I have had this conversation with a few local people and they all stare at me like I am truly nuts. There are things I do not like in the Jamaican Cuisine, like most of the starches and I do not eat meat. I cannot understand boiled banana or plantain, yellow yam and dumpling all being in the same meal? This should basically put me in a diabetic coma from too much starch! I also find them bland and tasteless. I came to Jamaica with a basic expectation of tasty Caribbean food, only to be shocked by what most people ate. Recently I was again discussing this and a realization hit me! Most Jamaicans eat these boiled foods with meat that is most often stewed into a gravy. No wonder I am not understanding. They do not eat just the boiled foods, but with a type of gravy or sauce upon it! It has taken me this long to figure this out! Also I was introduced to Americanized Caribbean foods, so I was mislead. I expected bursting spicy flavors, and I got bland boiled food.
Now I am learning that boiled and roasted plantains are best if they are ripe! Also I have not actually had cassava or dasheen or coco, so I cannot tell you what those are like. I think the rest of my time here will be in search of those foods. I have learned to appreciate the fresh fruits and produce here, but the starches give me puzzle, but I think I am figuring it out. Another thing that I was mistaken about was liquid browning sauce. I bought some recently thinking maybe I can make stew peas in this and it will make a nice sauce to put over say yam. I cooked up a dish and used this “sauce” and it was tasteless! Like what am I doing wrong? I asked someone, who giggled at me and told me that it is simply to make the meat the desired color, for say “brown stew chicken” you do not want white meat if it is supposed to be brown. So I now have this bottle I cannot wait to get rid of. I think I will give it to the guy from Antigua that lives at the other end of the dorms here on campus.
I know that typical Jamaican dishes have a few requirements: scallion, pimento (whole allspice), thyme and scotch bonnet pepper. Saturday is soup day. In many Jamaican households a pot of soup is started early in the day to get it nice and ready for a mid/late afternoon meal. Typically it starts with a base of Maggi soup mix or seasoning packet, I try to avoid this because, MSG! There are many varieties of soup, pumpkin soup, pepper pot soup, fish tea, mannish water, chicken foot, crayfish and red peas. There is a soup base for each of these and if you want more an extra packed of cock soup mix can be added. So after the base is boiling in the water, add a whole scallion 2-3 pimentos, a sprig or two of thyme and either a whole scotch bonnet, not cut, or a few very small slivers of the pepper.
Other things to include are yellow yam, Irish potato, dumpling, meat, and carrots. This is a typical base of any soup. You then toss in your meats and the defining ingredients to your soup. For me I love pumpkin soup. I cube down the pumpkin and cook it down, if I am ambitious I will cook it first and then mash some up it up to thicken the base. Instead of meat I add some type of pea (dried beans) or veggie chunks. Veggie chunks are basically a soy TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) and I tend to use them when I forgot to precook or presoak my peas. For me instead of the soup packet I use a base of curry and salt along with ginger and garlic. If it is another type of soup I use a tablespoon of Better than Boullion veggie base. I am very fond of soup, so the fact that at least once a week is soup night makes me so happy! I even purchased a slow cooker just for this, and let me tell you I forgot how much I love those! I can set my beans up before bed and by morning they are ready to use, as long as I do not run out of water, and bonus: my apartment smells so nice!