I know what you’re thinking… but NO, that’s not what I was referring to!
During my Jamaica getaway, I had a chance to enjoy a few authentic Jamaican dishes. Even if you’ve never been to the islands, I’m sure you’re already familiar with the popular dishes like Jerked Chicken, Rice and Beans and Jamaican patties.
On my first waking morning in Jamaica, I woke up and brewed some Blue Mountain Coffee, a smooth and delicious cup of Joe that many friends raved about, The coffee is grown in a designated area in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains and has a blue/green color to it. It’s aroma is bold and the taste is smooth and clean.
After sipping the last drop of my coffee, I put on some comfy beach gear and headed to get some breakfast.
The breakfast buffet was located on the end of the resort which gave me an excuse to walk along and admire the crystal blue waters before putting something in my belly.
When I got to the restaurant, the host showed me to my table and pointed out the breakfast buffet. The full spread was definitely tourist friendly.
Vacationers had their choice of the typical egg station, pancakes, cereal, fruit and juices. As I browsed through the selection, I noticed a “Jamaican Breakfast” section all the way in the corner, where no one was venturing towards. Of course, I had to go take a peak!
When it comes to traveling, my philosophy is to indulge in the culture as much as possible, so if Jamaicans are having a special breakfast, then I will have it too!
There were three trays filled with authentic concoctions. The first one was steamed yams and plantains, second was Callaloo (Jamaican collard greens) and the third looked like fish and eggs maybe?
The Chef noticed that I was confused so he came over and said “this is Jamaica’s national dish: Ackee and Salt fish”
Well then! That’s all he had to say… one scoop of Jamaica’s national dish coming right up! I took a little bit of everything and went back to my table to start chowing down.
I forked into the yams, plantains and Callaloo and the taste was close to what I expected.
Then came the Ackee and Saltfish…. Mmmmmm … The Salt fish definitely overpowered the dish and the Ackee was perfectly complimentary. It resembled both the texture and taste of an avocado. Yummy!
For the remaining few days, I made this meal my staple breakfast.
So, what is this Ackee?
After doing some online research, I discovered that Ackee is Jamaica’s national fruit that grows on trees. This fruit was brought by slave ships from West Africa.
The Ackee fruit is reddish on the outside, and as it ripens, it opens up like a flower on the tree. The inside has three shiny glass-like seeds and surrounded by Arilli, a yellow edible meat.
Jamaicans consider this fruit a nutritious vegetable packed with essential fatty acids, vitamin A, zinc and protein.
As I continued to read about this crazy looking fruit, I realized that it was “illegal” in certain countries including the US.
Illegal? I didn’t experience any euphoria from eating it, so why illegal?….
The Ackee fruit can be quite poisonous if eaten unripe. The seeds also contain toxic chemicals that may cause bodily harm.
Ackee poisoning produces nausea and acute vomiting without diarrhea, followed by dizziness, slight fever, convulsions, coma and death. There is extreme hypoglycemia which can be corrected by IV glucose. The symptoms begin 2-3 hours after the meal, although the incubation time is sometimes shorter. The patient has intense thirst. There is pronounced sweating, tachypnea and tachycardia, headache, general weakness and hypotonia. The child is confused or stuporous. Tonic-clonic convulsions occur in one quarter of patients. Fatty degeneration of the liver, similar to Reye’s syndrome, is seen. Death may follow within 12 hours.
Ok… now that’s not cute! ….
In order to avoid toxicity, Jamaicans only pick fully ripened Ackee and rigorously boil the yellow meat before incorporating it in a dish.
The US still has a ban on Ackee fruit, but has allowed a few manufacturers to import “canned Ackee” that has been approved safe.
If you would like to taste this yummy Ackee, order it by clicking here
I’ve never seen this on a local Jamaican menu, but then again, I never looked or asked for it.
If you’ve experienced this dish before, I would love to hear your thoughts. If you know of any unique recipes, please share as well!
Yay for food!