With our Cuisine Decoder series hopefully we have stirred your interest into trying some different foods. In this article we bring you “Cuisine Decoder Jamaican”! Quite often, as Floridians, we take for granted the wide variety of cultures and cuisines that can be found right in our “backyard.” Whether it is Cuban, Cajun, or Jamaican, there is a plethora of flavors and dishes that have become a part of the Florida lifestyle. Jamaican cuisine, in particular, brings the Caribbean lifestyle alive through its choice of ingredients, techniques, and flavor profiles. The irony is that, to most Floridians, Jamaican cooking is representative of the Caribbean when in fact, it is representative of a mixture of cooking techniques, flavors, spices and influences from, not only the indigenous people on the island, but also the Spanish, British, Indian, African, and Chinese settlers who have come to inhabit the island throughout the island’s history.
There are several dishes that have found their way into America’s culinary mainstream – dishes such as Jamaican patties, curry goat, fried dumplings, salt fish, fried plantains, “jerk” chicken, steamed cabbage, and rice with peas.
Jerk Chicken (or other meat): A meat such as chicken, pork, beef, or various seafood such as fish or shrimp, is either dry rubbed or wet marinated with a very hot spice mixture referred to “Jamaican Jerk Spice.” The spice blend is a unique combination of all spice, scotch bonnet peppers, cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic and salt.
Jamaican Patties: Jamaican patties is pastry that has come to contain a variety of fillings and spices, all of which are baked into a flaky outer shell that is often found to have a golden yellow tint from egg yolk mixture or turmeric. It is fairly equivalent to the familiar turnover, but is savory- as it can be filled with ground beef, chicken, lamb, shrimp, lobster, fish, vegetables, and/or cheese. Frequently a Jamaican patty is served as a full meal.
Rice and Peas: The most important thing to realize about this essential Jamaican dish is that the "peas" are not garden peas as the title would indicate, but rather dried legumes that are more commonly referred to as beans in English. The “peas” are boiled with allspice and garlic until they are tender. The rice is then added with salt, pepper, scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, onion, ginger and coconut milk. The combination is left to simmer until fully cooked.
Jamaican cuisine does not shy away from bold and spicy flavors - as indicated by the common use of scotch bonnet peppers. So, if you are up for trying something new and are not afraid of a little heat, Jamaican cuisine might just be for you!