What is Unique About Jamaican Food?

Unique Jamaican Food

Maybe you’ve tried Caribbean food, but you don’t really know what makes Jamaican food unique from other places in the Caribbean. If you’ve never visited a Jamaican restaurant before, there are many amazing dishes you’re missing out on.

If you are in the South Florida area, you can find a Jamaican cuisine near you to sample dishes like jerk chicken, the Jamaican Patty, and saltfish. 

Blend of Cultures

Like several islands in the Caribbean, Jamaican food represents a blend of foods from many cultures. The native people of Jamaica grew cassava, sweet potatoes, corn, and other fruits and vegetables. These people settled along shores and rivers, so fish was also a significant part of their diet. When Spain colonized Jamaica in the 1500s, they also brought the foods from their homeland to the island. Escovitch fish is a dish that originated in Spain and is still popular in Jamaica. After the arrival of the Spaniards, the English also established settlements in Jamaica. 

Enslaved people created many of the foods we enjoy today in Jamaica. Jerk is one example that is still served all over Jamaica and the globe. The Maroon people were a group of formerly enslaved people living in the mountains of Jamaica in the 1600s. They developed the seasoning and jerk style of cooking. They needed to avoid being found out by the English, so they cooked their food underground so the smoke couldn’t give away their location. Now, you can find jerk just about anywhere on the island with as many unique recipes as there are cooks. 

West African Influence

Europeans also brought enslaved people from West Africa to Jamaica and other islands in the Caribbean. These enslaved people from Africa brought their own foods and culinary traditions. The influence of West African culture on Jamaican food is evident even now in the present day. Ackee fruit is native to Ghana but grows well in the Caribbean climate. 

Indian and Chinese Influence

Slavery ended in Jamaica in 1800. Plantation owners, concerned about a labor shortage, began to import Chinese and Indian workers as indentured servants. The Chinese and Indian people that lived in Jamaica brought food from their home cultures that they then blended into Jamaican cuisine. Rice is one important food that they introduced. The delicious curries served in Jamaica owe their origins to these Chinese and Indian immigrants. 

Rastafari Food

Rastafarianism is a religious movement that began in Jamaica in the early 1900s. Rastas follow a specific diet called Ital. Ital emphasizes eating healthy and natural foods. Many Rastas are vegetarian as well, and they avoid eating processed food and are careful about adding very little salt to their meals. Some Rastas place an emphasis on growing your own food and only eating foods from nature.

Jamaican Dishes You Must Try

Jerk is a food that is unique to Jamaica and has spread across the Caribbean and the world. Every chef in Jamaica has their own recipe for jerk, but you’ll find six ingredients in almost all jerk recipes. Allspice, also known as pimento seed, thyme, scallion, onion, garlic, and scotch bonnet pepper. Scotch bonnets add the heat that jerk is known for. 

The National Dish of Jamaica is ackee and saltfish. This is a popular breakfast dish that features ackee fruit and salted codfish. Salted cod was introduced to Jamaica by slave-owning colonizers because it was a cheap way to feed enslaved people. Ackee looks similar to scrambled eggs when it’s cooked, and many people unfamiliar with Jamaican food mistake it for eggs. But don’t be fooled! Ackee has a more delicate, slightly sweet flavor that perfectly complements the more savory finish of the saltfish.

Another food you can’t miss is the Jamaican Patty. These are flaky stuffed pastries filled with seasoned meat. Usually, they’re filled with beef, but also have other fillings like chicken or vegetables. These delicious hand-held pastries are popular all over the world, and you can find them in your local Dutch Pot restaurant. 

One food introduced by the Spaniards is escovitch fish. Traditionally, this pickled dish is served with cod, peppers, onions, and carrots. Pickling the fish and vegetables allowed the Spanish to enjoy this meal during their long journey across the sea to Jamaica. Modern chefs serve escovitch fish with fresh fried fish and vegetables in a light vinegar and salt sauce. 

Drinks in Jamaica

Even if you’ve never heard of sorrel, you’ve probably heard of hibiscus. This vibrant flower is the state flower of Hawaii but is also found in Jamaica. People all throughout the Caribbean enjoy sorrel tea, and it is a favorite in Jamaica. It gets its flavor from ginger and is sweetened with sugar or syrup. 

Coconuts are a staple in Jamaican cooking. Since Rastas don’t eat processed foods and are often vegetarian, coconut oil is the only fat used in Ital cooking. Coconut water is a refreshing and popular drink in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean. 

Dutch Pot Cooking

In most homes in Jamaica, you’ll find a heavy iron pot called a dutch pot, dutch oven, or dutchie. The heavy metal of a dutch pot ensures that it cooks food evenly. Dutch pots have been used by cultures all over the world to cook and bake. These robust iron pots even predate ovens or stoves. They can be used for frying, baking, and boiling. Before modern ovens, dutchies were the tool to bake foods by placing them on top of a bed of coals and placing more coals on top. 

Dutch Pot, an Authentic Jamaican Restaurant

If your mouth is watering after reading about all these amazing Jamaican dishes, you need to find a Jamaican restaurant near you as soon as possible. Dutch Pot Restaurants offer delicious Jamaican food in Florida. What started as two friends cooking authentic Jamaican food to deliver to their friends and family is now an empire of nine restaurants in South Florida. 

Since 2000 they have served thousands of loyal customers authentic Jamaican foods like ackee and saltfish, callaloo, escovitch fish, and a variety of jerked meats. Stop in today to try a new and unique dish from the island of Jamaica.