One of the best ways to eat healthy is to tantalise your taste buds with various textures, flavours and spices. Jamaica has a great food tradition with some delicious dishes, but it is also fun to eat foods from other cultures. You can do this by getting adventurous and mixing different spice blends for your meals, plus utilising various herbs in unusual ways from your typical repertoire. Fortunately, our local supermarkets are becoming more appealing with additional products which we would not have seen on shelves a few years ago. I get many requests for 'foreign' dishes so I'm satisfying that request today.
Another important observation of note is the emergence of new restaurants offering dishes from around the world. There was an era in which there were only Chinese restaurants, and for international fare you had to stay at a North Coast hotel. But now there are Mexican, Italian, Lebanese, Japanese and Indian, to name a few. Jamaicans are exposed via travel, television and the Internet. People want to continue eating these foods and preparing them in their own kitchens. Nowadays it is much easier to do, as it is no longer the case of certain ingredients being unavailable. Of course, for those in some rural areas the variety may not be as huge; and for others, a matter of cost. Always use substitutions and create your own interpretation of a dish; that is the fun of cooking: creating your own twist. Recipes are not set in stone.
Hands down, though, Chinese food remains the consistent choice for Jamaicans outside of local food. The Chinese way of cooking food is quite healthy as many dishes are steamed, boiled and roasted. Another important feature of this revered cuisine is the fact that vegetables play a major role. Jamaica also has a historic connection to China, as many Jamaicans have roots there. Likewise, we have a large population of Indian descent. Jamaicans love curries, but locally tend to eat a more yellow turmeric-based one. Turmeric is grown here, which some in the country call "red ginger" due to its bright orangey red hue and physical appearance which is similar to our famous pungent ginger. However, many curries from the continent have an onion and tomato base used with various spices.
JuicyChef's Jamaican Chinese Roast Chicken
I have had Chinese roast chicken all over but the Jamaican version is extra special. No wonder it is one of the most popular menu items. Some recipes you find will call for sesame oil, but mine is oil-free. Others have brown sugar or honey, but for me, Hoisin sauce is quite sufficient for that slight sweetness on your palate so no need to add extra sugar. For extra spice, serve with some chopped Scotch bonnet in soy sauce.
1.5kg/ 3lbs whole chicken, cut in half
1 Tsp Five Spice Powder
2 Tbsp reduced sodium No MSG soy sauce
1 Tbsp Vegetarian Hoisin Sauce (it's what I had but regular will do)
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 Inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
4 stalks of escallion, roughly chopped, reserve some green bits for garnish
125ml/1/2 cup water
Rub Five Spice powder all over chicken halves and season with a little salt.
Next, mix all the other ingredients together, except the water, and rub all over the chicken.
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 375F.
Add water to baking pan and place chicken halves skin side down and roast for 40 minutes covered with foil, remove from oven, turn over chicken and place back in oven uncovered and continue roasting until skin is brown and chicken is cooked through about another 30 minutes.
Remove chicken from oven and chop into pieces, place on a serving plate and pour over cooking juices.
JuicyChef's Lower Fat Goat Rogan Josh
Rogan Josh is found in many Indian and Pakistani restaurants around the world. It is from the disputed Kashmiri region. Lamb is typically used, but I am using goat. It's cheaper, local and familiar to Jamaicans, plus it's the healthiest red meat. I trim off the fat. The list of spices sound long but it is worth it. Many authentic dishes call for ghee, which is clarified butter and copious amounts of it. Use a light vegetable oil to cut down fat content, as well as low fat yoghurt so none of the authentic creaminess is lost. These little tricks help you eat healthier without losing flavour. Serve with brown Basmati rice instead of white, naan or roti, extra yoghurt and chutney.
2 large onions, finely diced
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2-inch piece of ginger, washed, peeled and grated
2 Bay leaves
2 Tbsp light vegetable oil
1kg/2lbs lean goat meat
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tsp ground coriander
1/2 Tsp turmeric
1/2 Tsp chilli powder
1 Tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 Tsp sea salt
8 Cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed
1 can crushed tomatoes
125g/1/2 cup Greek low fat plain yoghurt
500ml/ 2 cups water
In a large casserole, add vegetable oil over medium heat and add the onions, garlic, ginger, Bay leaves and cloves and cook for about 10 minutes.
Add goat and increase heat to high and cook until meat is brown, then add spices, salt, pepper and crushed tomatoes.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and stir in the yoghurt, mixing well until it is incorporated and then pour in the water. Cover and simmer for two hours or until meat is tender.
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