Mexico has its tacos; Trinidad & Tobago, its doubles.
If you’re adventuring around Jamaica, though, and find yourself in need of a quick, portable, and satisfying meal that fits in one hand, a patty is a must!
I wasn’t always of this opinion.
I first tried a Jamaican patty during a childhood visit to Kingston. I was probably around 11 or so, my understanding of the nuanced differences among our Caribbean islands as yet quite undeveloped.
Then as now, paté’s (what we called empanadas in the USVI) were a favorite of mine. So, when offered a patty in Jamaica, I assumed the similar-sounding name would yield a similar snack.
I was wrong… mostly.
Yes, the two hide seasoned meat and/or veggie surprises – ground beef, chicken, mixed vegetables, cheese, fish, etc. – inside thin and delicious shells. On balance, though, your patty shell will be much-much drier and flakier, leaving bits of bright yellow all over the more over-anxious and less cautious eaters among us.
Jamaican patty’s are also generally spicier, armed as they are with Scotch bonnet peppers.
All the tumeric that gives the shell its yellow color further sets the patty apart. Truly, nothing tastes quite like it – each steamy-spicy bite an ode to the very essence of Jamaica… literally.
The patty’s epicurean roots can be traced back to Cornish pasties brought to the island by the British in colonial times. The addition of seasoning and spicy peppers, of course, harkens to Jamaica’s strong African and Indian traditions.
Taken together, you have the culinary embodiment of Jamaica’s motto – “Out of Many, One People.”
Jamaican patties are available anywhere and everywhere in the world where you might find Jamaicans, though they always taste better in Jamaica, of course! If you want to try your hand at making them yourself, here’s a great recipe. You can also order them online here.