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What to eat in Jamaica?

6 (delicious) local dishes

Eduardo do Valle

Daniel Aratangy

Ackee and Saltfish

Ackee is a classic Jamaican fruit that’s the protagonist of the country’s national dish, Ackee and Saltfish, which can be made with cod. But not many people know that the species was originally imported from Ghana in the 18th century, adapting well to the climate on the Caribbean island. However, if you see a tree, don’t try to pick a fruit: Jamaicans explain that it’s toxic and can only be consumed after it opens naturally, revealing similarities with another species, guarana.

 

To try Ackee and Saltfish: 

The Pelican Grill: Jimmy Cliff Boulevard, Montego Bay

 

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Oxtail

Originally considered a second-line dish, Oxtail was popularized in Jamaica and is currently considered a delicacy. It’s a tasty soup made with lime, beans, garlic, and all kinds of chili peppers, very similar to the Brazilian rabada. Present on menus all over the country, it’s usually served with a generous portion of rice and beans – but it can also be found in breakfast buffets.

 

To try Oxtail: 

Miss T’s Kitchen: 65 Main Street, Ocho Ríos

 

Jerk Chicken

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A traditional Jamaican seasoning, the Scotch Bonnet chili pepper is for the strong: it’s up to 140 times spicier than Jalapeño on the Scoville Scale. Still, it’s widely consumed on the island, especially to make Jerk Chicken, which is marinated with Scotch Bonnet pepper and other seasonings and smoked on the grill. Served in the four corners of the island, the dish goes well with a cold beer or coconut water.

 

To try Jerk Chicken: 

Scotchies: Falmouth Road, Montego Bay

 

Patties

At first sight, this snack can easily be mistaken for an Argentine empanada. All it takes is a first bite, however, to understand the difference of Jamaican Patties: their soft dough crumbles at each touch, letting the filling be the protagonist of the dish. Even though beef with Scotch Bonnet chili pepper is the most popular order, these days there are plenty of options, including chicken, shrimp, and even lobster!

 

To try Patties:

Devon House Bakery: Shop #10, 26, Hope Rd, Kingston

 

Jamaican rum

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You know that story about pirates’ passion for rum? In Jamaica, it’s easy to understand why. As they are not considered criminals there, pirates from all over the world stopped at Port Royal, in the region of Kingston, between the17th and 18th centuries – precisely when Jamaican rum production began. These days, the liquor serves as the base for cocktails from east to west on the island, and the Appleton Estate Rum has become synonymous with quality. Incidentally, there’s a tour of distilleries 2 hours from Montego Bay.

 

To try Jamaican rum:

Margaritaville: Jimmy Cliff Boulevard, Montego Bay  

Rick's Café: West End Road, Negril

 

Blue Mountain Coffee

If you’re looking for an exclusive experience, try Blue Mountain Coffee. Introduced in the region in 1728, it found fertile soil in the microclimate of Blue Mountain, the tallest mountain in Jamaica – and the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country, since 2000. Its artisan preparation method (the beans are selected by hand!) and production restrictions (that only considers original the plant grown at an altitude of between 3,000 and 3,500 feet [914.5 - 1,067 m]) have made Blue Mountain Coffee one of the most expensive and exclusive in the world.

 

To try Blue Mountain Coffee:

Café Blue: 106 Hope Road, Kingston