The Best Dressed Independence Table
A Jamaican Tradition of Sunday Lunch
Whether it's a regular Sunday lunch or one to commemorate Jamaica 60, a spread like this will hit all the right notes. Clockwise from top left: Sautéed green beans, fried ripe plantains, roasted carrots, rice and peas, garden salad, and brown stew chicken made from The Best Dressed Chicken.

Food and culture are inextricably linked. Cooking and eating together is social glue — a powerful means by which people solidify familial bonds.

Food is the most powerful of cultural expressions. It's a passport that allows seamless travel across borders.

"Jamaican food is known and enjoyed across the world for its exotic flavour," notes the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport in its Culinary Heritage publication. It continues: "What is now regarded as authentic Jamaican cuisine is an amalgam of foods from different cultures and people, including Tainos, Africans, European, Chinese and Indians. As each group of people came to Jamaica, they brought their own way of cooking, leaving their own delectable and indelible contribution to our culinary heritage.

"This culinary heritage includes the somewhat sacred Sunday lunch/dinner. How Jamaicans eat on a Sunday afternoon has roots in 15th-century England, where the Sunday roast was a celebration of the week and the coming together of the royal court. Without the exact ingredients, Jamaican cooks would come to tun dem han and mek fashion.

Traditional chicken fricassée is made with pieces of chicken simmered in a sauce made of cream and mushrooms. Early Jamaican cooks drew on their African ingenuity and employed techniques back home. By seasoning, marinating and browning the chicken, they developed a deep flavour without the need for expensive ingredients. This "brown stew" chicken dish has been with us since, and chicken has long been the choice protein for Jamaicans.

In pre-Independence Jamaica, buying a chicken that was already plucked and cleaned ("dressed" and ready for seasoning) was unheard of. Then, Jamaicans would raise chickens in their backyards and sell live birds to neighbours, family and friends. It was Jamaica Broilers founder Sydney Levy's dream to change all that and provide the convenience of dressed chickens to all Jamaican households. The idea soon caught on, and Jamaicans began to request the succulent, tasty and economical "dressed" chicken by name. Cue: The Best Dressed Chicken.

Brown stew chicken holds a special place in the hearts of Jamaicans. From an early age, we've learned to appreciate the dish's deep caramel, salty and spicy flavours. Top Chef host Kwame Onwuachi has Nigerian and Jamaican roots. In his recently published book My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chef, he writes of his interaction with Jamaican chef Alex D'Great over brown stew chicken.

"My nostrils flared as memories flowed into me. This was one of the dishes I remembered from my childhood — not from my mother's kitchen but from my father's girlfriends — and it was a small bright spot of my time with him. Alex showed me how he first marinated the chicken with raw sugar, tomato and onions, garlic, scallions, allspice, Scotch bonnet peppers, and Pickapeppa sauce, a sort of Jamaican Worcestershire sauce. As we stood side by side, we cooked together: marinating, then searing the chicken, adding stock and a bit of ketchup. The smells bloomed around us, and when I brought the spoon to taste the stew, I felt at home again."

Our palates are shaped, first and foremost, by our families of origin. That's where we learn how to eat. And these culinary traditions are imperative to preserving culture and history. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), "Cultural elements that lack a physical form but are instead expressed through knowledge, skill or ritual are equally important to shaping living culture. These include artistic performances, festivals, social practices, oral heritage, craftsmanship, and of course, gastronomic traditions."

In other words, through food, we make ourselves.

Alex D'Great's Brown Stew Chicken


4 lbs The Best Dressed Chicken Mixed Parts

6 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

1 tsp all-purpose seasoning

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tbsp ketchup

4 tbsp Pickapeppa sauce

2 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 stalk scallion, chopped

1 sprig thyme, chopped

2 Scotch bonnet pepper

1 tomato (diced)

1 clove garlic

1 onion, sliced


Put a Dutch pot or skillet with the oil to hot over medium heat. Remove the seasoning from the chicken pieces. Lower the heat (between medium/low). Put 3-4 pieces of chicken in the hot oil (depending on the size pot). Cover the pot and fry each side of the chicken until lightly brown (about 3-4 minutes, each side). Add all remaining ingredients and let simmer for 35 minutes.

Editor's Note

Win! Win! Win!

The Best Dressed Chicken is giving away a Hamper for Independence

Here's how you can win.

Read the article carefully and answer the following question:


The first, correct answer received will be gifted with The Best Dressed Chicken hamper.

"Great meals start with great ingredients. Our chicken is produced with No Antibiotics Ever, so Jamaicans can trust that their favourite brown stew chicken is good even before it gets to their table," says Lorraine Kemble, brand manager, The Best Dressed Chicken.
Chef Alex D'Great created an array of delicious sides to accompany the succulent brown stew chicken. Clockwise from top: fresh garden salad with local greens, mango, avocado and crumbled feta, traditional rice and peas, sautéed green beans, fried ripe plantains; and roasted carrots.
There's nothing like a cold refreshing glass of lime-laced soursop juice to accompany a filling Sunday lunch.
Brown stew chicken holds a special place in the hearts of Jamaicans, who appreciate the dish's deep caramel, salty and spicy flavours.
Hallelujah in the middle! A Jamaican Sunday lunch is not complete without a slice of something sweet. In this case, it's sweet potato pudding with the decadent "hell a top".
The beloved Jamaican Sunday meal of brown stew chicken with rice and peas starts with quality, fresh ingredients, including The Best Dressed Chicken.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at


  1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper; email addresses will not be published.
  2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.
  3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.
  4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.
  5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:
  6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:
  7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy