What You Should Know About the Best of Local Fare in Jamaica
Part of the fun of booking an all-inclusive stay at Moon Palace Jamaica Grande is getting to try one of its eight different restaurants each night you are there. After all, indulging in steak, seafood, pasta and Asian food – without having to pay separately or make reservations– well, that’s about as good as a vacation can get.
And yet, part of any great vacation also involves getting a taste of the local fare wherever you are visiting. When in Ocho Rios, that means venturing out of Moon Palace Jamaica Grande and right down onto Main Street in the center of town to partake of the following goodies.
The Jamaican Patty is the No. 1 street food on the entire island. It’s a flaky, meaty, and quick meal that is available on just about any corner in small shops and even street stands. Adding to the allure of the patty is the variety of fillings you can get besides the traditional ground beef, including, pork, chicken, shrimp, soy, vegetables (try Callaloo, leafy greens similar to spinach), and even lobster.
The spiciness varies, as does the use of curry and other regional seasonings so expect to be surprised and make sure there is a Red Stripe in reaching distance in case you need to put out a fire in your mouth. Remember, red dot = hot, green dot = mild. Juici Patties is a big chain with two locations in Ocho Rios, although there are numerous independent patty stands to choose from.
The island’s most famous dish, Jerk Chicken, is another must-try staple while in Jamaica. It can be found in just about every restaurant, but if you want it done right check out the Ocho Rios Jerk Centre, which specializes in all manner of jerk dishes. There you’ll see how chicken is dry-rubbed in jerk spices before being set on the grill. It’s also on the spicy side if done right, so, again, Red Stripe.
Its jerky cousin might get all the headlines, but locals love fried chicken as much proper Southerners. Unlike the US version, however, fried chicken in Jamaica also carries a punch with a batter recipe that includes cayenne pepper, paprika, as well as garlic and onion powder. There is a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Ocho Rios, but we suggest Miss T’s Kitchen or Simply the Best.
Ackee and Saltfish
Jamaica’s national dish, Ackee and saltfish is a bit of an acquired taste, but it’s worth trying to acquire it. Ackee is the island’s national fruit and though it’s colorful and airy, it is mostly tasteless on its own. Saltfish is actually cod that’s been soaked overnight. The pairing works because of the blandish taste of one and the strong flavor of the other. Typically eaten for breakfast, the dish is a bit stronger in taste than scrambled eggs and bacon, but once you’ve had it a couple times, you’ll be craving it.
Fried dough, Jamaican style, is known as “festival” and typically accompanies meat dishes, though you can get it as a dessert on account of its sweetness. Think of a cornmeal dumpling. Best eaten warm.
A traditional dessert to enjoy while out is the Gizzada, also known as the pinch-me-round because of the pinched crust. The filling is made of sweet and spiced coconut with vanilla and nutmeg and it usually comes bite size so you can down several before you even realize it.
There you have it, a primer on what you need to taste when in Ocho Rios. Even if you are not feeling particularly adventuresome and want to get the most of your resort stay by staying in, ask to see which of these dishes and items are available at Moon Palace Jamaica Grande. Most of them are!