I‘m constantly amazed by the foods and flavours I come across in Jamaica. On my way back from a run the other day, I came across a woman pushing an old supermarket trolley by the side of Barbican road. Inside was a huge pan of conch soup, that she’d just cooked up. She even had a queue of customers! Needless to say, I bought a cup. It was so tasty and a great post-run meal! That’s the thing about authentic Jamaican foods, sometimes the really tasty stuff is found in the most unexpected places, you’ve just to get stuck in and try new things. Here are 5 of some lesser known but totally authentic Jamaican foods to try:
1. Cow Skin Soup.
You may normally be used to wearing your cow hide or using products that invariably come from the processing of it (collagen/gelatin) but have you ever thought of eating it instead? Jamaican cow skin soup is a popular dish and in supermarkets you’ll find cow skin widely available. Along with cow foot and cow head – all great if you love nose to tail eating and perfect for making tasty soups. The main ingredients are dumplings, peanuts, and of course everyone’s favourite cow skin. Expect your lips to stick together after eating it!
Ah what would life be without saltfish? This delectable offering is known for being one half of the Jamaican national dish akee and saltfish. It is also the main ingredient of one of my personal favourite dishes saltfish fritters. Enjoyed stewed or with okra, cabbage, butter beans, stewed peas and macaroni…you get the idea, it’s a versatile dish. Rich in vitamin B12 and a good source of protein; in Jamaica most of the saltfish is Saithe – a distant relative of cod. So there you go; it’s good for you and tasty too.
To the unsuspecting eye this breakfast staple can look like a bunch of boiled vegetables in coconut milk. Which is exactly what it is. Coconut milk is boiled with seasoning to a custard like texture. Saltfish or pickled mackerel is then added. Often served with green banana and dumplings.
4. Bustamante Backbon.
“Busta’ for short is named after National Hero and former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Alexander Bustamante. Found in shops everywhere in Jamaica, I always have a pack in the car for long journeys. A tough, dark treacle-like candy made from grated coconut and molasses and always wrapped in grease proof paper. Very chewy (you might not want to give it to your granny) sweet and moreish, having just one is always a challenge. The name was adopted because the texture is believed to be the embodiment of Bustamante’s firm character
This ‘tree of bread’ is a staple food source in the Caribbean. Once the outer skin is roasted off, inside is a creamy soft fruit that has a starchy texture. You’ll often see breadfruits wrapped in foil being roasted by roadside vendors. Breadfruit soup is another wonder – think celeriac and you’re on the right track. Or try it roasted or fried and sprinkled with lots of salt, and I guarantee you’ll be a convert.