You just never know what you will find when you wander the strip malls of South Miami. We parked in the shade on the coat tails of a cold front that left Cheyenne comfortably refreshed in the car and went looking for lunch.
This formidable woman, Veronica, presides over the cash register at Jamaica Kitchen ( the website) though the restaurant is actually owned by a Chinese-Jamaican couple hence the listings for Chinese foods among the Caribbean staples.
I have long wanted to try the national dish of Jamaica which I have read about and never tasted. Veronica was quite surprised to see a white man (her words) order the ackee and salt fish. How bad could it be? Can twelve million Jamaicans have crap taste buds?
We ordered lunch portions which was plenty of food though I suppose the slightly more expensive, huge, dinner size would feed two if you can find two white people who want to eat ackee and salt fish for instance.
Ackee is fairly bland and starchy, cooked to the consistency of a firm pudding the fruit resembles, vaguely, a flavor-free banana. The pieces of salted cod have a medium strength fish flavor and might be too much for bland taste buds that only ever see mild fish like halibut and snapper. I thought the whole twelve dollar dish was excellent. If ackee seeds are included by accident they will poison you and kill you so you need to trust the chef.
My wife also an adventurous eater paused momentarily when I mentioned the fate of ackee seed eaters, but she voted my dish "Okay" while her own curried goat got big thumbs up
We've had curried goat before in the former British West Indies in wraps called roti so her's wasn't the weird dish this time around. British Caribbean food is an acquired taste for a lot of people but I have enjoyed it always on trips to the Caribbean.
There's nothing subtle about it so as daily cooking it might be a bit robust but every once in a while it makes for a pleasant change. In Jamaica ackee and salt fish with pancakes ("Johnny cakes" in the local lingo) is eaten at breakfast which boggles the mind slightly but they are a tough resilient people with a penchant for rib sticking foods.
Jamaica Kitchen sells packaged food stuffs sold in Jamaica and also sometimes made in Jamaica. Who could resist cock flavored soup mix? Curried cock anyone? And with my taste buds permanently ruined by a childhood in English public schools a fruit bun loaf, a heavy fruit cake contraption, looks irresistible. My wife allowed me to bring home a packet of Jamaican corn meal porridge instead.
My wife was drawn more to the ghastly sour Chinese plums preserved and sold in small packages to people with asbestos palates. The fierce lady at the counter mellowed out a bit with the white ackee eater and finally agreed to let me take her picture.
Cheyenne loved her goat bones and rice and peas
Jamaica Kitchen is near my wife's arthritis specialist so we will be back. I think I will order another plate of ackee and salt fish next time. Call me weird but I liked it.