Best Food In JamaicaCaribbean, Destinations, Food & Wine, Jamaica — By Nancy Y on October 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm
by Nancy Yeomans
LG Air Travel Editor
Jamaica, with it’s varied landscape and proximity to the ocean all around has a diverse food scene. While Red Stripe beer is available almost everywhere on the planet – and does represent the Jamaica style quite well – some of the other gastronomic items are lesser known. I am a firm believer that eating and drinking local is the way to go when traveling. These don’t-miss food items epitomize the best of local Jamaica cuisine.
Right, it’s not a food. But from the ubiquitous rum punch offered at your hotel check-in to the bottles for sale at the airport duty-free shops when you depart you’ll most likely have some rum contact during your stay. Sugarcane molasses, a by-product of the sugarcane grown on the island, is the main ingredient in this spirit. Appleton is the brand you’re most likely to encounter and is manufactured on the island. Search away, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better mojito anywhere other than this island where rum is king.
You’ve most likely heard of jerk chicken before, maybe even tried it. But until you’ve had it in Jamaica, you haven’t really had it. Practically every restaurant in Jamaica has it’s own version of jerk marinade and the recipes are very closely guarded. About all they have in common is the key ingredient: the Scotch bonnet pepper. Jerk style cooking involves hot coals, seasoned wood and slow, indirect heat. Scotchies, with locations in Montego Bay, Ochos Rios and Kingston, is THE place to sample the famous dish. Try it with fish, pork or chicken and don’t forget the roasted breadfruit and festival (a type of fritter or hush puppy) as a side. Tip: dried jerk seasoning, sold at the airport, is a great take-home souvenir.
Fresh fish is abundant in Jamaica. Fried fish, fish tacos, grilled fish, you name it and you can find it prepared that way. But the island specialty, escoveitch, is something you won’t find just anywhere and something you need to experience while you’re visiting. It’s usually prepared with a mild, thin whitefish and pan-fried to a crispy finish. Top it off with the escoveitch sauce; a cool, crunchy blend of spicy marinated peppers and onions. The contrast between the fish and the veggies is mouthwatering. Use caution; those piquant veggies pack a punch that creeps up on you about a minute later. Tip: Pushcart, located at the Rockhouse Hotel, serves an outstanding version of this dish.
Certainly less gourmet, but no less an island staple is the Jamaican patty. You might know this type of food as a turnover. Flaky pastry dough on the outside, savory filling on the inside, these patties have to be tried to believed. No, they’re not health food – dough that flaky doesn’t happen without lots of lard or butter – but you’ve got to try one while you’re in Jamaica. And one is enough as they’re quite substantial. More savory than sweet, the fillings could include shrimp, beef, chicken, veggie or even soy. Juici Patties is a chain with several locations…a fast food restaurant that actually put McDonald’s out of business on the island. I can see why; I’ll take a shrimp patty over a Big Mac any day.
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