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Get a Taste of the Islands with Jamaican Jerk

Ah, the sights and sounds of Jamaica: reggae music playing everywhere, happy people smiling, and palm trees blowing in the wind. But what’s that delicious aroma wafting toward you? The smell is so captivating and distinctive that you must follow your nose to find it. That, my friends, is the ever-enchanting aroma of Jamaican jerk.
Jamaican jerk is slow-cooked over an open fire and smothered in a variety of spices. Jerk seasonings can vary widely, but typically include habanero or scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, scallions, thyme, cinnamon and nutmeg. Delicious.

Driving along the winding roads of Jamaica, you’ll see makeshift cook shops and sheds, all fronted by homemade grills converted from metal drums. Hand-lettered signs promote jerk chicken, pork, fish and even goat; on the weekends these huts are alive with activity as customers drive from all over the country to buy a plate of spicy goodness.

You’re sure to stumble across many of the smaller, seasonal jerk huts throughout the island. In addition to these, I recommend trying the more established names in town: Jerky’s Bar and Grill and The Pork Pit, both in Montego Bay.

Personally, I like the jerk pork the best. The chicken version is often chopped up along with the bones, and while the meat is delicious, I don’t need to spend my afternoon picking the little pieces of bone out of my lunch. Make sure you ask for a local side dish like bammy or hard dough bread. I usually add a little of the extra sauce that is offered, grab a cold Red Stripe, and sit down to enjoy one of my favorite things about this island.

If you’re lucky enough to be in town for the Mobay Jerk Festival (August 1, 2015), you’ll be able to sample some of the best jerk on the planet. Be sure to ask for a small sample taste, especially if you’re sensitive to spicy food (you don’t want to buy a ton of jerk chicken and then not be able to eat it). Look for Jamaican jerk seasoning to purchase, available almost everywhere on the island (there are hundreds upon hundreds of brands to choose from). While the seasoning makes a good souvenir, be aware that no matter what kind you buy, it will never quite live up to eating the jerk right out of a hut on the beach in Jamaica.

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