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Jerk food – Savoring the popular Jamaican dish

You might have visited fruit and coffee plantations, learned about different cuisines or even tasted delicious foods in the beautiful Caribbean nation of Jamaica, but have you ever tasted the popular Jamaican dish ‘Jerk Chicken’? If you haven’t done so till now, then you must surely book your next flight to Kingston, the capital city of Jamaica, and enjoy this authentic dish. This will undoubtedly be the major highlight of your visit.

The popularity of Jerk chicken has been such that it has even been exported to the U.S. and other parts of the world with a substantial Jamaican expatriate population. Just imagine what it would be like to savor this famous dish – moist chunks of chicken with fully soaked-up marinate flavor, crispy and lustrous skin, and thoroughly grilled, blackened pieces of meat. Let us get an insight into all that goes into the preparation and the manner in which the Jerk chicken is prepared.

How Jerk food is prepared
It is widely believed that Jerk chicken is prepared and grilled over the coals. However, it’s not only the coals on which this popular dish is cooked. Traditionally, pimento tree’s fresh green wood is procured to cook the dish. The pimento tree is indigenous to the Caribbean. Allspice berries or sweetwood is another important ingredient used to marinate the chicken.

The wood of pimento or allspice trees, especially procured from Jamaica itself, is quite important to the jerk process. The preparation of jerk begins with the wood that is essentially in the form of charcoal. First of all, the charcoals are well laid under the big metal grates. Stocking needs to be continuously done to keep the charcoals roaring hot. The next process is to put large logs of allspice or pimento wood on the top of the metal grates. The meat is then finally placed on the top of the green wood, which is then covered using big metal sheets.

While the chicken is cooked, the oils from wood’s surface are directly absorbed by it. During the process, it also gets penetrated with the smoke and fragrant steam coming out of the green wood and charcoals underneath. When the chicken is finally cooked, the butterflied chicken is removed only after 2 hours from the grill. The succulent meat is then chopped up after being denuded from the bone. The grilled meat is then served along with the traditional fiery-hot Scotch bonnet sauce. But before the chicken is finally served it is soaked in a complex-tasting marinade which provides the meat a spicy and sweet flavor.

Where is it served
Roadside huts, popularly called Jerk Joints, are usually found in nearly all the small towns in Jamaica. These joints offer jerk chicken to the visitors. These joints are also visited by large number of people for jerk pork, fish as well as lobster.

Boston Bay in Kingston is however the hub of jerk in the country. As you happen to pass by the numerous jerk joints here, you are sure to get enticed by the smoky and fragrant aroma of jerk food. Some of the famous Jerk Joints here include Mickey’s, Little David’s, Shaggy’s, Miss Ivy’s, and Glasses Jerk Centre.

Eating jerk food is treated to be the finest casual dining ever. The eating is without any fuss – no frills, no menus and no cutlery. Here’s how a typical jerk joint would look like. Each hut or jerk joint has a single pole supporting a tin or thatched roof. The chicken, pork or fish is jerked inside this hut or under a tree situated nearby. You can also find picnic table and few tattered chairs scattered at the joint.

When you place order, your portion of the jerk will be pulled off the bone and then weighed according to your specifications. It is laid on a newspaper and finally handed over to you on a paper plate. A typical weight could be a quarter-pound of chicken or even more.

The jerk chicken is highly delicious, yet quite spicy. It would be perfectly fine if you order for a cold Red Stripe beer or even a refreshing bottle of the popular Jamaican grapefruit soda Ting, both of which will do the trick. Drinking water to calm down the fire is a strict no-no. It will just spread around the heat.

Apart from Kingston, upscale resorts in key cities like Negril, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay also offer jerk food on their buffet menus.

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