Cuisine of Jamaica

International Cuisine, Jamaica


Andrew’s Essential Fiery Food Facts that a pyro-gourmaniac needs to Know

Part 4

Fiery Cuisines Part 2 Jamaica

Jamaican Fiery Food is Irie Food

Long before the brick oven and the coal stove though there was a piece of apparatus called the “barbacoa” which was a wooden grate that stood on four forked sticks placed over a slow fire. This was what the Arawak Indians used to spit-roast fish and meats. This was the barbeque grill their time. The process is now perfected and the cured or cooked meat is what we now know today as the famous “jerk”.

This is applied to today’s chicken, pork, fish and sausage.

The Jamaican motto is “Out of Many One People” but I would want to say that the Arawaks had something to do with the influence of the motto. The reason for saying this is because they also brought a stock pot in which meat, fish and vegetables were cooked together for what we know today as “soup”. That is why I would want to say that the Arawaks had it as “Out of Many One Pot.”.

They also brought with them corn, sweet potatoes, callaloo, beans, guavas, pineapples, papayas (or most commonly known as pawpaw), fish, conies, iguanas, crabs and cassava (which they used to make bread). So their contribution to the ingredients we now use in our Jamaican cuisine is invaluable.

Now the Spanish came to Jamaica in the year 1494 and it was some 150 years after they came they brought with them additional food items such as cattle, pigs, goats, horses and lard from animal fat.

They were also great contributors of trees and fruits such as the Seville and Valencia oranges, lime, lemon, tamarind, ginger, pomegranate, date palm, plantain, coconuts, grapes, figs, sugar and bananas.

These items added another wide variety to our cuisine and popular dishes such as escoveitched fish and peas and bean dishes were originated in Spain.

The British led the island from the year 1655 until we gained independence in 1962. They introduced breadfruit, otaheite apples, ackee, mangoes, rose apples, oranges, mandarin, turmeric, black pepper and coffee. They were also apart of the sugar cultivation led by the African slaves and they exported rum and molasses in exchange for pork, flour and pickled fish.

Many English dishes and sweets still remain in the Jamaican cuisine including corned beef, salt beef, roast beef, Christmas pudding, Easter bun, tarts, pies, jams and marmalades. Our fondness for the famous porridge was said to be a legacy of the Scots.

The Africans had their contribution in the likes of duckunoo and fufu. The famous mackerel and bananas (rundown) and the national dish, ackee and saltfish, are both inventions of the African peasants.

The Indians who were brought to Jamaica as indentured labourers brought their culinary skills with them and they were the ones that created and left with us the famous curried goat. Pak choy is also a vegetable originating out of China.

The Jamaican cuisine, however, is most famous for its two most popular “exports” – the world famous Blue Mountain coffee and the hot and spicy jerk cooking. Most of Jamaican cooking is hot and spicy, and even though we are versatile and have adopted other delectable tastes, nothing attracts the visitors as much as the jerk.

Jerk Chicken is believed to have been conceived when the Maroons introduced African meat cooking techniques to Jamaica which were combined with native Jamaican ingredients and seasonings used by the Arawak. The method of smoking meat for a long period of time served two practical purposes, keeping insects away from the raw meat and preserving it for longer once it has been cooked. This process also introduces a strong smoky flavour to the meat.

There are two commonly held theories regarding how the name “Jerk” came to be used. One is that it originates from the Spanish word “Charqui”, used to describe dried meat. Over time this term evolved from “Charqui” to “Jerky” to “Jerk”. Another theory is that the name derives from the practice of jerking (poking) holes in the meat to fill with spices prior to cooking. Nowadays, the word “Jerk” is used as a noun to describe the seasoning applied to jerked food and as a verb to describe the process of cooking used.



You will need the following ingredients to prepare enough jerk chicken for 4 people:-


One 1 . 6 kg chicken (1.5 kg of chicken breasts may be used if preferred)

6 sliced Scotch Bonnet Chillies/ Habaneros (jalapenos may be used if you prefer milder heat)

2 Tbsp. thyme

2 Tbsp. ground allspice

8 Cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 Medium onions, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. salt

2 Tsp. ground black pepper

1 Tsp

1 Tsp ground cinnamon

1 Tsp nutmeg

1 Tsp ginger

2 bunches chives

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup soy sauce

Juice of one lime

1 cup orange juice

1 cup white vinegar


Chop the onions, garlic and Chillies. These do not need to be chopped too fine as they will be liquidised by the blender.

Blend all of the ingredients (excluding the chicken) in a blender to make the jerk sauce.

Cut the chicken up in to 4 pieces.

Rub the sauce in to the raw meat, saving some for basting and dipping later.

Leave the chicken in the fridge to marinade overnight.


Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, turn the meat then bake for a further 30 minutes.


Grill the meat slowly until cooked, turning regularly. Baste with some of the remaining marinade whilst cooking. For best results, cook over a charcoal barbeque (ideally over a rack of pimento wood).



1 large dried coconut

3 medium sized eggplants.

1 small onion finely chopped

3 coves of garlic finely chopped

1 medium tomato pureed

4 Scotch Bonnet/ Habanero chillies

2 teaspoons of grated ginger

3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste (optional)

1 heaping tablespoon of curry powder

1 teaspoon thyme

Method: Eggplants

  1. a) Bake eggplants in oven at 180 degrees for roughly 45 minutes or until soft to the touch
  2. b) Cool eggplants, and remove the skin
  3. c) Cut into one inch pieces

Method: Coconut Rundown

Break open the coconut. Taste to ensure they coconut is fresh. Remove the coconut “meat” from the shell with a knife. This is dangerous as you run the risk of cutting yourself. Therefore you should proceed cautiously until you get the hang of it. Cut the coconut “meat” into small pieces and chop up in a blender using the chop setting. Use just enough water to chop coconut in blender. Chop coconut in batches so as not to overload the blender.

Blend the coconut in batches until the coconut is a fine consistency and the liquid resembles milk. Use a large strainer to separate the coconut from the milk. Hand squeeze any remaining milk from the residue.

In a large uncovered cooking pot bring the coconut milk to a rapid boil then reduce the flame to medium and cook until the water evaporates and about a cup and a half combination of clear liquid (oil) and custard (see picture below) remains. This takes approximately 1 to 11/2 hours.

method: Combine

Add onion, garlic, ginger, salt, tomato puree, and curry powder to coconut rundown. Simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes. Add chopped up eggplant. Cook for 15 minutes. Serve with white rice. Serves 4 to 6 people.