My Desert Island, All-Time, Top-Five Favorite Jamaican Foods
Each week, without fail, I find a new show to binge watch instead of doing something productive with my time. This week, I’ve been hypnotized by Hulu’s latest original series, High Fidelity. The TV show is an adaptation of Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel, which was also made into a 2000 film starring John Cusack. This adaptation has all the makings of a show I would love. It’s based in my old Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, stars a Black woman who just so happens to be the indelible Zoe Kravitz, and has a soundtrack worthy of listening to on repeat for weeks. What I especially love about this show is its lists: top-five most memorable breakups, top-five villains of all time, top-five songs about love, etc. So, in honor of High Fidelity’s latest return, I made a list of my own. My desert island, all-time, top-five favorite Jamaican foods are as follows:
How does one best describe festival? It’s like a cloud, but fried and sweet. The closest thing I can compare it to is fried dough, without the layers of powdered sugar. Festival is mostly eaten with ackee and saltfish, fish, or jerked meats. Growing up, my mom would make festival using J.F. Mills Festival Mix whenever we ate ackee and saltfish for breakfast on the weekends. While that mix makes some great festival, nothing tastes better than the ones that come out of Aunt May’s hut at Hellshire beach.
4. Hominy Corn Porridge
My Uncle Dean makes the best hominy corn porridge. Whenever I visit my family in Jamaica, he makes sure I have two things: sugar cane and hominy corn. Oatmeal and cornmeal pale in comparison to hominy corn, with its sweet taste and lumpy texture — which is much better than it sounds. Most of its flavor comes from a mixture of condensed milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, and coconut milk. But, as the name implies, corn is a major ingredient. The native people of Jamaica, known as the Taíno, planted corn as one of their main crops and their use of corn in cooking has heavily influenced Jamaican cuisine.
3. Escovitch Fish
If there’s meat left on your escovitch fish, you’re eating it wrong. Eschovitch fish is a Jamaican version of ceviche, the South American process of cooking fish or seafood using vinegar. The fish, which is usually red snapper, is fried whole until crisp and then drizzled with a special sauce consisting of vinegar, scotch bonnet peppers, onions, carrots, pimentos, and sweet peppers. It’s usually served with bammy, which is a traditional Jamaican cassava flatbread, or festival. Personally, I eat it with both. The best place to eat escovitch fish is at Aunt May’s. It never disappoints and you get to pick out your own fish from the freezer.
Don’t let the name deter you. Oxtail is the most tender and delicious Jamaican dish you will ever have. Literally taken from an ox’s tail, oxtail is marinated overnight and cooked in a pressure cooker for hours. The wait is always worth it, because when it comes out it is dripping in rich gravy and covered in butter beans. The only way to fully enjoy oxtail is by eating it with rice and peas — especially my dad’s rice and peas.
1. Curry Goat
I love everything about curry; the smell, the taste, its history. There really should be a Netflix show dedicated to the different types of curry around the world and how different countries utilize it in cooking, because Indian curry has evolved into something else in so many places. Curry in India is different from curry in Jamaican which is different from curry in Guyana. The spice was first introduced to Jamaica in the 17th century when Indian workers were brought to the island as indentured servants. While curry is quite impressive on its own, it’s even more impressive when placed on goat. Curry goat is a staple of Jamaica, making appearances on most restaurant and home menus. Unlike oxtail, goat tends to be more tough, so it takes some time chewing. But, the meat is still juicy and drenched in flavors and tastes perfect when resting on a soft bed of rice and peas.