Street Food, Jamaican Style

We don’t call it street food here, though that’s what it is and it’s been around for a while. When I was about 6 or 7, and we only used to jerk pork, there was a man who’d go from house to house selling pork from a metal pan that was attached to the front of his bicycle. The pan was like a portable barbecue with smoldering pimento coals at the bottom and another pan which contained the pork. You could smell it long before he arrived at our gate.

Back then, the economy was mostly agrarian and families prepared their meals at home.  Women would send their men off to the fields with lunches that were packed in “carriers,” aluminum containers that had compartments to keep the components of the meal separate. It also had a handle that made it easy to carry — I suspect that’s how it got it’s name.

If they had further to go, say to Kingston, the capital, there’d be stalls that sold seasonal fruits, like oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, otaheiti apples, etc., and a few that sold roasted yam and salted cod fish – inexpensive, popular and easy enough to make over an open fire.

To supplement the household income, some women would make baked goods – coconut drops (called drops for the way the sugary coconut mixture was dropped from a spoon and baked), cut cake, grater cake (a coconut and sugar reduction that is cooled and cut into small squares), peppermint candy, gizzadas (grated coconut in a crunchy shell), etc., that they sold as snacks, mostly at schools.

With more Jamaicans working further from home in the service based sector, few have time to prepare home cooked meals and stalls selling a variety of foods have become ubiquitous. Here are a few that I’ve eaten at.

Street Food, Jamaican Style
Food Stand

Despite its name, not all the food here was roasted. We stopped for a breakfast of green bananas and mackerel.

Street Food, Jamaican Style
Food Stand

Food stalls can be as elaborate or as rudimentary as the owner wishes. Some are small enough that they can be placed anywhere. At this stall in Clarendon, our lunch consisted of soup, roasted yam and codfish.

Street Food, Jamaican Style
Crayfish soup

At festivals, the number and variety of food stalls are sometimes overwhelming. I get food overload and can’t decide what to eat, like the day I took this photo at the Accompong Maroon Treaty Celebration.

The operator at this stall didn’t want anyone taking photos of his dressed up pigs but I couldn’t resist.

Street Food, Jamaican Style
Jerk Pork
Street Food, Jamaican Stye
Roasted Yam

Roasted yam is still quite popular maybe because it’s relatively easy to prepare. All you have to do is put the yam over the fire and the heat does the rest.

Street Food, Jamaican Stye

On hot days, a drink of cold coconut water is refreshing.

Street Food, Jamaican Style
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!

My friend, Karen, is taking her coconut with a shot of Jamaican rum – a delicious combination. We were laughing at how decadent it was to be drinking so early in the morning. It might have been about 11 o’clock.

Here, the stall was the back of this guy’s car. He also had straw bags, change purses made from small calabash gourds, banana chips, knitted caps with locks and frozen jelly coconuts – one stop shopping.

Street Food, Jamaican Stye
It must be the rum that’s making her laugh so much

Do you try street food when you travel?


This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

This week, I’m also linking up with the Friday Daydreaming series organized by Becca at Rwethereyetmom. Hope to see you there!







52 comments on “Street Food, Jamaican Style

  1. I love the photo of the dressed up pigs. That’s one way to draw attention to your stand! I bet the food was delicious!

  2. I absolutely loved this glimpse of street food. It seriously made my mouth water, especially the crayfish soup I must say. You really made me want to visit Jamaica more than ever!

  3. I would like to have seen the man with his bicycle selling hot meat door to door. That would take all the worry out of “what’s for dinner”. Thanks for showing us the photo of food stalls. Very interesting.

  4. Living in India, I love street food!! I am a big fan of street food though I dont think I can try many things out there as I am a pure vegetarian. I will love those coconuts though, I love having them in the summer 🙂

  5. Love street food! And yes, if the place looks like it uses clean water – we stop for street food! It is just catching on in our area – street food trucks that is, we have the cutest little ‘shop’ parked a block from our home in Kirkland – two tables and great Mexican food. This post made my mouth water Marcia!

  6. We have pure vegetarian here, Arti. Hopefully, you’d find something to your liking.
    Coconuts are great, especially when it’s hot and they’re so utilitarian.

  7. Oh, I’m glad, Linda. That soup was delicious. My nephew, the picky eater, was with us that day and when he saw the soup and the corn, he forgot he didn’t like either.

  8. Great post – and I love the variety. Now your green bananas can’t be the same ones we get that you can barely peel in Canada – can they?
    Love fresh coconut and that bowl of crayfish soup looks yummy.

  9. Thanks, Leigh.
    You’re right, bananas are difficult to peel, and messy too. I cook them in their skins to avoid having to peel them. Only problem is, you can’t cook anything else with them as the stain that is released when bananas are cut or cooked in their skins will color everything else.

    So how to peel bananas? Cut the tops and bottoms off each finger, score on one side, then put them in a pot of boiling water and salt to taste. Be sure to add a little cooking oil so the stain from the banana doesn’t coat the pot. When they’re cooked in their skin, the water becomes dark purple. You’ll know they’re cooked, when the scored skin pops open. Remove the banana from the skin and serve.

    If you want to remove the skin before cooking, cut the tops and bottoms off each finger, score, then force the skin from the banana. Be careful when you cut green bananas that the liquid doesn’t get onto your hands or clothes. It’s quite sticky and will stain your clothes. To avoid getting the liquid on your hands, peel under water or rub cooking oil on your hands. Using a knife, scrape off any part of the skin that remains. Cook in boiling water and salt to taste. Hope this helps.

  10. All the food looks great and I could spend time visiting each stall. The pigs heads in sunshades was a riot. 🙂

  11. I love the dressed up pigs and I’m glad you managed to take a picture. That’s a hoot! The best jerk chicken we have ever tasted was at some food stand our tour guide stopped at on the way to Dunn’s River Falls. My mouth still waters thinking about it. I love street food and we try to get as much fresh coconut wherever we can find them. Great post, Marcia!

  12. I like sampling food from different parts of the world and this is probably the best introduction to West Indian food, I’ve had. It sounds very appealing, though I’m not sure I’d go for a green banana and mackerel combo.

  13. That’s great, Mette. I’m glad I was able to introduce you to WI food, hope you get to try some one of these days.
    It might take a little to get used to green bananas especially if you’ve only had the ripe ones but it’s just as beneficial for you. Mackerel’s another story.

  14. Love those pigs! Good for you that you “snuck” a photo. I eat a lot of street food when I’m traveling. I find it’s usually the BEST! I would have had a shot of that rum too, and I don’t even drink rum…:)

  15. Thanks, Mary. Wow, that must have been some delicious jerk chicken! It’s amazing when meals leave such a lasting memory.
    Yea, the dressed up pigs are a little funny, I’m glad I was able to take a photo. It would have been difficult to describe.
    Like you, I love coconuts and try to get it as often as possible.

  16. Best post I’ve read this week, Marcia! I can only imagine the fragrance emanating from those open wood grills. I’d LOVE to try a roasted yam — and everything else!.

  17. Those dressed up pigs are awesome! I wonder why she didn’t want people to take pictures of them. The Crayfish Soup reminds me of Louisiana Gumbo. Does it taste similar? Penang where I live is famous for its street food, so I’m always game to try out new stuff.

  18. It does taste similar, except it didn’t have as much stuff as gumbo does.
    I’d be eating all the time if I lived in Penang. I love the food!

  19. Hahahaha, after a while, it’d become difficult to see straight. The rum and the heat take a toll.
    Glad you like the pigs — and I’m glad now I was able to take the shot.

  20. That food looks delicious! I love the shot of the pigs! When I was in Spain once I saw a display where they rubberbanded a cellphone to a dead pig’s had. People are funny!

  21. Ha, love the pigs all festive;-) I definitely try street food when I travel, it’s a great way to both eat cheap and eat like a local! My favorite has been the street creperies in Paris…love me some Nutella crepes!

  22. I try to eat street food when I travel. It’s a good way to see what’s popular with the locals and if there’s a line up full of locals then it must mean it is good.
    My favourite street food from Jamaica was the jerk chicken and soft white bread that actually tasted quite different than here in North America – it was much more doughy and was great for mopping up the sauce and the spices.


  23. Street food is what you have to eat to have a feel of local life, I always say. Jamaica would be an interesting discovery when it comes to food, I would guess.

  24. Yes, the bread here — we call it “hard dough” — is perfect for eating with anything but especially with meals that have a lot of sauces.

  25. I agree, street food is the best. Unfortunately, I’d probably go hungry in France – no eggs or chocolate for me. Yes, I know – I’m weird!

  26. We always try street food. All positive experiences except for one time in Asia when we had stomach issues

    Love the sunglasses on the pig’s head

    Crayfish soup looks delicious!

  27. So sorry about that, Cheryl. Street food is usually pretty good but there’s always a little bit of a risk.
    The soup was very good, and the pig in the sunglasses was pretty funny.

  28. Oh I love this post, it’s real motivation for me to plan a trip to Jamaica.
    I’m so happy you were able to capture those dressed up pigs. hilarious!

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