Jamaican Jerk Chicken is a favorite food for many people. The hot and spicy dish is packed with delicious flavor and a lot of history. Jerk cooking is a cooking style from Jamaica that uses a marinade or paste that has pimento, also known as allspice, and habanero peppers. The chicken, beef, fish or pork is marinated and slow smoked before being served. This style of cooking is rich in flavor and history, dating back over 2,500 years ago.
The early settlers of Jamaica, the Arawak indians, used a very similar style of cooking by slow smoking and drying out beef in the sun. Their technique of drying up the beef to take on long journeys still goes on today and is known as “jerky”. When the Arawak indians were enslaved by Spain, some were able to escape to Jamaica where they used their style of cooking to preserve their short supply of meat. The meat was spiced and wrapped in leaves, using the spices that are used today to make Jerk chicken.
The word “Jerk” is actually a Spanish word that comes from the Peruvian word charqui, which is a word that describes dried strips of meat. It first started of as a noun which the became a verb known as “Jerking”, which was used to describe poking holes into meat so the spices can penetrate the meat. Others believe the word Jerk came from the turning of the meat in the marinade or from the way the meat strip is jerked while cooking.
Today, there are many authentic places in Jamaica to find Jerk chicken. The famous dish can be found in shacks and huts all around the island. For a traditional taste, most tourists go to the Ocho Rios Jerk Center. They serve chicken, pork, fish and conch in an open and casual environment where food is served to you at a table. Other tourists flock to the famous Ultimate Jerk Center which is right on the main highway to Runaway Bay. A favorite of locals as well, they serve authentic jerk chicken will a fully stocked bar. Be sure to plan a trip to Jamaica to try their historic and world-famous dish.