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Old 01-13-2014, 07:46 PM   #1
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What the ethos of Jamaican food?

This is a thread where I will plead ignorance, but what the hell is Jamaican food supposed to taste like?

Unfortunately I have not been able to go there on holiday yet, nor do I trust Caribbean restaurants in the UK to be loyal to the Jamaican style (too many bad experiences).

This is not an ideal situation if I want to make a goat curry or meat pasties.

What is the ethos of the food? I imagine (as I have no reference) to be highly spiced, very hot, fruity, earthy. A mixture of Indian, Portuguese, English and African styles. I imagine meat to be tough, gamey, old, slightly off. I imagine everything pungent and odorous but punctuated with fresh hits of fruit and vegetable.

You can see my problem. I make a Jamaican dish from a recipe and have no idea if its in keeping with the style. I want to capture the essence, the spirit of the style.

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Old 01-13-2014, 09:44 PM   #2
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It seems you already have some negative preconceived notions, although it's not clear why. "I imagine meat to be tough, gamey, old, slightly off. I imagine everything pungent and odorous but punctuated with fresh hits of fruit and vegetable."

I've visited Jamaica several times, and I've never experienced what you describe.
I don't pretend to be an expert on Jamaican cooking but there are many Jamaican cooking sites where you could learn more.
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Old 01-13-2014, 09:58 PM   #3
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Jamaican jerk seasoning might be a good place to start. A lovely mix of hot, sweet, spicy, and can be used to cook any type of meat, fish or poultry. You can make up your own blends, or stores and mail order places like Penzey's have some good premade jerk seasonings.

Anywhere we've been in the Caribbean, the food has been fresh and flavorful. Of course, some places may use old stringy meat, but it's not the norm.
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Old 01-13-2014, 10:09 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kayelle View Post
It seems you already have some negative preconceived notions, although it's not clear why. "I imagine meat to be tough, gamey, old, slightly off. I imagine everything pungent and odorous but punctuated with fresh hits of fruit and vegetable."

I've visited Jamaica several times, and I've never experienced what you describe.
I don't pretend to be an expert on Jamaican cooking but there are many Jamaican cooking sites where you could learn more.
Unfortunately "Negative" is not descriptive or prescriptive, neither is "many Jamaican cooking sites".
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Old 01-13-2014, 10:13 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Dawgluver View Post
Jamaican jerk seasoning might be a good place to start. A lovely mix of hot, sweet, spicy, and can be used to cook any type of meat, fish or poultry. You can make up your own blends, or stores and mail order places like Penzey's have some good premade jerk seasonings.

Anywhere we've been in the Caribbean, the food has been fresh and flavorful. Of course, some places may use old stringy meat, but it's not the norm.
From what I've seen Jamaican food is about nourishment for the working man. That's sometimes using suboptimal ingredients, but also taking advantage of whats available in abundance e.g scotch bonnet, etc. The jerk spice you get here in the UK is a joke, it tastes like sawdust, also I want avoid cliché, (jerk). I'm looking for insight into the "mojo" of the food.

What is driving the flavours?
Hope that makes sense.
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Old 01-13-2014, 10:29 PM   #6
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Excuse me, "BlindRabbit", but both Dawg and I were doing our best to help you in your quest but you respond to me with a pompous and insulting attitude. If you can't find "many Jamaican cooking sites" I suggest you learn to Google.
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Old 01-13-2014, 10:48 PM   #7
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Actually, Blindrabbit, jerk seasoning is pretty much a lot of the "essence" of Jamaican cooking. Take it from at least two of us who have been to Jamaica. If your local jerk seasoning tastes like sawdust, I would really encourage you to try making your own, with whole spices and fresh peppers. They aren't necessarily habaneros/scotch bonnets.

And on this site, we pride ourselves on being kind, respectful, and welcoming to all, and we do appreciate the same consideration from all members.
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Old 01-14-2014, 08:06 AM   #8
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I would expect there would be many more replies if you weren't so arrogant. Jamaican food probably came from the essence of slavery. Just like many other slave owning cultures where slaves got the scraps. They adapted their own cooking to what was available. Goat, chicken and fish are probably staples to most. Beef, not so much.

Can't forget the Rastas, which I believe to be vegis if not vegan. I don't do much Jamaican so no TNT recipes from me.
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Old 01-14-2014, 12:15 PM   #9
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Ital is the word used by Rastafarians following this way of eating , from the word vital - the essence of healthy eating to live well . Mostly vegetarian, fresh food.

When I think of Jamaican cooking, I think of fresh thyme , scotch bonnets, allspice, coconut milk, limes, mango, rum, spring onions, ginger, all purpose seasoning sweet potato . Scotch bonnets are a really tasty fruity pepper , hot, but tasty . Jerk chicken and jerk pork are fabulous, served with corn and a hot sauce . Rice and peas is a popular dish, the peas in question are usually red kidney beans or black beans . Would recommend you have a crack at making jerk chicken at home it's just fab . I have a few cookery books by a Jamaican called Levi Roots, you can find lots of his recipes online .

Pepperpot is another good Jamaican dish, again can be done at home and the flavours are those I have mentioned , thyme, allspice (berries in this dish) , coconut milk, spring onions, sweet potato, beef, spinach or callaloo.

Curry goat is one of the best curries I have had . The goat just tasted like lamb to me , and when recreating this at home I use lamb as goat is not as easy to get hold of . The recipe I cook is from Levi Roots and it uses allspice berries, all purpose seasoning, peppers, scotch bonnets, thyme , coriander, ginger, curry powder, lime juice, and potatoes .

Jamaicans also like to use an escovitch marinade/sauce , especially with fish, which comprises of olive oil, peppers, red onion, scotch bonnet pepper, cider vinegar.

I hope I have covered some of the basics of the essence of Jamaican cooking even though I am English :-) I love me some Jamaican food . When I have been on holiday there I could just live on jerk chicken at the beach restaurant . Oh and maybe some rum , just a smidgens .
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Old 01-14-2014, 12:18 PM   #10
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Meant to say also BR that you are right, it is a mix of cultures and styles . We also had some fine cakes which were of British origin they love a bit of cake . Well don't we all ?
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