Eating Jamaica! Street Stalls & Road Food. Sweet Sop & Swims Soup. Edible Irie!!
A colorful mobile food stall.
Unlike our over-regulated, food police, ban happy country, most other places around the world don't have street food, it's just food. In these parts of the world, food is where you find it. There's not as much culinary segregation that breathes down people's throats, judging with smug notions of what makes one type of food superior to another. Who cares if the food comes off a truck or out of a shack. The most important question: Is it delicious?
Swims soups up!
There are roadside food stalls all over the island of Jamaica, the most renown being Faith's Pen on the main road to Ocho Rios from Spanish Town. There you can find over 30 food stalls packed in a neat row cooking and vending all manner of jerk meats to something called mannish water which is an interesting name for Jamaican goat soup.
Although my travel friends and I didn't make a stop there, we did taste some of the other special Jamaican bites at other lesser known stalls.
At one particular stall, my tiny group huddled under the zinc roof covered eatery to try some corn stewed in swims soup. "Swims" is local patois for shrimp or crawfish. In this case it was crawfish. Bits of the mudbug were revealed as the soup was scooped out of the hefty pot. The corn had an unusual consistency not familiar to me. The bite didn't have a crisp, moist pop, instead I was greeted with a mealy dense slightly dry mouthfeel, saturated with savory shellfish flavors.
"Swims" soup cooks so long that its color is deep orange with a flavor that's equally penetrated. Every mouthful acknowledged the crawfish and variety of Jamaican seasonings. Scattered throughout this hearty broth are Jamaican dumplings called "twists" made of flour and twisted in the palm to form its shape.
Fruit stalls brimming with tropical fruits both native and non are a common sight in the narrow passages heading into the mountainous regions. Here you'll find Jamaican bananas, papayas, mangoes, star fruit, bread fruit, ackee, sweet as well as sour sop.
Armor plated with deliciousness!
The sweet sop armored with green scales reminds me of South American cherimoya with its creamy, custard-like sweetness. It was a pleasureful dessert break.
Custard coated seeds.
Behind the fruit stall was a raging river aggravated further by a sudden downpour, churning up the muddy river bed to resemble Willy Wonka's frothy chocolate stream. It was like enjoying nature's snack while watching nature's television.
Another common quick snack available in both stalls and fast food brick n' mortars was the ubiquitous Jamaican patties. These fried pies came filled with a variety of minced meats that were ground to the point of almost becoming a meat paste. The ones from Tastee were chicken and beef, each with its own sharp spices and kick of heat, all wrapped with a light flaky crust.
Another day in Jamaica. Another great day of eating. Irie!