When in Jamaica, you will probably try some of Jamaica’s most well-known dishes where you stay. But if you want to experience authentic Jamaican cuisine, head out to try some real Jamaican street food. From peppered shrimp in the south to boiled crab in the east, you will undoubtedly find various classic mouth-watering bites to satiate your appetite. Here are some top recommendations that you should try.
The Jamaican patty is quite iconic in the local food world, so much so that there are international patty food chains in the West Indian communities in the UK and US. A patty is a thin crust made of flour that is filled with various stuffing. For example, it can include cheese, beef, vegetables, chicken, shrimp, lobster, curried goat, and soy. Once you have sampled a patty, there is no going back. Luckily, there are plenty of patty stands and shops around the island so that you can get your fill.
Sky juice is what our northern neighbors call a snow cone. It consists of shaved ice covered with flavored syrup which helps you cool down on hot tropical summer days. Back in the day, sky juice was a favorite treat at fairs, parties, and community events. These days, sky juice has become a “bag juice.” A bag juice is frozen juice in a sealed bag that is sold on street corners by vendors. While you can still find original sky juice at some places, the bag juice is more popular. And it is great to beat the sizzling island sun.
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Jamaica’s most famous type of food is jerk chicken. Jerking is a traditional Jamaican technique of spicing and slow cooking meat. It serves to preserve the juices and create a distinctive, spicy flavor. The seasoning that is used typically contains scotch bonnet peppers, onions, allspice, garlic, thyme, ginger, and cinnamon, which is rubbed all over the meat. The meat is then slowly cooked over an outdoor pit which is lined with pimento wood.
TAKEAWAY: If you’d like to try the best jerk food on the island, you just have to follow the Jamaica Jerk Trail through the best jerk restaurants over there. From Sweetwood in Kingston to Scotchies near Ocho Ríos or Montego Bay, you will learn and taste everything you need to love jerk. Are you ready?
Roasted Yellow Yam
Melrose Hill in Manchester is the best place in Jamaica for roasted yellow yam. For many decades, the locals in this area have perfected their technique of grilling yellow yam and serving it with another local favorite – saltfish. If you mention Melrose Hill to anyone on the island, roasted yellow yam is the first thing that will come to mind. Enjoy a trip down the South Coast to Melrose Hill and watch as the street vendors take this plain root vegetable and turn it into a delicious treat.
Covered in scotch bonnet peppers and local spices, these shrimp are crammed into small plastic bags. Then, they are sold on the street corners of almost every major town on the island. But it is at Middle Quarters in St. Elizabeth that the best-peppered shrimp can be found. Pull over anywhere along the roadside, and you will have half a dozen women running towards you yelling “Swims! Swims!” – Which is what the locals call shrimp. If you are a fan of spicy seafood, this is one Jamaican delicacy that you will love.
Jamaican cuisine and Jamaican street food is soaked in different spices and aromatic flavors that are very indicative of its Caribbean heritage. With a diverse range of fruits, spices, meats, and other delicious ingredients, your palette is in for a real treat when tasting authentic Jamaican cooking.
About the author: Michael is a native of Jamaica, the beautiful island paradise that sees over 1.5 million visitors yearly. He enjoys exploring the country and showcasing it’s country, food and people with the rest of the world. His articles serve as a travel guide to anyone who wish to visit the island and experience a piece of Jamaica for themself.