Jamaica’s National Dish – Ackee & Saltfish
Jamaica’s Traditional Breakfast
Jamaica’s national dish is Ackee and Saltfish. Jamaicans say its the traditional breakfast dish but I would and do eat it anytime!
Ackee is a fruit that grows on the Ackee tree, and it actually looks like a fruit when its still on the tree.
Picture of ackee tree
Before ackee can be cooked it needs to be picked from the tree and taken out of its pretty red skin. What’s inside doesn’t look like a fruit nor does it look the least bit appetizing. In my opinion it looks like a bunch of beetle-like bugs with big heads. This is a bag of fresh ackee that was picked in our friend’s yard, right before we decapitated the little critters. In other words, we had to remove the large dark seeds from it before being cooked.
Picture of fresh ackee
Ackee and saltfish is usually served with dumplings, boiled or fried. I personally like the fried dumplings better with it so I can sop up the grease left on my plate from the saltfish. Saltfish is just what it sounds like….salty white fish. I have yet to find it here where I live so when I make this dish I just buy any white fish and soak it in saltwater overnight. Ironically the Jamaicans soak their saltfish in fresh water to tone down the salty flavor.
When cooking this dish the saltfish is cooked in a pan with oil and random other veggies like onions and green peppers. The ackee is added last because it doesn’t really need to be cooked, just heated. My son thinks the completed dish looks like eggs because of ackee’s yellow color. And the taste isn’t what you’d expect. Ackee has a distinct taste that I can’t really describe so you’ll have to try it for yourself and let me know.
Picture of ackee and saltfish
Fresh ackee is far superior to the canned version I have to buy at home. Its available in some Caribbean food stores where I live and it definitely comes at a premium of roughly TEN dollars a can!!