A New Era Of Jamaican Cuisine
A breathtaking island bursting with culture and adventure, Jamaica is adding to its international allure by quickly becoming one of the hottest destinations for food lovers around the globe. With fresh and exotic ingredients to experience (and equally amazing places to try them), it was probably just a matter of time before Jamaican cuisine would have its food moment. And that moment is now.
While many of us may still be hard pressed to name authentic Jamaican dishes, tourists on the island are falling fast for the country’s unique and mouthwatering delicacies. According to a study commissioned by a tourism group on the island, Jamaica’s culinary offerings are already among its top draws.
Jamaica’s rich and diverse culinary history combined with the island’s locally-sourced seafood, fruits and veggies, makes for the perfect mix of eclectic and refined cuisine, everything from spicy fish stews to perfectly seasoned jerk, to name a few. So, while the scenery and lifestyle is enough to make you pack your bags for Jamaica, one taste of the authentic local food will have looking for ways to extend your stay.
What Makes Jamaican Food Unique?
A culinary melting pot that reflects the cultures that have influenced the island over the centuries, Jamaica’s local cuisine focuses on fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood that are all typically grown and sourced by the regional farmers. From fresh fish to an array of fruits unique to the Caribbean, there are many local ingredients that stand out in Jamaican dishes, including the hot and spicy Scotch bonnet peppers – a key ingredient in many of Jamaica’s most famous dishes.
According to the Cambridge World Atlas of Food, Jamaica is listed as having 11 distinct foods, including ginger, hot pepper, sorrel, pimento and Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. That’s compared to 9 in France and 13 in Italy, countries that are considered foodie institutions.
Ask someone to name a traditional Jamaican food and they’ll most likely mention jerk. A Jamaican institution, jerk dishes can be found in just about every restaurant, roadside café and, of course, Moon Palace Jamaica in Ocho Rios. The resort’s 8 restaurants and daily jerk chicken stand, offer a sampling of everything that has garnered the world’s foodie attention.
You can also try just about every jerk specialty at the Ocho Rios Jerk Centre. There, you can get a taste of authentic jerk pork or chicken as its seasoned with, among other things, Scotch Bonnet peppers, wrapped in pimento leaves, and cooked slowly on a grill of hot coals.
From the Caribbean
The fresh, local seafood that dominates Jamaican cuisine is another reason foodies flock to the island. From Escovitch fish, fried fish served with a sauce made of vinegar, onions, and hot peppers, to “Run Down,” a one-pot dish that usually includes fish and vegetables cooked in coconut milk until the fish breaks into pieces – there’s no shortage of seafood on a traditional Jamaican menu.
Of course, no exploration of Jamaican seafood is complete without the country’s national dish, fresh Ackee and Saltfish. Usually served for breakfast, the dish consists of sautéed ackee (a locally grown fruit) served with onions, peppers, tomatoes, and salted cod. This is without question one the island’s most popular signature dishes.
A New Generation of Jamaican Gastronomy
With the proliferation of everything from roadside grills to five-star dining establishments, there’s no better time to put Jamaica on your food destination bucket list. As a result of the increased popularity of its cuisine, the island is increasingly focusing its marketing efforts on food tourism with annual events like the Ocho Rios Seafood Festival as a signature event to attract international foodies.
Sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board, the Ministry of Culture and Entertainment, and the Ministry of Tourism, the festival has quickly become one of the country’s best-known food events in the summer, offering a variety of seafood delights prepared by renowned chefs.
What Does the Future Hold?
Whether you stop by the famous Scotchies in Ochos Rios for some of the most authentic jerk on the island or enjoy the local seafood delicacies at Moon Palace Jamaica’s Buccaneers Reef, you can’t help but be pulled in by Jamaica’s local food scene.
Bold, talented local chefs, combined with locally sourced seafood, fruits, and veggies, are the perfect storm for making Jamaica one of the trendiest places to feast in the world.