Caribbean cuisine is vibrant, exciting, and fiery, with Jamaican jerk cooking as the perfect example. Among the most famous of Caribbean foods, it should be on everyone’s must-try list for its extraordinary flavor and fragrance. Below is a closer look at how it picked up steam over the years.
How It Came to Be
Jamaican jerk cooking is characterized by its seasoning, which gives this Caribbean food a distinct taste. Salt, pepper, and spices made up the original blend and were used to preserve meat. The Maroons of Jamaica mixed different flavors in the 1700s to make do with what they had until their next hunt. The spiced meat, wrapped in leaves to prolong its life, was grilled over hot rocks or wood lattice.
The unique seasoning evolved over the years. It included a sweet-spicy combination of allspice berries and Scotch bonnet peppers. Some variations of the flavoring included spring onion, fresh thyme, ginger, salt, and even soy sauce or vinegar. Apart from the spices, Jamaican jerk also derives its characteristic flavor from cooking over a pile of pimento wood.
How It’s Used Today
The term “jerk” pertains to the Jamaican style of seasoning and grilling meat. Cooks apply this grilling method to almost any type of meat—chicken, pork, beef, fish, and vegetables, too. Jerk chicken is a famous Caribbean food, with pork being a close second.
There are two ways cooks season Jamaican jerk: dry rub or marinade. The former makes for crustier, charred meat while the latter creates a juicier, tender alternative. Cooks score the meat or marinate it for a couple of hours to let the flavor soak in. They typically cover the meat during grilling to let the smoke do the cooking and lock in the juices
If you want to try Jamaican jerk, drop by Lolo’s Seafood Shack in Harlem, Manhattan. This seafood restaurant offers a delectable variety of Caribbean food and a twist on coastal favorites, such as the shrimp and conch, deep-fried cod, and plantain chips. Call (646) 649-3356 for reservations or check out their mouth-watering menu online.