Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ackee and Saltfish

I had lunch at Island Breeze Jamaican Cuisine located at 1063 S. Mount Vernon Ave in Colton, CA 92324 (phone: 909-514-0771) and had what the proprietor called the "Jamaican national dish," ackee and saltfish. 
Ackee, the yellow food on the left side of the plate above, is a fruit related to lychee and longan and native to West Africa. It has a pear shaped fruit that turns red or yellow-orange when ripe and splits open. Inside are three large black seeds surrounded by "soft creamy or spongy, white to yellow flesh" called arils. Only the fleshy arils are eaten after boiling for about 30 minutes. Raw ackee, the seeds and the inner red tissue of ripe ackee arils have alkaloid toxins that can cause Jamaican vomiting sickness which can include vomiting, seizures and death. Ackee was imported to Jamaica from West Africa before 1778, likely on a slave ship. Salt cod, a staple on the slave ships, is boiled with ackee, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and bacon. My guess is that Captain George Cannon probably had this dish during his travels.  Ackee and saltfish is often served alongside hard dough bread, mid-right of the plate below, and boiled green banana, bottom of the plate below. 
This is what I ate at Island Breeze. Ackee is one of the 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die and "looks, tastes, and feels very similar to creamy scrambled eggs." 
The salt cod  was in very small pieces and there was not a significant amount. After making salt cod, I understand why, because it is not very tasty. The ackee on the other hand, is quite good. It really does taste and feel like scrambled eggs. The hard dough bread was kind of good in a weird way. It was very firm, but giving with texture, which made it kind of fun to eat. The boiled green plantain was very ordinary. It was very bland and after a few bites, I left the rest. I enjoyed this dish very much because of the uniqueness, my family connection and my understanding of the shipping and slave trade. My dish also came with fried plantains, although they were not as sweet as those I had at Dhat Island or those I made at home

1 comment:

  1. ha ha.. if you try cooking salted cod fish at home and you dont know what you are doing it certaily will not taste good because if you overcook it will loose the flavor and if you undercook it will be too salty. good luck experimenting.