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Jamaica - Cooking and Food

Overview of Jamaican Cuisine History

Jamaican cuisine

The Jamaican cuisine is appreciated for being a healthy one, due to the reduced usage of red meat and furthermore, for using fish, vegetables and beans in most recipes. Spices are common to the Jamaican dishes, and the most frequently used are: allspice, ginger, garlic and hot peppers.

The first people to develop the Jamaican cuisine were the Arawak Indians. Next, the Tainos, which are among the oldest inhabitants of this country, have increased the number of cooking techniques and have enhanced the recipes. Tainos had a special way to conserve the meat, by adding peppers, allspice and sea salt to it. This mix was named Jamaican jerk spice. The first to describe this was Christopher Columbus, who came to this country in several occasions, at the end of the 15th century and the first years of the 16th century.

In time, Jamaica has gathered cooking concepts from all over the world. The American and the British cuisines have exercised the strongest influence over the Jamaican cooking style. Britain’s most obvious influence can be observed in the tea culture of this country. In the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is on the first place in the tea consumption top. However, these cuisines seem also to develop an unhealthy tendency. As slavery was initiated, a greater number of influences were felt. The English desserts, such as puddings and the African yams, ackee and yams became part of the Jamaican cuisine. When this ended, Britain transported servants from India, who have affected the traditional style, as well.

The Jamaican foods based on meat are different from the ones in the rest of the world. This happens because the animals have a specific diet and therefore Pork and Chicken have a unique flavor.

Some of the ingredients might be consider exotic for the rest of the world, but this is one of the most important facts that make the Jamaican cuisine unique. cassava and callaloo, bananas, chocho, pawpaw, avocados and limes are widely used, all over the country. These are only a few of the ingredients that characterize the cuisine of Jamaica.

The Jamaican cuisine is not unique only because of the foods, but also due to the beverages that made this country popular all over the globe. The rum is a traditional drink that knows many variations in each part of Jamaica. This beverage has a very long history, which began in 1630. It is made from sugar cane or molasses and the name comes from rumbullion - a British word used in the 17th century to describe tumult. Another beverage that is typical for Jamaica is coffee. In time, however, the number of the plantations decreased, and so did the quality.

Cuisines of Jamaica

Map of Jamaica

Map of Jamaica- Click to enlarge

The Jamaican cuisine does not differ much from one part of the country to another. However, the major cities might have an individual cooking style, because of the ingredients that are found in the surrounding areas.

By Geographic Area and Style:

  • Kingston Cuisine
  • Montego Bay Cuisine
  • Ocho Rios Cuisine
  • Negril Cuisine

Jamaican Food Glossary

Finding the ingredients for an Jamaican Recipe is not so easy when you do not know the names of the ingredients. Take time to make a list of ingredients and the name they may be found under at the Local Markets.

Preparation Methods for Jamaican Cooking

The Jamaican cooking techniques have been developed for many centuries. The first that displayed special preparation methods were the Tainos. Their meat preservation technique, which is used even nowadays to prepare the Jamaica jerk spice, is very old. This food is now one of the trademarks of Jamaica.

Jamaica also assimilates the modern preparation methods, such as boiling, roasting, seasoning, drying, baking and frying. As the red meat is not frequently used, most of the techniques are used on vegetables and fruits.

Special Equipment for Jamaican Cooking

Most Jamaican dishes don’t require you to purchase any special tools. However, having a coffee grinder helps with roasting and grinding spices and maximizes their volatile oils, which, in turn, provides your food with more flavor. The Jamaican cooking utensils are similar to the ones used all over the world. The tools range from egg rings, forks, knives, teaspoons, tablespoons to pans, trays, food scales and thermometers.

Jamaican Food Traditions and Festivals

The Jamaican food festivals are events that are expected by both the Jamaican chefs and by people that want to try the Jamaican traditional dishes. The first category is eager to display the dishes, the methods they used to enhance the recipes and not at last the innovations in matter of tools. The second category, which consists of local people and tourists, desires to see the results of the chefs' work.

Ocho Rios is one of the Jamaican cities that features one of the most important food festivals in the country. The name of this event is Ocho Rios and the goal is to promote dishes such as jerk, bussu, janga and blue drawers. Besides exposing the traditional dishes, Jamaicans also organize competitions during the festivals. Other events that are worth to be mentioned are: Epicurean Escape, Little Ochi Seafood Carnival, Portland Jerk Festival.

People in Jamaican Food

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