Caribbean kick

Give any dish that signature Jamaican flavour with these foods.

Growing up in suburban Toronto in the '70s and '80s I was a typical Canadian kid with immigrant parents: my connection to my Jamaican heritage was mainly associated with the traditional dishes my mother would cook two or three times a week. At the dinner table my mother and father would regale me and my siblings with wonderful stories that had them reminiscing about luscious fruit and fragrant spices you could only get "back home."

Much has changed since then. Today, you can find most of those delicious items at any Toronto supermarket. Here are just a few delectable ingredients you can also enjoy for their original flavour and flair.


Scotch bonnet peppers

What comes to mind when I see a Scotch bonnet pepper is yowee! That's because it's what gives Jamaican jerk chicken its famous kick. This pepper is part of the chili pepper family and its closest cousin is the habanero. The Jamaican Scotch bonnet, however, is not only hotter but is reputed to be one of the hottest peppers in the world — so hot that when chopping Scotch bonnet peppers you should use gloves. However, the trick to reducing a lot of the heat is removing the seeds as well as the membrane found inside the pepper, which is where the fire is stored.


There are many names for this tropical fruit. In South America it's called guanabana, but in Jamaica it's soursop.

The flavour is so good yet so difficult to describe. It tastes like a combination of strawberry and pineapple with an underlying creamy flavour of coconut or banana. There is nothing like the taste of chilled soursop juice over ice.

These days, soursop is highly sought after because it is believed to have medicinal qualities that can kill cancer cells, although this has not been proven.


If you're not from the Caribbean and someone says pimento you probably think of the red pepper stuffed in a cocktail olive. However, for Jamaicans pimento is what we call allspice (which is one spice, not a combination of spices as many people think). In Jamaican cooking dried unripe pimento berries, whole or ground, are found in both savoury and sweet dishes. Not only is this spice used in the best jerk seasoning recipes, the wood of the pimento tree is used to smoke jerk meats to perfection, and is considered the secret "ingredient" in preparing authentic jerk.

Jamaican curry powder

Jamaica's love of curry originates from the influence of Indian cooking brought to the island by indentured workers in the 19th century. While there are many recipes for spice mixtures in India, what makes a Jamaican curry powder different from an Indian curry is that Jamaican curry powder usually contains pimento and Indian does not. Moreover, Indian curry powder tends to use black and green cardamom, while Jamaican curry powder does not. However, you don't need to buy "Jamaican" curry powder to make a delicious Jamaican curry dish. With the right recipe, you can use an all-purpose store brand with great results.