The Easter season is already here. For many, it is the observance of lent, a period of fasting and prayer, or giving up certain temptations or distractions in your life. For some, it means Easter bunnies with baskets of multicolored Easter Eggs or chocolates shaped like bunnies and eggs. In the Caribbean, Easter means Carnival, a season of soca fetes, costume parades, and parties galore. Besides the non-stop celebrations, the things Jamaicans anticipate the most is Jamaican Easter food.
Although these foods are enjoyed for most of the year, they are always in high demand come Easter time. No Jamaican Easter is complete without these five dishes.
This is a tradition adopted from the British and is similar to their Hot Cross Buns. Jamaicans have however put their own stamp on it. This sweet molasses/brown sugar spiced bun is the signature food of the season. The bun is best partnered with Tastee Cheddar Cheese but you can enjoy with any cheese of your liking.
If you’re not a fan of the fruits, try the penny bun, which is a small round raisin-less version of the Easter bun. It is available all year round and is a quick and economical lunch option.
Fish is the staple of the season as many Jamaicans cut red meat from their diets during the period of lent. It is a common practice for locals to not cook on Good Friday. Sprats are tiny fishes, from the herring family. They are cleaned with water and vinegar then seasoned with salt and pepper and fried in advance. Enjoy a dozen sprat on Hardo Bread preferably from National or The Captain’s Bakery. For added niceness, you can make the bread warm then lather with butter, fold a couple of sprats in a slice then wash down with an ice-cold Red Stripe Beer. Cold Lemonade will also do the trick.
A fully loaded snapper steamed in butter with Okra, carrots, and other vegetables will have you licking all ten fingers. This is Jamaican Easter food at its finest. It is best paired with Excelsior Water Crackers, also called Tough Crackers (Patois: Tuff Crackaz) . Another scrumptious side dish is Bammy, a cassava bread that can be steamed or fried. If you don’t want the hassle of preparing it yourself, there are tons of places around the island to enjoy amazing fish. Gloria’s in Port Royal and Little Ochie in Alligator Pond St. Elizabeth are two of the most popular.
4) Bulla & Pear
Bulla is a flat, hard, and round cake that is a longtime favorite sweet treat for Jamaicans. It is best enjoyed with Avocado which Jamaican simply refer to as pear. The pear that Americans are accustomed is referred to on the island as foreign pear so be careful to note the difference. If you ask any Jamaican for a pear best believe you will receive an avocado. Avocado is mostly out of season during Easter months but you may be lucky to find a few in local markets. In the absence of avocado, bulla can be enjoyed with butter or cheese or both. It is also great by itself.
Ackee and Saltfish is the National dish of Jamaica, and one of the “must-have” dishes when visiting the island, providing it is in season. Ackee is a bright yellow fruit with a butter-like texture. The fruit is native to West Africa and was brought to Jamaica during the 1700s. It can be found in other parts of the Caribbean but it is a staple in the Jamaican diet and it is often prepared with onion, tomato, peppers, and salted cod which is simply called Saltfish. Ackee is best consumed with Johnnycake/fried dumplings or roasted breadfruit. This is my personal favorite Jamaican Easter food, although I have it at any time that it is available.
Breadfruit has a bread like texture when roasted an can also be fried, baked or boiled. Although ackee is not a dish usually associated with Easter but is in abundance during the season and a great meat substitute.