Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jamaica: The Food!

Because we didn't stay at an all-inclusive resort, we were on our own each and every meal. It was both good and bad. Good that we got to experience real Jamaican cuisine, but bad because I wasn't terribly fond of it. If we had stayed at an all-inclusive, I could've balanced it out with hamburgers and french fries, but instead, it was Jamaican food all the time for the entire week.

Our first meal (Christmas dinner) was at this open-air restaurant called On The Rocks. Many restaurants were closed that day and we walked about 20 minutes to find one that was decent-looking and open.

In Jamaica, fish is usually grilled or steamed, served with okra and pimento with some kind of sauce. The picture on the left was hubs dinner - I forgot what kind of sauce he had. The one on the right was mine (duh) and the fish was served with brown sauce. It was just okay, not sure what went into making the sauce. I liked it that it was healthy with lots of veggies.

Service was slow. While hubs and I had a good time talking and taking pictures, once the food finally showed up, so did the bugs. After all that waiting, we didn't really get a chance to enjoy our dinner and ate as fast as we could. Oh well, we got full and the view was good.

The classic Jamaica breakfast is ackee and saltfish. The yellow flesh of ackee fruit is fried with onions, sweet and hot peppers, fresh tomatoes, and salted cod, producing a dish similar to scrambled eggs in looks and consistency. It is served with spinach-like callaloo, plantain, and fried dumplings.

We had breakfast at our hotel, Xtabi, one morning and tried this classic breakfast for the first time. It was good....for the first couple of bites. Then it just became kind of blah. Hubs blamed it on the grease, but I just didn't like it period. The fried dumplings were tasty, though.

We went to Sweet Spice with hubs' friend, Paul, and his family. They were in Negril at the same time and picked us up from our hotel one night for dinner. We went to this little place that is known among locals as one of the best Jamaican restaurants in Negril. On the menu were more exotic dishes such as ox tail, goat, and conch.

I wasn't feeling adventurous so I had chicken curry. Hubs ordered curried goat. My chicken curry was exactly what I expected, although a bit blend. I tried the goat and thought it tasted okay, too. Again, mediocre food, but we were in good company!

Patties, flaky pastry case usually filled with spiced minced beef, are Jamaica's best-know snack. I think I had about 10 of them during the entire trip. They were soooo good! At J$70 (roughly US$1), they were cheap, filling, and delicious. Two of the most popular brands are Juici Beef and Tastee. We tried patties from both places. They tasted exactly the same - GOOD!

Royal Kitchen Vegetarian Cafe has great reviews both online and in my tour book. Since it was only a 5-minute walk from the hotel, I just had to try it. This Rastafarian Ital restaurant serves clean, pure, and natural food. Meals are exclusively meat-free.

There were no menus. We were served based on the fresh ingredients that were available that day. Our dinner included coconut-flavored rice and beans, mildly spicy soy chunks, ackee, callaloo, and stew, all naturally seasoned with herbs like rosemary. Definitely very healthy and wholesome.

But, as you can see the look on my face, I didn't like it at all. The look on hubs' face, though, was entirely different. He loved it! Needless to say, I didn't finish my plate. I left dinner hungry.

Just Natural is located right next to our hotel. It offers fresh Jamaican food in a beautiful shady garden. We ate there twice.

For dinner one night, I had lentil burger (not too bad) and hubs had fish & pasta. The best part of the meal was the freshly squeezed juice. So refreshing with a bit of honey.

We came back again one morning and had breakfast there. Hubs had the traditional Jamaican breakfast (he said it was much better than what we had the first time at Xtabi) and I had an egg burrito with tomato sauce and toast. The egg burrito was fine - nothing special.

With all these "weird" food, I craved for something familiar. So when we went to Choices, we got an egg sandwich and pancakes. Choices is a brightly painted outdoor cafe, popular with both locals and tourists.

Yummy yummy yummy! Pancakes never tasted so good.

Ah, 3 Dives. Thank goodness for 3 Dives. Thanks goodness for its close proximity to our hotel. Thank goodness for its jerk chicken. We dined at this little cliffside garden at least four times!

And every time we visited, I had jerk chicken with vegetable. Hubs had the same, except for our last visit when he ordered conch. When I ordered jerk chicken, I made sure to specify dark meat. It made all the difference! So juicy, so flavorful, so good.

I should mention that during one of our visits, the french fries that we ordered never showed up. Apparently, they ran out and never bothered to tell us. So we waited and waited for nothing. At another visit, we waited at least ONE hour for the food.

Regardless, I loved the place. Hubs and I spent a lot of time at 3 Dives, just chatting and enjoying the sunset.

After a week of Jamaican food, I was dying for some Chinese food! So when we had our layover in Atlanta on the way home, we anxiously ordered some greasy noodles and general tso's chicken and spicy pepper chicken. It tasted so sweet (not literally, of course!).

Jamaican food is definitely an acquired taste. Although I didn't really like the food, I still preferred this more authentic experience to an all-inclusive. And seriously, the patties and jerk chicken rocked. I need to find recipes.

I am almost done with my Jamaica trip report. I will review our hotel next and write a miscellaneous post to wrap it all up. Hang with me just a bit longer!

2 comments:

  1. I've always wanted to go to Jamaica...it's too bad you didn't care for the food much.

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  2. Maybe we didn't hit all the right places, but yeah, the food in general was just okay. Only notable, for me anyways, was the vegetarian fare and patties. Regardless, it was great trying all these new dishes.

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