What’s not great about Jamaica?
We recently undertook a brief stay at Sandals Montego Bay, where fun things abound. While we were there, we did a wealth of fun things off property.
Our latest-and-greatest excursion was at Yaaman Adventures, for a “Flavours of Jamaica Culinary Experience,” a tour in which we learned all about Jamaica’s rich heritage through its diverse culture. Yaaman Adventures offers numerous ways to indulge yourself in all things Jamaican and our cooking tour was just the start. We took a ride to a great house that is situated 1,100 feet above sea level, offering panoramic views. There, we and 10 others indulged in a terrific cooking class where we learned how to make jerk chicken. “I’m Chef Irie,” our chef said outside, where a steel-drum cooker reigned supreme. We donned aprons and hair nets. Our mise en place consisted of chicken breasts plus an array of 15 ingredients, including green onions, Red Stripe beer (“That’s motivation, right,” Chef Irie laughed) plus Scotch bonnet peppers. (A Scotch bonnet pepper, in case you don’t know, is a Caribbean red pepper — a variety of chili pepper named for its resemblance to a tam o’shanter cap. This chili pepper is native to the Caribbean islands and Central America. And it is hot, hot, hot.)
We grilled our chicken, then added the ingredients and started on our jerk sauce. This is a mix of Scotch bonnets marinated in white vinegar, sugar, Red Stripe beer and ketchup. (You could add as much or as little of the Scotch bonnet peppers, depending on how fiery you wanted to make your meal.)
We were also given the ingredients for dough — flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cornmeal. We kneaded it all together and made it into any shape we wanted — little round balls, stars, half-moons, you name it. We all then took turns putting them into the boiling water, where we made “Festival,” which are Jamaican cornbread fritters. Next, we made callaloo — bok choi with thyme, tomatoes, scallions, dry rub and bell peppers. We put into the sauté pan and made coconut sauce, using dehydrated coconut and water, onions, sweet peppers, scallions, tomatoes, butter, dry rub and thyme — and let it all boil down. This turned into a coconut cream sauce that was dreamy for the top of our bok choi.
The result? A delicious lunch that was healthy and full of Jamaican flair.
For dessert, our driver — a wonderful man named Willie Burgess — took us to the parish of St. Ann to see the “puddin man,” who is famous for his local puddings. (They are more like pound cake than pudding but equally delicious.) The sweet potato version is tasty, with, as they say, hell on top, hell on the bottom and a hallelujah in the middle. You can even see, outside, the Caribbean steel drums, covered with hot charcoal, in which they bake the puddings. A must-see — and a must-taste.
Yaaman, it was amazing.
All things considered, is it any wonder, then, that Trip Advisor ranked Jamaica the No. 1 Caribbean Destination in 2019?
By Debbi K. Kickham and William D. Kickham