While I was in Jamaica I ate all the food. Seriously, just ask my jeans. Not a day went by where Tom and I didn’t have brief tummy rumblings from some oily or spicy dish we consumed. (Jamaica, I love you but can we please start eating more veggies? Kthanxbai). But did that stop us? Nope. Because you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten real Jamaican food.
Oh no no no, I don’t mean jerk chicken and patties. I’m talking about stew peas (actually has pigtails), oxtail (actually has cow tails), mannish water, and spiced bun with cheese from a tin. You want to run like Usain Bolt? Start your mornings with a fruit called ackee that can be poisonous because what doesn’t kill you makes you
Before we get started I would just like to add that, as per usual, my food photos suck. There are two reasons for this: 1) I like to eat, and 2) I like to eat. But you’ll get the picture…(see what I did there? 😉 )
Without further ado, here are 8 of the most delicious things I ate in Jamaica:
Ackee & Saltfish with ‘Boiled Food’ / Bammy
It’s Jamaica’s national dish, the scrambled eggs of JA. And I had it for breakfast at least nine out of the 14 days we spent in Jamaica. My favourite came from Smurfs Cafe in Treasure Beach — Dawn, the owner and chef, cooks everything from scratch using fresh, local ingredients.
One morning, we actually watched her prepare the ackee (it’s a fruit reminiscent of avocado in terms of texture and flavour and it grows everywhere). You can get anything on the side but I preferred the boiled food — avocado, yams, and green banana.
Jerk Sausage Pizza
We ate at Smurfs almost half the mornings we spent in Treasure Beach. Similarly, we ate at Jack Sprat’s almost half the time for dinner. It was right on the beach, the service was pleasant, and they show a film every Thursday night. My favourite meal here was a toss up between this jerk sausage pizza and the lobster in jerk sauce. This one had an unfair advantage due to my weakness for cheese. And after months of lacklustre pizza in Martinique, I was glad to finally eat one with the right cheese-to-dough ratio!
Mountain Chicken & Spiced Rice
Tom and I did a bicycle tour of Blue Mountain and this was our lunch stop. The spiced rice was a lovely detour from the typical rice and peas — our guides said this dish is more commonly eaten in the mountains. Both the chicken and rice were a bit sweet and spicy (“Normally it’s spicier” said Colin, one of the guides) and it set us up nicely to continue the bike ride.
P.S. If you’re in Dominica, mountain chicken is not chicken. It’s a type of frog. Bon appétit!
What did I tell you folks in my last post about Jamaican food?
Any time I mention Jamaican food, someone always wants to tell me how much they loOoOove jerk chicken. No. Jerk pork was a staple at every single barbecue I ever went to. Bonus points if it’s served with rice and peas and a salad or coleslaw.
Jerk pork is the preferred jerked meat, and this takeaway plate from Scotchies Jerk Centre in Ocho Rios was no exception. It was prepared in the traditional fashion, with a homemade jerk spice and slow-cooked over pimento logs. The result? This tender, spicy deliciousness that the photo does no justice! And what’s that grey slab of pudding? Sweet potato cake. Like a lot of Caribbean food, it doesn’t look pretty but tastes fantastic!
Vegan Rastafari Lunch
Tom and I stayed at the Hibiscus Lodge in Ocho Rios, a nice locally-owned hotel (which I highly encourage in the Caribbean — the money made at resorts rarely benefit the host country) with a highly recommended restaurant. I can only imagine what the owner thought when we walked past him, crossed the street, and sat down at this Rastafarian restaurant. (Probably what every restaurateur thought when we went to the cubby hole local spots — what are these touristas doing?!)
It was a mishmash of different foods… pasta, ackee, tofu, rice, and stewed peas, and it all tasted great. Not to mention it gave us some of those vegetables we’d been lacking for the last few days. Big ups to the fresh juice — mine was passion fruit and tumeric while Tom’s was Irish Moss and pineapple. Healthy and delicious!
Everything at Miss T’s Kitchen
I have to credit Tom for finding this place because Miss T’s had hands-down, cross-my-heart, the best Jamaican food I’ve ever eaten. We ordered stamp and go, oxtail stew with broadbeans and “spinners” (dumplings), and curried goat. It wasn’t a watered down imitation of Jamaican food served to tourists, it was the real deal. What I mean is everything tasted Just. Like. My. Mom’s. But better. (Sorry, mom!)
The stew was rich, the curry full of flavour, and the stamp and go had reached the perfect amount of crispy. (Tom argues that they didn’t have enough air, but he could find a fault in a perfect circle). The restaurant was great — a couple nice touches were the mosquito candles and the all-natural spray to keep the zika away. Impeccable!
Jerk Snapper with Festival and Fried Plantains
Tom and I took a trip down to Alligator Pond (two route taxis from Treasure Beach!) to eat at Little Ochi. They boast the freshest fish on the island and it probably is — we watched some locals pulling fish out of the sea when we walked around town before lunch. You choose your fish (the exact one), it’s weighed, prepared, and served with the sides you choose. We went with jerk and it was definitely homemade — you could taste each herb and spice independently and the beautiful combination they make.
While the beach is eroding (one stray wave could have sucked us all out to sea), the raised boat-style tables outside were pretty cool. This is also where I made a new discovery: sorrel-flavoured Red Stripe! It’s like a Monaco (beer with grenadine syrup and Sprite) but with the spicy kick of sorrel. Yes I!
Oh, and did I eat everything on my list of authentic Jamaican food? Sure did!! I had the best darn coco bread at Sunrise Bakery in Black River with a patty from Tastee; gizzada; coconut drops… Add to that conch soup and roasted breadfruit… that’s a successful vacation!