Reggae & Jamaican Food / My New York Private Chef Experience
How is everyone doing over there?! It’s been a little while but I have certainly not forgotten about the Toots and the Maytals site! You’ve heard me talk about it before: my long stay in New York. Today what I feel like sharing is what I missed most during my stay in Holland: Jamaican food! I’ll also talk about my Private Dining Experiences with a private chef in NYC. There will be a lot of culture in this post. Hope you like it!
So what do most people not know about Jamaican food? Well you will find influences from Europe, China and of course from Africa. But it goes even further: even the traditional food of the original inhabitants, the Indians, made their mark on some dishes. Do not expect haute cuisine or a private dinner style evening when eating out. Jamaican cuisine actually belongs to the history of the island and you will find dishes that originally date from the time of the Arawak Indians. This evolved further over time and still belongs to the fixed parts of the meal. The Arawaks lived from fishing and hunting, and later of agriculture. Fish and shellfish, but also corn and beans for example, date from this time. Later on peanuts, sweet potatoes and cocoa got introduced to the meal.
Then the Spaniards brought their food to Jamaica, which still has many traces in today’s dishes. They used sugar and salt, lemons and olives. All ingredients you eat today are found in Jamaican cuisine dating back from the period in which slaves were transported to the island. Its origin lies in Africa and perhaps they did have the greatest impact on the food in Jamaica. Bananas play an important part of the daily meal. The Africans also introduced wrapping the food in banana leaves.
As a starter, you could choose between cassava bread and pepper bread. Cassava bread is made from flour obtained from the root of the cassava bush. Now the cassava flour is often replaced by ordinary wheat flour. The meal also includes a hearty soup, which has many vegetables that grow on the island, together with diced pork or corned beef. Coconut also belongs to the ingredients, making the soup gets an oriental sounding flavor. By adding the pepper flavor is once again very Jamaican. My friend, who is a private chef in NYC prepares Jamaican food like no other I have tasted in a European kitchen before. I highly recommend her!
In traditional Jamaican foods meat and fish are among the main entrees. Well known is the jerk pork, with wild boar as a base ingredient, nowadays, due to the dramatic decline of the wild boar on the island, mostly made with just pork. The food was developed by slaves who fled their masters (Maroons) and took refuge in the mountains. They lived on wild boars whose meat was dried in the sun. Then the pieces were meat with lots of spices (including garlic, thyme, sugar, vinegar, shallots, etc.) and smeared over a fire, which was fired with pimento wood smoke. It is still a delicacy and it is in many places, especially in the vicinity of Boston Bay (Portland and commonly known as “the birthplace of jerk food ‘), simply offered along the way as a snack. The meal is now served in restaurants and is based on the original jerk pork and consists of marinated and slowly roasted in spiced pork. Jerk chicken is a chicken dish, based on the method of jerk pork, with one important difference; the meat is roasted but not grilled. This dish is offered in many places in Jamaica, there are special jerk pork restaurants where you can choose from meat, chicken or fish as a base.
Rice and peas consists of rice and beans (originally peas) in which numerous herbs are processed and cooked in coconut milk. It is one of the most popular dishes in Jamaica and a Sunday meal is not complete without rice and peas. The Jamaican stew is a famous goat curry with of course goat as a main ingredient. There are, as a result of the use of a variety of different vegetables and herbs, as well as many kinds of goat curry. Curry that belongs to the solid ingredients will be clear.
When in Jamaica (private dining or not) codfish and Ackee are an absolute must. Not only because it is the national food of Jamaica, but also because it is very tasty (and nutritious). It is eaten as a side dish; the slaves were given this once daily for breakfast. Ackee is a fruit unknown to us that is found everywhere in Jamaica. The fruit is bright red on the outside, the flesh is yellow and the fruit cannot be eaten uncooked, it is poisonous. After the fruit is cooked, peppers and onions are added and eaten with dried cod. A standard Jamaican menu will surprise you, as there are many spicy dishes. In many restaurants a “catch of the day ‘ will be offered, which is to say that the fish from the last night is on the menu. Sitting between oysters and shrimp, as well as lobsters and crabs. Let the cook safely take its course, most Westerners need to worry only about one thing: how spicy it is going to be. Indicate that you still want to keep some of your taste buds. You can later add as much spices, as you want, so you get a meal that is completely tailored to your own taste.
Dessert is served with fresh fruits: mango, papaya, apple or pineapple. Also try the homegrown fruits Ortanique: a cross between orange and orange / red mandarin, ugli: a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit or pear-shaped apple known under the name of Otaheite. I can’t recommend Jamaican food enough, it is truly a great please for the soul and I always love to be in the kitchen when they prepare it. That is what the private chef is all about. Read more about my friend here, my favourite private chef in NYC.