by Stephen Charoo, author of Recollections of a Foodie
Sure, you’ve had jerk chicken while getting your hair braided on a beach during one of your visits to the island. Or probably you’ve scarfed down your favourite cuts of pork from a cherished street vendor. The point is, whether you are a local or a tourist, chances are you’ve experienced the mouth-watering taste of Jamaican jerk.
But there’s much more to the world of jerk than the traditional pork, chicken and fish. In fact, just about anything can be seasoned with this unique, zesty blend of local seasonings and thrown on a fire to produce a lip-smacking fare. Jerk dishes are usually paired with classic rice and peas, roasted breadfruit, hard dough bread, and festivals – slightly sweet dough made from flour, hand-rolled, and deep-fried to golden-brown perfection. Jamaican chefs and street food vendors alike have transformed the jerk scene and created an impressive range of inventive and delectable dishes.
Seafood lovers are in for a real treat with this island delicacy. Conch meat is revered worldwide for its unique taste and aphrodisiac properties. The meat is extracted from its shell, pounded to tenderize, and marinated in jerk seasoning. The little bits of succulence usually get wrapped in foil and thrown on the grill, and is ready for eating in about 30 minutes. What you get is sweet, tender chunks of conch swimming in its own spicy juices from the jerk marinade. Deliciousness!
This marine crustacean is considered a delicacy and many people love its rich taste. Plump lobster tails smothered in melted butter infused with a blend of local herbs and spices and cooked to perfection makes jerk lobster a delectable choice among seafood lovers.
Even though lamb has debuted on the jerk scene a few years now, it still remains relatively arcane among Jamaican consumers. Nonetheless, the unquestionable succulence akin to the gaminess of mutton makes this perfect for jerk, pleasing the palates of many local foodies and persons wishing to sink their teeth into an alternative jerk meat dish. Here’s a jerk lamb recipe you might like.
Jerk rabbit is one of the newest jerk trends and has gained popularity over the years, given the increasing disposition of locals to adapt a more discerning palate. In fact, there has been increased demand for rabbit meat, especially among hoteliers and gourmet restaurants across the island. Rabbit is a generally lean, slightly sweet meat with a closely textured flesh that has virtually no fat and is very high in protein and makes a good alternative to chicken.
Can be found at: Murray’s Fish & Jerk Hut
Sausage is a big hit among jerk lovers, and can be found at almost any jerk centre. Common options include: pork, chicken, and lamb sausages. There’s no denying the pleasures of biting into a scrumptious, juicy sausage perfectly spiced with local seasonings.
What started as a street food delight ended up on the menus of some of Jamaica’s top restaurants. Salty cuts of pigtails surrounded by flavorsome pork fat and bone-deep deliciousness make this a fave among many. Imagine all that innate flavour given a sucker punch from a jerk marinade then smothered in sweet, smoky barbecue sauce. Heavenly!
Owing to their rich flavor, chicken necks are commonly used for making chicken stock. But these less-desirable cuts also make tasty stews, and – you guessed it – jerk! Since chicken necks are mostly bones with little meat and moderate fat, the trick is to extract the flavor by chewing the bones. Word on the street is that University of Technology (UTech), one of the island’s top universities – has one of the best spots to enjoy jerked chicken neck. Started as cheap alternative to a jerk meal, students and passersby continue to enjoy this tasty commodity as a quick-fix.
Can be found at: University of Technology
Goat meat, or mutton, is quite commonplace in Jamaica, usually enjoyed as an Indo-Caribbean curry, and to a lesser extent, as a stew. Now, jerk is becoming an increasingly popular way to enjoy this savory meat that already has a reputation for a strong, gamey flavor. The ribs, loin, and tenderloin are suitable for quick cooking, but other cuts are best for long braising. Check out this recipe for Jerk Goat Ribs from aspiring Jamaican chef Brittany Blackwood. Tip: The younger the billy, the sweeter the meat.
Can be found at: We haven’t quite found it yet but if you know a restaurant or vendor that serves jerk goat, add their profile on www.F1RST.com and write a detailed review!
Have you had a great jerk meal somewhere not mentioned in this post? Share it with us in the comments and add the business to F1RST!
Interested in trying some of these delicious dishes? Check out some great jerk recipes in Stephen’s recent blog post, Jerk Conch + Other Non-Traditional Jamaican Jerk Dishes.
About Stephen Charoo
A Jamaican native, Stephen Charoo is the creator and sole author of Recollections of a Foodie, a foodie lifestyle blog dedicated to everything food: homemade recipes; restaurant and product reviews; and culinary tips, and which also chronicles his continuing health and fitness journey. The blog’s eclectic and extensive content results from his multicultural background and love for traveling and experiencing cultures through their food. Stephen is also a Consulting Officer for ICT/BPO investments at JAMPRO – Jamaica’s trade and investment promotion agency. Check out his blog at www.stephencharooblogs.wordpress.com. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @esteban876.