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Jamaican cuisine includes a mixture of cooking techniques, flavours, spices and influences from the indigenous people on the island of Jamaica, and the Spanish, British, Africans, Indian and Chinese who have inhabited the island. It is also influenced by the crops introduced into the island from tropical Southeast Asia. Jamaican cuisine includes various dishes from the different cultures brought to the island with the arrival of people from elsewhere. Other dishes are novel or a fusion of techniques and traditions. In addition to ingredients that are native to Jamaica, many foods have been introduced and are now grown locally. A wide variety of seafood, tropical fruits and meats are available.
Some Jamaican cuisine dishes are variations on the cuisines and cooking styles brought to the island from elsewhere. These are often modified to incorporate local produce. Others are novel and have developed locally. Popular Jamaican dishes include curry goat, fried dumplings, ackee and saltfish (cod) – the national dish of Jamaica – fried plantain, "jerk", steamed cabbage and "rice and peas" (pigeon peas or kidney beans). Jamaican cuisine has been adapted by African, Indian, British, French, Spanish, Chinese influences. Jamaican patties and various pastries and breads are also popular as well as fruit beverages and Jamaican rum.
Jamaican cuisine has spread with emigrations, especially during the 20th century, from the island to other nations as Jamaicans have sought economic opportunities in other areas.
The Spanish, the first European arrivals to the island contributed dishes such as the vinegary concoction escovitched fish (Spanish escabeche) contributed by Spanish Jews. Later, Cantonese/Hakka influences developed the Jamaican patty, an empanada styled turnover filled with spiced meat. African cuisine developed on the island as a result of waves of slavery introduced by the European powers. More Chinese and East Indian influences can also be found in Jamaican cuisine, as a result of indentured labourers who replaced slaves after emancipation brought their own culinary talents (especially curry, which Jamaican chefs sometimes use to season goat meat for special occasions).
African, Indian, American, Chinese and British cuisines are not new to the island. Through many years of British colonialism the cuisine developed many habits of cooking particular to a trading colony.
The Jamaican cuisine is quite diverse and mention must be made of the Rastafarian influence. Rastafarians have a vegetarian approach to preparing food, cooking, and eating, and have introduced a host of unique vegetarian dishes to the Jamaican cuisine. They do not eat pork, and the strict ones do not eat meat, including poultry and fish. There are even some who believe in cooking with little or no salt and cooking in an 'Ital' way.
Other popular desserts include potato pudding, gizzada (a small tart shell with sweet spiced coconut filling), grater cake, toto (dessert) (a small coconut cake), banana fritters, coconut drops, plantain tart.
Tie A Leaf, or blue drawers is a dish made by combining a starch (usually cornmeal or cassava) with coconut milk, then wrapped and tied in banana leaf before boiling.
Asham is parched corn that is ground and combined with brown sugar.
Jamaican cuisine is available throughout North America, the United Kingdom, and other places with a sizeable Jamaican population. In the United States, a large number of restaurants are located throughout New York's boroughs, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and other metropolitan areas. In Canada, Jamaican restaurants can be found in the Toronto metropolitan area, as well as Vancouver, Montreal, and Ottawa. Jamaican dishes are also featured on the menus of Bahama Breeze, a US-based restaurant chain owned by Darden Restaurants.
Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill is a chain of about 120 franchised restaurants found throughout the U.S. These restaurants sell Jamaican patties, buns, breads, and dinner and lunch dishes. They also supply food to several institutions in New York.
In 2001 Port Royal started manufacturing authentic style Jamaican Patties in London and are available in Tesco, Asda, Morrissons and Caribbean takeaways across UK. A Patty is the Caribbean version of a Cornish Pasty, pastry with a meat filling.