Jamaica has quite a diverse population, with a large portion comprising of West Africans; then there is a mix of Europeans, Indians and Chinese. These different races arrived in Jamaica with different purposes, and became a part of the Jamaican culture. This explains the influence of difference cultures, ingredients and cooking styles, which are so vividly present in the Jamaican cuisine. Many dishes are native to the island, while many will give you a taste of mixed techniques, styles and ingredients coming from different cultures living together in this island.
Jamaican cuisine has also been influenced by the introduction of the crops brought into the island from other places, such as Southeast Asia, being grown locally now. Many Jamaican dishes have been modified to include locally grown crops, further diversifying the taste of Jamaica.
Jamaican food has also been influenced by the Rastafarian way of living. Rastafarians stay away from pork, and many even avoid meat, poultry and fish, going 100 percent vegetarian. This Rastafarian approach to food has led to the introduction of many unique vegetarian dishes in the Jamaican cuisine.
Though Jamaican food is not as popular as Chinese and Japanese food, it is catching on quite fast due to the extraordinary flavors present in this unique cuisine. The most popular dishes include Ackee and Cod, dumplings and curry goat. Jamaica’s national dish is a delicious combination of fried plantain, jerk, steamed cabbage, rice and peas. Plantains are staple food all over the Caribbean Islands.
Another popular Jamaican dish is jerky or jerk, and is native to Jamaica. Jerky can be prepared by either dry rubbing meat or wet marinating it with an extremely hot and spicy mixture, which is called “Jamaican jerk spice”. Although the meat used in the preparation of Jerky was by tradition only pork or chicken, they are now made with beef, fish, sausages and even Tofu. The main ingredients in hot “Jamaican Jerk Spice” are allspice and scotch bonnet pepper. Scotch bonnet pepper is what gives the “Jamaican Jerk Spice” its extreme hot flavour. It has garlic, cinnamon, salt, cloves and other spices. It is believed that when the British invaded Jamaica, forcing the Spanish flee, they also forced them to leave behind a significant number of African slaves. The African slaves escaped to the mountain region of Jamaica and found themselves amongst the Taino people. With the change in the surroundings, they were forced to use ingredients more accessible in their new habitat. This led to a very important addition of scotch bonnet pepper to the original spice list for “Jamaican Jerk Spice”.
Jamaica is known for its love for rum, so it’s no surprise that the refreshing rum punch is one of the most popular drinks on this island. Jamaican rum punch is made of Jamaican white rum, light rum, lime juice, orange juice and grenadine syrup with a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.