To a Jamaican, it’s just food, though they’re sold by street vendors at stop lights, roadsides, and street corners. Don’t be fooled by the makeshift stalls and open flames, these roadside delicacies are some of the most flavorful treats you’ll find on the island.
If you’re a proclaimed foodie Jamaican Jerk is a must have. Jerk is the undisputed icon of famous foods from Jamaica. This is due to the unique blend of spices including ample amounts of scotch bonnet pepper soaked up by either pork or chicken and cooked over an open fire. You can get delicious jerk from several hotels and restaurants, however, visit the local “jerk man” on the roadside if you’re up for an authentic Jamaican experience.
The preparation of a jelly coconut for consumption is an art in itself. If you’re lucky enough you’ll find a jelly man who puts on a show; wielding his razor-sharp machete with effortless precision. One slice off the top creates a small opening to the sweet juice inside. The best way to enjoy an authentic experience is to chug it right from the shell then use a spoon from the side to carve out the soft white meat inside. You can find a jelly cart in towns across the island.
If you’re ever in Middle Quarters in St. Elizabeth you simply must try the peppered shrimps, although you can find vendors selling shrimps stuffed in a small clear bag on beaches, riversides and stoplights around the island. You may douse it in your desired amount of homemade pepper sauce usually made from vinegar, scotch bonnet pepper, pimento, carrots' and onions.
You’ve heard of the Jamaican Patty; it’s kind of like a pastry kind of an entire meal and no doubt one of the most popular for Jamaican treats. The thin flaky crust may be filled with any one of several mouthwatering choices; beef, chicken, cheese, lobster, vegetables and more recently pork! The best part is you’re never too far away from a Patty Shop; they are ubiquitous in all 14 parishes.
COCONUT DROPS / PEANUT CAKE
This is the perfect cure for your sweet tooth. Chunks of coconut or roasted peanut cooked in sugar and ginger that cools into a crunchy, sweet, nutty treat.
The only thing sweeter than a gizzada is two gizzadas; I promise you won’t be satisfied with just one. It’s as fun to eat as it is to say and if you’re lucky enough you might find them right next to your coconut drops. This sweet treat is made from shredded sticky baked in a crunchy shell that’s pinched all around the edges.
ROASTED YELLOW YAM
When it comes to roasted yellow yam Melrose Manchester is the place you need to be. The art of roasting yellow yam over an open fire just to perfection has been perfected by these vendors for decades. Try it with some well-seasoned saltfish, another local favorite.
Keep in mind that when you support the streetside vendors you're not only paying for tasty Jamaican treats but helping a Jamaican supplement their household income.