Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Fri November 20 2015

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  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | November 20, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    Get An Authentic Taste of Jamaica at Scotchies

    Get An Authentic Taste of Jamaica at Scotchies

    All photos by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

    Jamaica's jerk chicken dish has gained so much popularity around the world that you can usually find a version of it in most big cities. However, I have to say, I'm a snob when it comes to Jamaican food and if it's not authentic, I won't touch it. That means that I don't go near the various jerk shacks and or dishes that litter trendy menus because I know they are just interpretations of the jerk process and not the real thing.

    Authentic jerk involves grilling over sweet wood and pimento logs in an open pit. Trust me, there's no open pit in the back of your local hipster eatery. But it's the open pits covered with these Jamaican woods that gives the jerk its flavor and the most popular place to taste it is at Scotchies Jerk Centre.

    There are three Scotchies locations in Jamaica; I've tried the resort-friendly Montego Bay and Ocho Rios restaurants so I was excited to visit the big city version in Kingston. It did not disappoint.

    The Kingston Scotchies is the largest and the signature thatched huts spread out in a lush garden with smoke from the fire wafting through, was like a jerk eating paradise. The menu includes jerk chicken, jerk pork, jerk sausage and roasted fish with sides of  rice and peas, plantains, roasted breadfruit, festivals (fired, sweet dough) and bammy (fried cassava).

    You can actually get a glimpse of the meats cooking on the wood in the back of the restaurant. It's the wood, not heavily applied sauces, that gives real jerk its smoky flavor. The meats are slow-cooked until they're tender and bursting with flavor from the wood and seasoning.

    Scotchies has a secret jerk marinade recipe but I tasted thyme, lemon and lots of the famous scotch bonnet peppers. Authentic jerk doesn't really need sauce, the smokiness already supplies tastiness but Scotchies provides tall, yellow bottles of sauce for spice lovers.  The history of jerk preparation dates back to the original inhabitants of Jamaica, the Arawak Indians. 

    They slow-cooked meat in the sun or over a fire and used spices to preserve it during long journeys. Later, the maroons, who escaped slavery by creating hard-to-penetrate settlements in the Blue Mountains, caught wild boars, cooked the meat in open pits lined with wood from the surrounding pimento trees. Then they layered the meat in spices and wrapped it in banana leaves for preservation. Minus the banana leaves, this is the same method used in Jamaica today, hundreds of years later.

    Scotchies in Kingston attracts a steady lineup of customers for the jerk chicken, as well as a large outdoor bar. Go early to avoid the crowds and order a good sampling of the meats and sides, which are all inexpensive. The starchy sides help to soak up the fiery build-up,  so order accordingly. I promise, you'll leave with a healthy appreciation and love for authentic Jamaican jerk.

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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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