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What Is the National Dish of Jamaica?

Ackee and saltfish is Jamaica's national dish.

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Jamaican cuisine features various cooking techniques, spices, and flavors, which are influenced by the diverse cultures of the island. The cuisine is a blend of indigenous dishes and dishes from the various other population groups have inhabited the island, including British, Spanish, African, Irish, Indian, and Chinese. Jamaican foods are often a blend of meat varieties, tropical fruits and seafood widely available throughout the island. Rastafarian beliefs have also influenced the way food is prepared, cooked and served. Some of Jamaica's national foods include curry goat, the Jamaican patty, jerk chicken, and the famous ackee and saltfish. However, ackee and saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica, despite the fact that neither the ingredients nor cooking style are indigenous to Jamaica.

Ackee and Saltfish

Saltfish is a type of salted cod, which was initially imported to Jamaica as a source of protein. The ackee fruit most likely originated from West Africa but has become the national fruit of Jamaica, as well as a key ingredient in the national dish. Ackee is a pear-shaped fruit picked from the evergreen Ackee tree. The fruit turns from bright red to yellow-orange when ripe, and is then split open to reveal three shiny black seeds partly covered by a soft spongy yellowish-white flesh that has a texture like a scrambled egg.

These two ingredients are part of the national dish that can be served anytime, although it is most commonly served for lunch and breakfast. Preparation involves deseeding the ackee fruit and then washing it for 15 to 29 minutes to make it tender. The saltfish is typically soaked overnight to remove some of the salt, while others boil the salted cod for a few minutes and then drain the water. Next, the skin and bones are removed from the saltfish, which is then fried in hot oil until tender and brown. Onions, tomatoes, assorted vegetables, and pepper are added to the fish, followed by the boiled ackees. The dish is then further simmered until fully cooked. The finished dish can be served with peas, plantain, breadfruit, boiled green bananas or rice.

Other Popular Jamaican Dishes

Jamaican curry goat is a widely eaten dish in Jamaica. The dish is prepared from chunks of goat meat, spices, and other ingredients depending on individual taste. Once simmered, an aromatic mixture of onions, ginger, hot pepper, and garlic are added, followed by curry until it is thick and creamy. The dish can be flavored with Indo-Jamaican spices and Scotch bonnet peppers before being served with roti, rice, fried plantain or dal bhat.

The Jamaican patty, another widely eaten snack, contains a type of filling and a variety of spices and is baked in a flaky shell. Ground beef, chicken, lamb, pork, vegetables, lobster, or fish can be added as fillings to this savory dish. The patty can also be eaten as a full meal with coco bread.

Jerk chicken is also sometimes classified as a national dish of Jamaica. Chicken pieces are either wet marinated or dry rubbed with hot Jamaican jerk spices, and the cooked jerk chicken is served with sauce. The dish was first cooked by slaves who had escaped into the wilderness, where they cooked any available meat on a wood fire. The traditional preparation method has evolved and now includes grilling over a wood or charcoal or barbecue, or baking in an oven.

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