What is Caribbean Jerk Chicken?
Almost 10 years ago I asked, “what is Caribbean jerk chicken?” when I visited Jamaica with my mom. We had never traveled there before but had heard mention of it on our way. We understood and were surprised by the descriptions of the taste we had heard. The location we stayed at served fresh mangos (in some form) with every meal, and served a lot of Caribbean jerk dishes. Including spaghetti. Say what? I remember being so thrown off by that one that I can’t remember what it actually tasted like! (Maybe I’ll learn to make it myself so I can try it again).
A lot of people think “sweet and hot” when they think of Caribbean jerk chicken, but that isn’t always the case. “Hot” is always the case. To get technical, the “jerking” part requires puncturing the chicken and filling it with spices/marinade.
When you make Caribbean jerk chicken, you’re supposed to use a whole chicken if you want to use the traditional method. You should also smoke the meat, if possible, to keep it all authentic! Because in reality, smoking meat (back in the day) helped keep pesky bugs away from it. Here in America, I believe any of us that have heard the phrase “jerk chicken” automatically think of the spices that go on the chicken. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, though, because the spices are superb!
It tends to look like a dark brown or black paste when made correctly from the rub, “jerking” (poking), and smoking process. But boy, does it taste good. I remember the size, smell, and shape of the first piece I had. It wasn’t very appealing to me at first glance and sniff.
My mother advised me to close my eyes and take a bite, just to experience the culture, if nothing else.
So I did.
I remember that, unfortunately, (my piece, anyway) it was a little drier than I now realize it should’ve been. But the flavor, the char… Oh my goodness! I can almost taste it now! It was pretty spicy, a lot spicier than I imagined it would be. I got a strong, internal whiff of pepper upon that first bite and knew I was going to be full and happy despite the dryness of that piece of chicken.
With my second bite, a slightly sweet paste stuck to the tip of my tongue. That’s where I got hooked. I already enjoy spicy food… maybe too much. Add a smoked outer layer and a pasty hint of sweetness? I’ll be MIA until the meat is gone.
I’m so grateful to have experienced some authentic Jamaican cuisine by the actual Caribbean Sea. (Which is, by far, the most beautiful sea I’ve ever seen).
I did get sick of mangos for about a year, and grew tired of jerk seasoning. I already ate a lot of mangos due to my grandmother, though. I only grew tired of the seasoning because we may’ve bought one (or 5) bottles of it at the international airport.
I believe I’m ready to ask my stepfather to learn how to prepare Caribbean jerk chicken at this point! If you’ve never had it before, please do yourself a favor and try it or learn an authentic recipe for it!