Saluted for endless stretches of sandy beaches, sun-drenched days and sultry sunsets, Jamaica is also a treasure-trove of culinary delights guaranteed to keep lovers in the mood. From a bounty of tropical fruits to fish fresh from the sea, it’s the fine art of jerk that is the island’s tastiest time-honoured tradition and for some, an aphrodisiac par excellence.
Hot food on a hot night adds spice to every vacation and with a platter of spicy jerk chicken before heading to the annual Jazz Festival in January or celebrating Valentine’s Day in February; romance is always in the air. .
Taking the stage this year at the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, mega-star Celine Dion will ignite the crowds with her classics like ‘The Power Of Love’, ‘Because You Loved Me’ and her Grammy winner ‘My Heart Will Go On’. “I am looking forward to doing my very first show in the Caribbean,” she told reporters, “what a beautiful way to meet the people of Jamaica on this, my first trip to the island. I just can’t wait.”
Other superstars set to woo fans from January 26 to 28 at the Trelawny Stadium, The Temptations and Jamaica’s home grown heroes Shaggy, Richie Stephens and the perennially popular Yellow Man.
Meat & Greet
Adored for the aromatic coffee beans that grow in the majestic Blue Mountains, the bananas transported down the river and the movies made at the Blue Lagoon, Port Antonio is also the birthplace of jerk or the fine art of grilling meat slowly over a low fire.
Driving along the highway east from Kingston to Port Antonio, tangy aromas fill the air as the Boston Jerk Centre with a dozen or so open-air huts held up by steel poles comes into view. “It’s the best at Mickey’s”, says Donovan Thompson, grill master at Mickey’s Jerk Pit. “My jerk is good for your health, mon!” This is no-frills dining with jerk chicken, lobster and pork served on paper plates along with typical Jamaican sides like festivals’ or sweet fried dumplings to mop up the extra sauce and a frosty Red Stripe to cool down the heat.
On the Hip Strip in Montego Bay, a Boonoonoonoos (Patois for ‘plentiful’) platter at the Native Restaurant is chockablock with lip-searing jerk chicken and golden brown plantains. Close to the airport, Scotchies is bonanza of roasted breadfruit and jerk chicken blackened to perfection. A second location, Scotchies Too, sits pretty in Ocho Rios.
Back at Boston Jerk Center, Donovan Thompson wraps a piping hot plate of his pungent jerk for a picnic by the Bay. “My jerk is more-ish, “he says using a cheerful Jamaican Patois expression, “you eat it once and you want more.”
Yes, You can make this at home
Jerk Rub (Courtesy: “Jerk: Barbecue from Jamaica”)
- 1 onion finely chopped
- ½ cup finely chopped scallions
- 2 teaspoons thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground Jamaican pimento (allspice)
- ¼ ground nutmeg
- ½ ground cinnamon
- 4 to 6 scotch bonnet peppers, finely ground
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
(Yields 1 cup)
Combine all ingredients into a food processor with a steel blade. Rub the paste on uncooked meat from chicken and pork to beef and goat. Store in a tightly closed jar in the refrigerator where it will last for up to one month.