Cheap, accessible, and available in all shapes, forms, and temperatures, 24/7, seven days of the week, Jamaican street food is thankfully not only incredibly tasty and satisfying but, unlike its reputation in other developing countries, perfectly safe to eat.
Whether it’s an after-hours snack or easy food on the go, pull up a makeshift stool (beer crate, tree trunk, basic bench), order up a serving of whatever’s available, grab a drink, and break bread with a local, like a local.
This might be the most authentic Jamaican experience you'll ever have during your short stay on the island.
So, what's on the roadside menu?
There is only one way to cook a typically tough Jamaican corn, and that’s to boil it.
Best made tender by long periods of cooking in seasoned water (thyme/green onion/scotch bonnet peppers or my favorite, in a peanut soup) – served in its sheath – costing less than a dollar – you’ll go through at least three ‘til you’ve had enough.
Call it counterintuitive but Jamaicans love to drink hot soup on even hotter days (same with tea).
Although pretty standard from parish to parish, the range of flavors stems from the mild and fairly familiar chicken (foot) soup and peanut soup to the more unique and acquired taste types such as mannish water (every other bit of goat that isn’t curried) and cow cod (skin) soup – yes it’s gummy.
Spicy, tender, and juicy, roadside jerk is as synonymous with Jamaica as Bob Marley is to Reggae.
Found on every street corner, sometimes with several “pan” men side by side, jerk is enjoyed with a slice(s) of doughy harddough bread/breadfruit and an ice-cold Red Stripe or Ting (add the delicious homemade hot sauce, every place has its own).
Fried fish and bammy
Best enjoyed on the coastline where the fish is fresh and typically cooked to order throughout the day so it doesn’t sit and get cold. Drench it in vinegary escovitch sauce, hot peppers, and all, and soak it up with bammy, made from cassava.
Yam and saltfish
Hot steaming roast yam, white or yellow, slathered in margarine is the best accompaniment to salty and sometimes even spicy saltfish.
Wash down with an ice-cold jelly
Young coconuts have the sweetest water. Make sure to ask the vendor to cut it open so you can scoop out the flesh (jelly) inside for dessert!
A step up from the roadside vendor, these simple no frill restaurants serve up large plates of typical Jamaican food (curry goat, stewed beef, tripe, oxtail, fried chicken) for under $5.
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