Learn The History Of Ackee And Saltfish, Jamaica’s National Dish – Travel Noire

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Gabre Cameron
If you want to try a great meal this Caribbean Heritage Month, you can’t go wrong with Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish. It’s savory, delicious, and can be paired with breadfruit, boiled bananas, or dumplings. It also goes well with Johnnycakes or hard-dough bread.
This dish is typically eaten for breakfast but there’s no rule that says you can’t enjoy it later in the day. Whether on the island or elsewhere, ackee and saltfish is a staple at any authentic Jamaican restaurant. It’s too essential to omit from the menu but don’t be surprised if it’s only offered during the day.
Here’s the history of Jamaica’s beloved seafood dish, and how to make it.
You really have to know what you’re doing when preparing ackee. Why? It naturally produces a poison called hypoglycin, which can cause vomiting, comas, and even death.
According to Time, “Wait until the fruit’s protective pods turn red and open naturally. Once open, the only edible portion is the yellow arilli, which surround the always-toxic black seeds.”
When cooked, the arilli resembles scrambled eggs and has a vaguely similar texture. The taste has a mildly nutty flavor, and this contrasts nicely with stronger flavors like a scotch bonnet.
According to Jamaicans, “The first ackee tree in Jamaica was grown from a seed brought on-shore from West Africa by a captain of a slave ship in 1778.”
The name is a derivative of “Ankye,” part of the Twi language in Ghana.
Today, ackee is enjoyed across the diaspora, but Jamaica is its chief cheerleader. From the capital city of Kingston to Montego Bay, this food has been venerated by Jamaicans for generations.
Ackee is available fresh and canned.
Recipes and ingredients vary slightly, but here’s one from Jamaica Travel and Culture.
Cover the saltfish and let it soak overnight. Bring a pan of cold water to a boil and let the fish simmer for 20 minutes (or until it is tender). Chop the onions, sweet pepper, chili pepper, and tomato. Take the fish out of the water and let it cool.
Melt butter in a pan and stir-fry the onion, black pepper, sweet pepper, chili pepper, and thyme for about 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes and the chopped-up saltfish before stirring for 10 minutes.
Finally, add the ackee, and stir gently to avoid breaking it.
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