As a returning resident, I wanted to try a little something different from the traditional Jamaican cuisine. I must say, not just me, but I believe a lot of Jamaicans’ palettes are changing. They achingly desire foods that taste different. Although not because we think other foods are better…’cause Jamaicans love their mangoes, rice and peas, jerked chicken and pork, cornmeal porridge, etc…it takes us back home…but rather Jamaicans are becoming more and more globally aware. Hence the need to try something strange and exotic. The problem is, I believe, most local cooks are not aware of other ethnic cuisines, and the “chefs” who are aware and try, often times get it wrong. As a result of this and other issues (unavailable or expensive ingredients), the consumer is left only with…yep the same old Jamaican dishes, day in and day out.
Growing up I did not know olive oil could be used for cooking…I thought it was only used for healing…what! So needless to say, on this small developing island, some folks who are older swear by their staple foods; yellow yam, green banana, breadfruit, dumplings, ackee, callaloo and the use of olive oil for healing, as opposed to trying something different; like using olive oil to cook with. Therefore, the cycle continues on through the next generation and the next. I believe in my Jamaican food. I believe the kind of ingredients used are very healthy and taste great. The issue is how often the same dishes are prepared the same way.
One way to avoid boredom with Jamaican cuisine is to use the same foods and fruits to create different meals and substitute some foods with similar ones from other cultures, to bring food cultures together. For example, our traditional Sunday Dinner is white rice and peas, some form of meat mostly fried chicken, and for salad…lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots, now that’s a balanced diet. Well…the protein part is either: stewed, curried, fried (escovitch fish or fried fish and chicken), or jerked (chicken and pork). Now…the meal shown below consists of: brown rice and peas, chicken breast, green banana, broccoli, carrots, and sweet peppers.
Somewhat similar ingredients, except instead of the same fried, curried, stewed, or jerked, I decided to made honey garlic chicken. Bam! I joined Chinese and Jamaican cuisines to create a different taste. Broccoli is used instead of lettuce, because I wanted to keep the Chinese theme going and the greener the greens, the better for you. I kept the carrots and added green pepper. Brown rice is used because; it is much more nutritional than white rice. We all know bananas have valuable nutrition; so I added one, instead of three or four, because there are already enough carbohydrates in the rice. Honey and garlic are also great for the body (and I know a lot of us do not know honey is used to cook with). Last, but not lease, red kidney beans which offer fat-free protein.
So there you have it, just learning how to mix spices, fruits, and vegetables from other cultures with our very own, can create mouth-watering meals. Let’s get cooking and wake up those palettes that are dying to be revived.