Caribbean food is diverse. The food varies for each Caribbean destination and reflects the mix of influences as varied as the islands indigenous people including the Arawaks and the Caribs as well as the European conquerors/settlers who arrived mainly from Spain, Britain, France, and the Netherlands. Bringing African slaves from the early 1500s, their descendants who now make up a majority of the region’s population have also heavily influenced Caribbean food. Once slavery from abolished, the indentured servants who arrived from India and China starting around the 1830s, have also heavily influenced the food on islands like Trinidad & Tobago; also Cuba and Jamaica.
With such a melting pot of cultures, the rich culinary dishes from across the Caribbean are most often bold, filled with spicy flavors and simply delicious. Thus for an authentic experience, Caribbean & Co. recommends that all visitors to the Caribbean sample the cuisine. For starters, we recommend trying the national dish for each Caribbean destination as it is sure to tantalize and please even the most discerning taste buds. Just thinking about having some of the traditional Caribbean national dishes like Crayfish and Lobster in Anguilla, Cou-Cou and Flying Fish in Barbados, Ackee And Saltfish from Jamaica, Goat Water from Montserrat, or Conch and Dumpling in Saint Martin has our mouth watering.
With this in mind, Caribbean & Co. is launching a series to profile the national dish for each Caribbean destination. The plan is to feature each national dish in their traditional form — providing where possible a brief history along with a list of ingredients and instructions for foodies interested in making the dish themselves. To start, we are featuring the national dish of Jamaica and it may be surprising to some, but jerk chicken is not the national dish of Jamaica. Ackee And Saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica and is a favorite for breakfast or brunch.
Interestingly, neither Ackee or Saltfish are originally from Jamaica. Ackee now the national fruit of Jamacia initially arrived around 1778 from West Africa by Captain Bligh via the HMS Bounty. Saltfish is a fresh fish (most often cod) that is salt-cured and dried until all the moisture has been extracted; it was originally imported to Jamaica and the rest of Caribbean during the 16th century by shipping vessels via Canada as a cheap source of protein.
National Fruit of Jamacia Ackee -Photo Credit:©Jerome Walker and Saltfish – Photo Credit:©Strecosa/Pixabay.
For the national dish of Jamaica Ackee And Saltfish recipe, we turn to Jamaican sisters Suzanne Rousseau and Michelle Rousseau, who are former restaurateurs and award-winning caterers. They are now producers and culinary hostesses for the web series “Island Potluck” which was created in conjunction with the Jamaica Tourist Board. They are also the authors of Caribbean Potluck – Modern Recipes from Our Family. Originally published in May 2014 by Kyle Books UK, Caribbean Potluck includes 100 modern Caribbean recipes including a delicious Ackee & Bacon recipe!
Caribbean Potluck by Suzanne Rousseau and Michelle Rousseau pictured above with photos for Ackee & Bacon plus Trini-Style Saltfish & Bake. Photo Credit: ©Kyle Books/ Ellen Silverman.
The Rousseau’s recipe for Ackee And Saltfish, the national dish of Jamaica is provided below with ingredients and instructions.
Recipe for National Dish of Jamaica – Ackee And Saltfish
Ackee And Saltfish Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons chopped bell pepper
½ Scotch bonnet, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8-ounces salt cod (Saltfish), boiled deboned and shredded
¼ cup finely chopped tomato
2 tablespoons sliced scallion
1 bunch fresh thyme, chopped
1 (18- 20 ounce) can ackee
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Step 1: Soak the Saltfish in fresh water for about 1 hour.
Step 2: Change water and bring to a boil on the stove over high heat for about 35 minutes until fish flakes easily when picked with hands. If it still seems too salty change water again and boil for another 20 minutes.
Step 3: If the Saltfish has bones and skin, scrape the skin from the back of the fish with a knife and discard. Then, using your fingers, pick through the fish and discard the bones. This can be a laborious process, but it is important to be meticulous. The fish should be in medium-sized flakes but should not be too small or crumbly in appearance.
Note: De-boned and de-skinned saltfish is available for purchase in many Caribbean markets and major supermarkets. If purchased this way, simply boil and flake with hands as previously indicated.
Ackee And Saltfish Preparation:
1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, Scotch bonnet, bell pepper and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened.
2. Add the Saltfish and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato, scallion, thyme and cook another 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
3. Add the Ackee and allow to heat through, stirring gently and not over-mixing so that the ackee does not become mushy.
4. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with steamed callaloo, johnny cakes, fried ripe plantain, roasted or fried breadfruit and avocado on the side.
To see the Rousseau sisters prepare Ackee And Saltfish, watch the video below filmed with reality documentary series Travel Basecamp. For more information about the Rousseau sisters and their web series Island Potluck, visit their website: 2 Sisters And A Meal.
Top photo: National Dish of Jamaica – Ackee And Saltfish with avocado, plantains, etc. Photo Credit: ©Jamaica Tourism Board.