Imagine yourself staring off into the seemingly endless blue waters of the Caribbean from the shores of Ocho Rios. As anyone that has been to the idyllic seaside port will attest, those daydreams are well-founded because the northern shore of Jamaica never disappoints. In fact, a vacation to Ocho Rios on a Carnival cruise is dreamlike from the moment you set foot on the ship and begs you to fully immerse yourself in the experience.
Of course, immersing yourself means embracing the sights, sounds, people and culture of the port. In the case of Ocho Rios, that means sampling the local cuisine the entire Caribbean is famous for. In other words, when walking around the beautiful sea town and soaking in its unique atmosphere, don’t hesitate to sample the local fare while exploring the many things to do in Ocho Rios. To get you started, we’ve gathered a few ideas on what to eat in Ocho Rios.
1. Jerk Chicken
Although there’s a decent chance you might have already tried this famous dish elsewhere in the past, we assure you it has an authenticity and local taste in Ocho Rios that is tough to match anywhere else. In fact, given the importance of the different spices that let Jerk Chicken ignite your taste buds, the only way to sample a truly authentic Jerk Chicken is in an old Caribbean town like Ocho Rios where the spices are indigenous and the recipes handed down over generations.
Depending on where you try Jerk Chicken, the meat can either be dry-rubbed or soaked in a marinade. No matter which you choose, however, the mixture of native spices and Scotch bonnet peppers will definitely put a bounce in your step and clear up any congestion. Not to fear, though, because the heat isn’t oppressive, just delicious and bold.
2. Ackee and Saltfish
Remember when we said immersing yourself in Jamaican culture means sampling truly authentic local food? Well, Ackee and Saltfish is precisely that: a genuine local dish that you would be hard-pressed to find back home. Based on the national fruit of Jamaica, the Ackee, this traditional dish has been a staple in Jamaica for centuries.
A delightful combination of salt cod (usually pulled fresh from the ocean) and Ackee – along with a handful of peppers, fruits and spices native to the island – it can be served over a bed of rice or coleslaw for a refreshing meal on a warm summer day, or along with dumplings or potatoes for a hearty dinner meal.
Depending on where you live, you might already be familiar with oxtails, particularly if you’ve spent much time in the American South. Even if you’ve already tried them, however, oxtails in the Ocho Rios cuisine have that famous Jamaican flair that separates them from any other version you’ve likely tried.
Usually slow-cooked in a stew with ginger, peppers and a variety of different spices, the meat is tender and mouth-watering. Sometimes prepared with a bit of soy and allspice, the oxtail in Ocho Rios can have subtle hints of African and even Asian influence within its dizzying Caribbean tastes.
4. Pepper Pot Soup
This classic Jamaican dish can be found throughout Ocho Rios and prepared vegetarian or, as a truer example to Ocho Rios traditional foods, with pork, stewed beef and shrimp. Either way, prepare those taste buds because they’re in for something fantastic and new.
Once again taking full advantage of the natural bounty found on Jamaica, Pepper Pot Soup uses callaloo, a local leafy vegetable similar to kale, as well as yams, Scotch bonnet peppers, okra and green onions to form its basis. As the vegetables soften, pigtail, beef and shrimp can be added for a bit of protein. Once fully cooked, Pepper Pot Soup is a perfect accompaniment to a relaxing dinner on the shores of Ocho Rios as you look out over the Caribbean.
5. Curry Chicken and Goat
Another example of Ocho Rios cuisine fully utilizing traditional Jamaican ingredients, both Curry Chicken and Curry Goat are commonplace on the island but, we assure you, will be anything but commonplace to your palate. Although both are generally prepared the same – slow-cooked meat mixed with curry, onions, peppers, potatoes, and spices – there’s still a fair amount of difference between the two.
Popularized after the massive Indian immigration into Jamaica almost two centuries ago, the dishes are another mix of cultures with a distinct Caribbean taste that is endearing and entirely satisfying. Curry Goat in particular fills the belly and warms the body with its perfectly cooked, incredibly lean cubed protein that is one of the Ocho Rios dishes served over the holidays or on special occasions.
6. Rundown Lobster
Don’t let the name fool you. Rundown Lobster is quintessentially Jamaican, absolutely delicious and readily found throughout many restaurants in Ocho Rios. Ocean-fresh lobster pulled from the Caribbean is prepared in a coconut milk and spice reduction, leaving the lobster succulent and infused with a mild coconut taste that screams Caribbean and will certainly leave you wanting more.
While patties can be found throughout Jamaica, they can be especially convenient for a quick but satisfying meal while shopping in Ocho Rios. Basically a pastry prepared with a variety of different fillings – including many classics like Curry Chicken, shrimp, vegetarian, and traditional beef and cheese – patties are a local favorite you are sure to love.
Ocho Rios is an idyllic Caribbean gem that perfectly represents the best of what Jamaica has to offer. During your Caribbean cruise, be sure to sample these traditional dishes, many of which are tough to find anywhere else, and immerse yourself in a rich, endearing culture and cuisine.