Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Jamaica Cuisine

Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Jamaica Cuisine
Jamaica!

Discover Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Jamaica Cuisine

Easily among the top 5 most interesting culinary scenes in the Caribbean, Jamaica is truly a destination you can get to know via your tastebuds.

Many parts of the world have influenced its distinct cuisine. Places such as Africa, China, India, and South America. The cuisine is ingredient-driven, relying on island-grown produce and fresh seafood. You could have Italian or some other international cuisine in Jamaica, and it would be decent. But the humblest authentic Jamaican meal will surpass any high-end “gastronomy” experience.

Our culinary tour of Jamaica starts in Ocho Rios. Here are the top 10 things you absolutely must try in Ocho Rios and where to find them.

Jamaican Jerk

Jamaican Jerk, Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Jamaica Cuisine
Jamaican Jerk at the world Famous Scotchies

If you can eat only one meal in Jamaica, try to find a good jerk shack. This is the island’s delicious version of a pit barbecue. Meats rubbed in fiery spice mixture (mainly Scotch bonnet pepper). Followed by slow-cooking them over charcoal fire.

Where: Pretty much every restaurant serves jerk. But Scotchie’s Drax Hall and Ocho Rios Village Jerk Center (on Da Costa Drive) have perfected it.

Salt Fish & Ackee

Salt fish and Ackee, Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Jamaica Cuisine
Salt Fish & Ackee

Jamaica’s national dish, salt fish and ackee, is a skillet-fried salt cod and tropical fruit sauté. Seasoned with plentiful Scotch bonnet peppers and onions. It’s like no breakfast fry-up you’ve ever had before. But here, it’s breakfast. Or maybe, dinner. Locals eat it for any meal.

Where: Mom’s Homestyle Restaurant is a downtown staple with local and cruise ship credibility.

Calaloo

Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Jamaica Cuisine
Plantain, patties, ackee and saltfish… 

The classic “greens” dish, Callaloo, is served in most local restaurants. This leafy green vegetable is typically steamed with onions and peppers. Of African origins, it’s most closely comparable to Southern collard greens.

Where: Mom’s Homestyle Restaurant has this on its breakfast menu and suggests you have it with the Salt Fish & Ackee.

Oxtail Stew

Oxtail Stew, Miss T's Kitchen, Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Jamaica Cuisine

The classic “greens” dish, Callaloo, is served in most local restaurants. This leafy green vegetable is typically steamed with onions and peppers. Of African origins, it’s most closely comparable to Southern collard greens.

Where: Miss T’s Kitchen does traditional dishes like this so expertly, the Food Network has featured her. This is a popular stop on culinary excursions.

Rice and Peas

Most of these ingredients are always part of the ubiquitous side dish. Green “pigeon peas,” coconut milk, onions and liberal lashings of hot red pepper. Kidney beans are sometimes substituted for the pigeon peas.

Where: It’s available basically everywhere, so try it at Mom’s, Scotchie’s, Miss T’s Kitchen and anywhere else you eat, and see which version you like best.

Curry Meat and Fish

Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Jamaica Cuisine, Mom's Curry Goat Dinner
Mom’s Curry Goat Dinner

Curried dishes are very popular in Jamaica. The chicken dish is the most basic meat. Curried goat is the one you should try if you’re bold.

Where: Mom’s Homestyle Restaurant serves up a half-dozen curries daily.

Jamaica Patties

Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Jamaica Cuisine, Juici Patties

Probably the most popular midday snack. This is the Jamaican meat pasty. It is also commonly compared to empanadas. But a proper “patty” is spicier and meatier than its doughy deep-fried Latino cousin.

Where:   The obvious choice is Juici Patties on DaCosta Drive. But Island Grill’s patties also have a lot of fans.  

Escovitch Fish

Whole fish, seasoned, fried (often with onion and pepper), and drizzled with vinegar.  You can always add pepper sauce if it’s not spicy enough for you. Or with “bammys,” toasted cassava flatbreads, to sop up the spicy juices. This is another popular Jamaican breakfast.

Where: Mom’s Homestyle Restaurant or Island Grill

Johnnycakes

Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Jamaica Cuisine, Johnnycakes
Johnnycakes

The name came from “journey cake” because these used to be road snacks. They’re best fresh. This is because they’re basically deep-fried dumplings. Anything deep fried is best when fresh and piping hot.

Where: Captain’s Bakery (2 Rennie Road]) specializes in island treats. But also serves some main dishes like curry and jerk pork.

Banana Fritters

Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Jamaica Cuisine, Mama Marley's

Speaking of fried deliciousness, these are a favorite Jamaican dessert. They are quite similar to banana pancakes. And yes, they can also be breakfast.

Where: Mama Marley’s (520 Main Street) is in the cruise passenger-frequented part of downtown. But is locally recommended—for the fritters, and everything else on the menu.

Looking for a different type of adventure? Discover why Maui is Magic!

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