Akee and Saltfish is Jamaica’s National Dish. It is quite interesting that Akee is not originally native to the island, it was likely brought over by slaves. Akee is considered a national pride and everyone who visits should at least try this dish. Saltfish is also not from Jamaica, but rather dried and salt preserved cod shipped over from England. To add saltfish you must first soak it, best if done overnight, but you can speed it up by boiling some of the salt out as well. You will notices the texture remains rather stiff and chewy but flakes well. You should understand that there may be a few bones in your dish, as the it is hard to remove all of them.
Since I do not eat meat if I can help it and I most certainly am not a fan of saltfish, I cook my akee differently. I also skip the process of boiling it first, as that makes it more watery and I like it a bit more solid. Akee is actually poisonous until it naturally pops the pod open. You must know who you buy your akee from, because people will “tief” it before it is ready, force it open and then sell it to persons on the street. Anytime you hear of a large number of akee poisonings, you can almost bet they bought it on the street.
Nutritiously akee is much like avocado, mostly fats. It is also a similar consistency to scrambled eggs. If you get it from an Ital shop, which is how the Rastas would eat it, you will not have any additional oil or salt on it. You also will not find saltfish in it if you get it from an Ital shop.
The Akee must first be carefully removed from the pod. Then you must cut the flower and seed out. This takes time and sometimes you lose some of the akee, but it is better to remove all of the flower and seed than risk eating them as these are the parts which still carry poison in them. If you are not familiar with how to cook it, let a Jamaican show you first. Better safe than dead!
I do not cook Ital, I use salt and oil! I start off with some coconut oil and saute down some onion and hot pepper. I like to slice my pepper with a pair of scissors to get a nice fine sliver or two, not too much as it is hot! I will also use scissors to slice my garlic into the pan, and if I am using scallion I cut it with scissors as well. I love my scissors! As soon as the onion starts to brown up I toss in the akee and sweet peppers. I continually stir making sure it does not stick. I then add some seasoning, be it salt and pepper or a blend of herbs or both. To serve with the akee I sometimes steam up some cabbage or make callaloo. Bread fruit is also good with the akee. Roast breadfruit is so good and super nutritious.
In this dish I sauteed up sweet pepper, hot pepper, onion, garlic, akee and tomato and served it with Steamed cabbage, which I will share in a future blog!