If you wanted to fill a Jamaican care box with food that someone might miss from yaad, this list has got you covered. Here are some authentic souvenirs from Jamaica in the food category. It nicely complements my Jamaican gift guide if you’re looking for other gifts for a Jamaican man or woman.
As a Jamaican still living and loving life here, I’m going to be featuring brands that are made here in Jamaica or at least are owned by Jamaicans. So stock up on all these Jamaican foods and make yourself some ackee and saltfish or present these items in a gift box to someone you love.
In this post you'll find:
Food Souvenirs from Jamaica
So I have to start the list with ackee because it’s Jamaica’s national dish and something I certainly crave whenever I am away from home for a long period of time. If I ever move away from Jamaica, it has to be somewhere that I can get fresh ackee or this particular brand that comes in a tin.
Jamaican Bammy and Coconut Milk
What are you going to pair your ackee with? If you’re away from home, you’ll be impressed if someone makes you bammy! Or at least gifts you with some, they might not know how to prepare this delicious delicacy right. Nobody wants greasy, soggy fried bammy!
If you’re going to make bammy then you’re probably going to want to make some festivals too. Jamaican festival is a flaky fried dumpling or Johnnycake with an elongated shape that’s sweetened with sugar. It is delicious and mostly served with fried fish on the beach. It’s also served with jerk chicken at the streetside jerk pan or with breakfast foods such as ackee and saltfish and calaloo (Jamaican greens). It’s easy to make from scratch but this festival mix makes it even easier.
Soup in Jamaica starts with a pack of cock soup. It’s not until we get out into the wider world do we realize just how funny the name is. We assure you, there are no cocks in the cock soup. Well, not that kind.
Adding this to your soup base or to your rice, your pasta or your saute dishes turns the flavour up to a whole other level. You’ve gotta try this stuff. It’ll be your secret ingredient when you want to impress.
We grow up on this stuff. We use these very tough crackers to serve hors d’oeuvres, top with cheese, peanut butter and jam, or plain ol’ salted butter, crushed into our porridge or we dip it in our mint tea. When a Jamaican is hungry, don’t be surprised if they draw a cup of tea and two tough crackers.
Speaking of tea, to a Jamaican, it is a cure-all for everything. Whether it’s ginger tea, mint tea, cerasee tea or a little bush tea (bush unknown) we love us some tea. Feeling sick? Drink likkle tea.
We can’t leave out the snacks here. Jamaican kids grow up on banana chips, Big Foot snacks and spice bun with Tastee cheese.
When it comes to banana chips, the debate rages on… Chippies or St. Mary’s? Personally, I love the light crunch of St. Mary’s but the Chippies fanatics are savage beasts. Best to find out which is your friend’s personal favorite or get both to be safe. You’ll love comparing them yourself. Banana chips are light, salty, and crunchy as opposed to sweet since they are made from green bananas.
Big Foot is a cheesy snack that I don’t think originated in Jamaica but it’s Caribbean and loved by all. Chee Zees is a Jamaican cheesy snack that’s another crowd favorite if you want to stick with purely Jamaican snacks.
Honorable mention for favourite Jamaican snacks include:
- Shirley Biscuits
- Tamarind Balls
- Plantain Chips
- Pepper Shrimps
- all washed down with a bottle of Ting (grapefruit soda) or a tin of Supligen.
Now let’s talk about some bun and cheese, which needs it’s own section.
Jamaican Bun and Cheese
Jamaicans love a fresh round spice bun with a thick slice of Tastee cheese, a brand of processed cheese product that absolutely doesn’t melt but even in my big old age (one of my favorite Jamaican sayings) I still love this cheese.
You’ve gotta get this round bun and this tin of cheese for it to really be authentic. Protip: warm your bun in the microwave for just 20-30 seconds to get it perfectly soft. This is top-tier adult snacking that I no longer partake in since going keto. (Ok every once in a blue moon, I will admit.
If it’s Easter time, you’ve got to upgrade from the spice bun to the massive traditional Easter bun. Here, the debate rages around pieces of fruit being in the bun or no. I don’t mind biting into a bun with fruits in it but again, you’re gonna want to ask preference if this is a gift. This is my favorite Easter bun.
This one is a close second and this one a close third. It’s hard to not love a good sweet Jamaican Easter bun unless you’re unfortunate enough to get one that’s dry. Protip: soak it with some white rum or red label wine. Bun and rum cake in one! Ok, maybe this is just me.
I’ll close out this list with some spices every Jamaican has in their cupboard because you know we love our food well seasoned and spicy.
Ask a Jamaican, we’ve all got some all-purpose seasoning that we use on every and anything, some curry powder, some oxtail sauce, some wet jerk seasoning and some dry jerk seasoning and a little browning because we don’t like white chicken. Tip just a little browning in the pot, not too much, or the chicken will have too much colour. Tip a little into your stew beef and your oxtail too.
Then we have several bottles of pepper sauce to add a little spice to the food when it done cook. This goes especially for me and the parents out there who can’t add too much spice when cooking lest the children bawl fi peppa.
And there you have it. A nice list of Jamaican food souvenirs authentic to my island home. Did I leave off anything? Let me know in the comments.
Oh, if you want to try your hand at making Jamaican meals the authentic way, this cookbook sits on my coffee table and is one of my favorites because it teaches traditional Jamaican cooking methods and recipes.