Our peripatetic contributor Andrew Zimmern regales us with the most delicious discoveries from his travels.
For all the attention paid to Jamaica as a travel destination, I still think it’s underrated. It has world-class beaches, some of the best hotels in the Caribbean, a stunning landscape full of forested mountains and amazing waterfalls and, most of all, a radiant culture that encompasses way more than just reggae and good coffee.
What made me fall in love with this place is the people. Happy, resilient and gracious, Jamaicans are rightfully proud of their culinary heritage. This is a country born from Africans escaping slavery, alongside English plantations fueled by workers from India and China.
The national motto is “Out of many, one people,” but it could just as well be “Out of hardship, joy”—you feel it on every visit and taste it in every meal.
You can’t separate the people from the thrill of the roadside fruit stands that are everywhere you look, especially along Highway A1 from Ocho Rios to Kingston. Fresh sapote, custard apples, soursop, cashew apples and incredible vegetables are half the reason to drive to the countryside.
The other is the cooking: Your first stop should be Faith’s Pen, a cluster of food stalls 30 minutes south of Ocho Rios where you can find all the classics, from tangy fish escovitch and braised oxtail to ackee and saltfish to curried goat. Everything comes with aptly named festival; these fried corn fritters shouldn’t be missed. Jamaican patties are skinny empanadas stuffed with ground meat or chicken: Niah’s, near Seven Mile Beach in Negril, makes a mean one.
And then there’s jerk. You’ll find the seasoned meat all over Jamaica, but very few places do it right, cooking it over green pimento wood and natural hardwood charcoal. Scotchies does, and luckily they have several locations around the island. And while I’d always rather enjoy the outrageously delicious food in its element, I’m happy to fire up the grill and bring a bit of Jamaica to my backyard with these transporting recipes.