Official Language(s): English
Some Other Languages Spoken: Jamaican Creole English, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese,
Ethnic Groups: Black 91.2%, Mixed 6.2%, Other or Unknown 2.6%
Though Jamaican cuisine has been influenced by numerous cultures over the years, what makes the cuisine unique is the use of local ingredients, from scotch bonnet peppers to callaloo (a leafy green) to ackee (a fleshy fruit) to cassava (yucca root). Popular dishes include goat curry, jerk chicken and pork, flatbreads, spicy stews and soups, fried fish and an array of vegetarian dishes made with local fruits and vegetables.
Recipe: Ackee and Saltfish
Ackee and Saltfish is traditionally served for breakfast and is the national dish of Jamaica. Ackee is a creamy fruit with a buttery and nutty flavor and resembles scrambled eggs when cooked. The ackee pod grows on a tree and once ripe it naturally opens to reveal the flesh and seeds. The ackee flesh is cooked with dried salted cod, scotch bonnet peppers, tomatoes, onions, and thyme. The dish is often served on top of fried plantains and bammy cakes (grated cassava patties soaked in coconut milk and fried).
1/2 lb saltfish – boneless/skinless (dried, salted cod or other fish)
2 tablespoon olive oil (or use butter or vegetable oil)
2 cloves garlic
1 medium onion sliced
1 scotch bonnet pepper
1/4 medium bell pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
fresh thyme (couple sprigs)
1 medium tomato cubed
1 can ackee (about 19 oz. or use 12 fresh ones)
Put the dry salted fish to boil in a pot on high heat, then simmer for about 20 minutes (you can also soak in cold water overnight before boiling if you wish). After boiling drain, rinse under cool water and squeeze dry. Now break apart into large flakes.
In a large sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Then add the garlic, sliced onions and scotch bonnet pepper. Allow that to cook for a couple minutes (until the onion softens up a bit), then add the bell pepper, scallion, black pepper, and thyme. Allow this to cook for a couple minutes, then add the pieces of saltfish and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Add the chopped tomato and let it warm through for about a minute or two. Remember to stir, so all the ingredients get a chance to marry and explode with spectacular flavor.
Put the ackee into a strainer and run cold water over it. This is just to remove that liquid it’s been packed in. Drain and add it to the saucepan with everything else. Gently stir or toss the ackee with two forks so that it does not break apart. If it breaks apart, it will become mushy. Stir or toss for a minute or two so that the ackee heats through and absorbs all the flavors. Serve with fried plantains and bammy cakes, if desired.