The Tainos, the ancient people of Jamaica, preserved meat by mixing peppers, allspice and sea salt, a condiment now known as Jamaican jerk spice. Along with influences from British colonists, African immigrants and others, jerk is one of the focal points of modern Jamaican cuisine.
Seafood is a natural Jamaican favorite. Lobster, the clawless variety which resembles a crayfish, is often curried or grilled with butter and garlic. In restaurants it can be expensive, up to US$20, but at beach kiosks it can be had for as little as US$5. Pepper shrimp, a tiny and spicy snack which is really a freshwater crayfish, is sold at roadside stands around the Middle Quarters area north of Black River in St. Elizabeth (J$100 a small bag). Another favorite is escoveitch fish, from the Spanish escabeche, meaning pickled. At kiosks, fish is often served with "festival," a deep-fried, sweet cornbread. Fish is also served "run down," or "run dun," a method of preparing it with coconut milk and spices.
Popular fish used for cooking include grouper, one of the more common catches; kingfish, a large, meaty fish; marlin, which produces thick steaks; mullet, a freshwater fish; parrot fish; and snapper, perhaps the most common found in restaurants.
Freshwater and ocean crabs are also used in dishes, as are conch and janga (small crayfish).
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This page modified January 2007
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