated with a vinegar based dressing seasoned with hot pepper (for sure!), carrots and onion. Enjoyed the same way as described above.
Ital stew is one of several Rastafarian dishes that have become popular in Jamaica and enjoyed by non-Rastafarians as well. Rastafarians promote healthy lifestyle, which includes natural eating, chief of which is a non-meat, vegetarian diet.
Ital stew consists of beans with a variety of seasoning and vegetables prepared in reduced coconut milk. It can be served with rice.
When it comes to worldwide popularity, Jamaica’s jerk chicken is only second to the Jamaican patty. Jerking chicken is basically cooking the bird over open charcoal flames, using the smoke as part of the cooking process. Specially developed “jerk seasoning” is used to give the chicken that extra flavour.
Jerk pork is prepared in a similar manner to jerk chicken and is also a favourite of many Jamaicans.
Bite into a juicy, delicious East Indian of Julie mango today and taste what Jamaicans enjoy about their summer, year after year. There are several species of mangoes on the island and they’re all delicious. Be like us, don’t bother to
peel it with a knife. Just wash it and bite it and peel with your teeth. It’s delicious fun!
The history of the Jamaican patty goes back several decades. It is a pastry that contains various fillings and spices baked in a flaky crust. Ground beef was the preferred choice for filling in early days but nowadays fillings can be any form of meat – chicken, fish, shrimp, lobster, pork, curried goat – or vegetables. The patty is sometimes enjoyed with coco bread.
Porridge is a favourite breakfast food for many Jamaicans as it represents just enough essentials to get your day going on the right foot. Among the more popular flavours would be cornmeal, peanut, corn, banana and oats.
Rice & Peas and Fried Chicken
While ackee and saltfish is the national dish, it can only be enjoyed during ackee season. Rice and peas and fried chicken is enjoyed all year round and is the number one dish prepared in Jamaica homes on a Sunday. It is also the number one menu item at restaurants. The chicken is sometimes prepared in a variety of ways, including jerk, curry, brown stew, or otherwise. There is also variation in the type of peas used, which could be red peas, cow peas, gungo peas or otherwise. The rice and peas is usually prepared using coconut milk for added flavour.
Rung Dung (Run Down)
If you’ve never liked coconut flavoured food, then after tasting Jamaican run dung, you’re going to start loving it. Run dung is a stew that consists of salted (pickled) mackerel, (although other variety of fish may be used) reduced coconut milk, onion, tomato and other seasoning. The stew is usually served with boiled bananas and dumplings but will enhance whatever it is served with.
Stamp ‘N’ Go (Salt Fish Fritters)
A batter made of flour and including shredded salted cod fish and seasoning, scooped with a spoon and dropped in boiling cooking oil will give you this delicious appetizer. A traditional Jamaican favourite that has remained over the decades because of its tantalizing flavour.
Steam Fish, Okra & Crackers
Some Jamaicans will swear that fish, steamed in a sauce that includes okra and other vegetables, with crackers added at the end, is an aphrodisiac. Maybe it is, but for sure, it is a delicacy and should not be missed.
Stew Peas and Rice
A delicious stew made with red peas and simmered in coconut milk and Jamaican seasonings, and enjoyed over white rice, doesn’t sound anywhere close to how this meal tastes. It’s awesome! Meat, such as pig’s tail or corned beef, is usually used in the stew. Vegetarians will omit the meat but the taste remains one not to be missed.
Sweet Potato Pudding
It’s easy to understand why sweet potato pudding is a favourite of virtually all Jamaicans, it’s simply awesome! It is regarded as one of Jamaica’s favourite baked item of all time, comparing favourably with Christmas fruit cake and Easter buns.
Ingredients include sweet potato, flour, raisins, evaporated milk, coconut milk, spices, sweetener, and a bit of rum (optional). Some persons add a bit of yam.
It is more enjoyable when baked over a coal stove with some of the coal also heaped on top of the covered baking tin, than when baked in an oven, as it leaves a soft, delicious layer on top.