A guide to Jamaican food beyond just jerk chicken – The Manual

Jamaican food is often unfairly labeled as being jerk chicken and not much else, but that’s hyper-generalizing a rich culinary tradition born in the heart of the Caribbean. Like Cajun food, Jamaican cuisine is a mashup of numerous great cultures, traditions, and cooking styles.
There’s a tremendous mix of influences on the Jamaican table, from African cuisine to the culinary ways of places like Portugal, India, Spain, and England. Over the generations, Jamaicans have taken on a lot of these influences and turned them into something entirely distinctive with local ingredients and cooking methods. Come with us on this journey through the colorful variety of Jamaican dishes.
With the abundance of protein available in the sea and on land, unique tropical fruits, and age-old spice blends, Jamaica has a lot to work with. The resulting dishes are as fun to eat as they are to prepare, and they’ll bring some of the island life to your home kitchen.
Don’t get us wrong — we love a good jerk chicken recipe. But if we’re going to talk about what Jamaicans eat, we need to offer a bit more context. We’ve even put together a couple of Jamaican recipes for you to take on at home if you can’t get out to a genuine Jamaican joint (or visit the country itself). But first, a little primer.
Before two supremely unsavory stretches of Jamaican history — the slave trade and British rule — there were Arawak people. This indigenous community had its own way of eating, with many dishes built around the barbacoa, a wait to cook slow and low atop a roaring flame. They used tropical fruits and vegetables, along with a slew of fish and other seafood in their dishes.
The Spanish arrived in the 15th Century and left their mark on Jamaican eating. They brought new kinds of protein like beef and pork as well as some new kinds of citrus and several key spices. The British were in power next and instilled things like corned beef into the diet. Meanwhile, Africans we throwing their dishes into the collective pot, like the national dish (below) and what’s now called Jamaican rundown, a milk-based stew of mackerel and veggies (Caribbean red pepper).
So many influences means a lot of fusion and hybrid cuisine today. Jamaican cuisine continues to honor the classics but is not afraid to experiment with them. At restaurants like Broken Plate, diners can try oxtail poutine and curried goat sushi or a chicken breast lollipop with cinnamon-roasted pepper cream sauce. Over at Summerhouse, a beautiful eatery, there’s cassava-crusted chevre and curried ackee wontons to start with, along with dishes like breadfruit with honey and lamb meatball kofta. The eggplant plantain parmesan deliciously marries a taste of the Mediterranean with the Caribbean.
The newest generation of chefs, in Kingston especially, is breathing new life into old dishes and combining the island’s many, many influences in exciting new ways. If you’re hungry, now’s a great time to visit Jamaica. Here are some island standards.
Considered the national dish of Jamaica, ackee and saltfish is a dish that’s especially popular in the morning and at brunch. Ackee, a relative of lychee, was brought to the island nation from West Africa long ago. Just be sure you handle it right, as it can potentially be harmful to ingest. We like this recipe from Serious Eats.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 140 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
This is a hit come dinner time, especially among English-speaking Caribbean nations. The poultry is browned in brown sugar, which yields a gravy that goes great with onions, garlic, carrots, and other vegetables. Jamaicans like to serve a side of fries with this dish, which works great when you want to sop up the last of the rich sauce.
This version of fish stew blends coconut milk, onions, tomatoes, and seasonings like thyme, allspice, and smoked paprika with snapper or mackerel (or any fatty fish, really). It works especially well served alongside rice or boiled bananas. It’s a filling dish, dense with flavor thanks to the slow cooking-down of the coconut milk, which ultimately becomes thick and creamy. Jamaicans will often have it with breadfruit, dumplings, yams, or some combination thereof.
There’s a Philly version of this soup, but the original was born in the Caribbean and Africa. The dish, invented by Black women during the colonial era, is an early example of street food and is usually made from pig tail, beef shank, and a mix of vegetables. It’s sometimes compared to gumbo and tends to take on peppers, sweet potatoes, okra, and more. We like this recipe borrowed from Food 52.
Jamaica is famous for its rums, which are very much worth exploring. While we love a refreshing Red Stripe beer, we’re also drawn to Tia Maria. This coffee liqueur was invented in Jamaica in the 1940s and remains quite popular. It’s a fun one to mix with and works well with things like rum and bourbon, along with other ingredients like coconut, citrus, and orange bitters. Try it in a classic like the Manhattan or work it into some brandy cocktail recipes.
Saint Patrick’s Day, a holiday that’s usually filled with fun drinking and cocktails, is also a great time for some seriously good Irish food. After all, what sounds better than getting together with loved ones and friends over an Irish-inspired feast? Besides classic corned beef, there’s also an endless number of dishes to make for Saint Patrick’s Day, ranging from sausages to modern takes on risotto. To celebrate this Saint Patrick’s Day, The Manual has collected five amazing recipes that are both hearty and delicious, a perfect combination to celebrate this festive holiday.
ButcherBox corned beef brisket recipe
Probably the most iconic Irish food recipe for Saint Patrick’s Day in America, a properly made corned beef is a surefire crowd-pleaser. This corned beef recipe is from Yankel Polak, the head chef of ButcherBox, a B Corp Certified meat brand delivering high-quality, sustainably sourced meat and seafood right to your door. Customers can choose from four curated boxes or handpick a custom box for their delivery needs.
Perfectly al-dente rice flush with fresh shellfish, a properly made seafood paella is one of the greatest foods in the world. This delicacy from Valencia, Spain, is the perfect dish for a festive gathering, a fun family meal, or a romantic dinner for two. While it can be made with poultry and game meat in Spain, some of the most popular versions of paella often lean heavily into seafood.
At La Pulperia, a pan-Latin American restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan, they’ve mastered the seafood paella. Executive Chef Miguel Molina is a native of Guerrero, Mexico, and is lending his creativity and culinary background to the restaurant menu, which includes a stellar paella made with black squid ink. The food here is a blend of cultures, combining influences from Latin and South American countries like Peru, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico, creating totally distinctive flavor combinations. So what better guide is there to help us on the journey of making a world-class paella?
The foundation: The rice
Octopus paella from La Pulperia in NYC.
I grew up in a house where iced coffee was made by pouring the hours-old coffee pot leftovers over a glass of ice. Maybe a little milk was added, or, if you were feeling extra fancy, a splash of flavored creamer. Embarrassingly far into adulthood (before Keurig came along and cramped my style), that’s how I made my “cold brew.” For years, this was how I drank my warm-weather coffee. But oh, did I have it wrong.
In case you’re unaware, cold brew, real cold brew, is made using an entirely different method than hot coffee. While hot coffee is generally made by running hot water through finely-ground coffee beans, cold brew is made more like our grandmothers made sun tea – set to steep for a while, becoming flavorful and delicious on its own with nothing added but love, water, and time.
The result is a much smoother, silkier, bolder and more flavorful cup of morning magic. When coffee is steeped this way, much of the bitterness smooths to be much gentler on the palette, allowing you to really taste the flavor of the beans in a whole new way. So how do you make cold brew at home?
There are plenty of gizmos out there, like cold brew coffee makers, jugs, and infusers, but there’s no need for these. Like many needless kitchen tools, these accessories end up being shoved into the back of the pantry, never to be seen again. Our favorite method of making cold brew coffee involves nothing more than a good old-fashioned French press.
How to make cold brew coffee
The Essential Guide for MenThe Manual is simple — we show men how to live a life that is more engaged. As our name implies, we offer a suite of expert guides on a wide range of topics, including fashion, food, drink, travel, and grooming. We don’t boss you around; we’re simply here to bring authenticity and understanding to all that enriches our lives as men on a daily basis.


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