Eat Like a Local in Jamaica

Jamaican me Hungry!  We couldn’t resist. Here are three things you must eat when cruising to Jamaica.

To get the authentic flavor of any cruise destination, you have to eat like a local. That’s why it’s always exciting to sample the street food in a new port-of-call, swapping tried-and-true eats for unfamiliar-but-yummy treats. That’s truer than ever in Jamaica, a land that mixes culinary traditions from Europe, Africa, and, of course, the Caribbean. When savvy sailor Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon cruises to Jamaica, here are the top three on her must-eat list.

Righteous Jerk

A delicious plate of Jamaican jerk chicken in Jamaica

Although jerk barbecue is a distinctive island-style tradition that originated in the northeastern town of Port Antonio, you’ll find stalls selling jerk all over the country. Seasoned with local spices and slow-smoked over pimento logs, jerk chicken, fish or sausage is usually sold by weight (My advice: order a quarter pound of each to start), and devoured straight from the foil wrapper.

Jerk aficionados pair their order with slices of hard dough bread; sweet fried dumplings called festival; or roast breadfruit (a starchy vegetable that tastes just like you’d imagine). But beware of the pepper sauce on the counter ­­– just a dab of the combustible condiment will do ya!

Pattie Heaven

A Jamaican pattie broken in half to display its gooey center in Jamaica

Patties are to Jamaicans what cheeseburgers are to Americans: cheap and cheerful comfort food that says “home” with every bite. Stuffed with meat, seafood, veggies or even tofu, these pastry pockets have been Jamaica’s quintessential fast food for almost half a century.

Enjoy patties like a local, straight from the brown paper bag in which they’re traditionally served. But be careful; the piping hot filling has been known to blister overeager lips. Tastee and Juici are the island’s most popular patty brands, and there’s a fierce rivalry between fans of each bakery. Which is tastier? I’m staunchly Team Tastee, but try one of each and judge for yourself.

Ting with Sting

Savory Ting grapefruit soda in a variety of colors lay bottled next to each other in Jamaica

Contrary to common belief, Red Stripe isn’t the only drink in town. Ting, a locally produced grapefruit soda, has been tickling Jamaican taste buds for decades. Lightly carbonated and cloudy with the pulp of homegrown citrus, the award-winning soft drink is, quite simply, Jamaica in a bottle.

Purists prefer the original version in the traditional green glass bottle, but Ting is also available in diet and pink varieties, both equally refreshing on a sunny Caribbean day. And when the sun goes down, try a Ving (vodka and Ting) or Ting ‘n’ Sting (rum and Ting) for the happiest of happy hours before heading back to your cruise ship.

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