No Reservations ~ Jamaica

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There is more to Jamaica than reggae music, ganja and resorts.  Anthony Bourdain attempts to discover the real Jamaica—a country plagued by gang violence, run down property and political strife.


Once a Spanish possession known as Santiago, in 1655 Jamaica became an English, and later a British, colony, known as "Jamaica".  It achieved full independence in 1962.  With 2.8 million people, it is the third most populous anglophone country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada.  It remains a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

Kingston, the capital and the largest city in Jamaica, is located on the southeastern coast of the island.  In the Americas, Kingston is the largest predominantly English-speaking city south of the United States.

Kingston was founded in July 1692 as a place for refugees and survivors of the 1692 earthquake that destroyed Port Royal.  Before the earthquake, Kingston’s functions were purely agricultural.  By 1716 it had become the largest town and the centre of trade for Jamaica.  Today, Kingston plays a central role in Jamaica's economy.  The vast majority of economic activity takes place within Kingston.  Many multinational conglomerates and financial institutions are headquartered in and around the Kingston Metropolitan Area.


Jamaica is a mixed economy with both state enterprises and private sector businesses.  Major sectors of the Jamaican economy include agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism, and financial and insurance services.  Tourism and mining are the leading earners of foreign exchange.  Jamaica's agricultural exports are sugar, bananas, coffee, rum, and yams.  Jamaica is the fifth largest exporter of bauxite in the world, behind Australia, China, Brazil and Guinea.  Half the Jamaican economy relies on services, with half of its income coming from services such as tourism.  An estimated 1.3 million foreign tourists visit Jamaica every year.


The majority of Jamaica's population is of African descent; the most common ethnic groups among all Africans taken to Jamaica were the Akan (known as the "Coromantee") and the Igbo (or Ibo).  Multiracial Jamaicans form the second largest racial group, many of whom also have some Irish ancestry.  Jamaicans of Indian and Chinese ancestry form the next largest racial groups after multiracial Jamaicans.  Lebanese, Syrian, English, Scottish, Irish, and German Jamaicans make up a smaller racial minority but are still very influential both socially and economically.


Though a small nation, Jamaican culture has a strong global presence.  The musical genres reggae, ska, mento, rocksteady, dub, and, more recently, dancehall and ragga all originated in the island's vibrant, popular urban recording industry.  Jamaica also played an important role in the development of punk rock, through reggae and ska.  Reggae has also influenced American rap music, as they both share their roots as rhythmic, African styles of music.

Sports are an integral part of national life in Jamaica and the island's athletes tend to perform to a standard well above what might ordinarily be expected of such a small country.  While the most popular local sport is cricket, on the international stage, Jamaica has consistently produced world class athletes in track and field.

Jamaican cuisine includes a mixture of cooking techniques, flavors, spices and influences from the indigenous people on the island, and the Spanish, British, Africans, Indians, and Chinese who have inhabited the island.  It is also influenced by the crops introduced into the island from tropical Southeast Asia.  A wide variety of seafood, tropical fruits and meats are available.  Popular Jamaican dishes include curry goat, fried dumplings, ackee and salt fish (cod) (which is the national dish of Jamaica), fried plantain, "jerk", steamed cabbage and "rice and peas" (pigeon peas or kidney beans).

Jamaican cuisine has spread with emigrations, especially during the 20th century, from the island to other nations as Jamaicans have sought economic opportunities in other areas.


Episode Recap:

Anthony Bourdain begins his Jamaican safari in Kingston determined to try to make "the other Jamaica" show; to give a more realistic, more balanced version of Jamaica..

Coronation Market:  Anthony visits Coronation Market with guide Robert Lalah, staff reporter for the Jamaican Gleaner.  Coronation Market is the largest outdoor market in this part of the island and provides a venue for farmers throughout Jamaica.  The market is loved by all and off limits to the political and criminal activity that plagues the country.  Anthony samples chicken foot soup made with yams, potatoes, green banana, dumplings and special spices in addition to the chicken feet, and an authentic Jamaican beef pattie, which is a pastry that contains ground beef, various fillings and spices baked inside a flaky shell, often tinted golden yellow with an egg yolk mixture or turmeric.

Red Hills Road:  Anthony and Robert visit Red Hills Road to enjoy some drum-pan chicken, Jamaica's most popular street food, and so named because the chicken in grilled using Jamaican jerk spice in an steel oil drum cut in half.

Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meats are dry-rubbed or wet marinated with a very hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk spice.  Jerk seasoning is traditionally applied to pork and chicken.  Modern recipes also apply jerk spice mixes to fish, shrimp, shellfish, beef, sausage, and tofu.  Jerk seasoning principally relies upon two items:  allspice (called "pimento" in Jamaica) and Scotch bonnet peppers (among the hottest peppers on the Scoville scale).  Other ingredients include cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper.  

Jerk chicken, pork, or fish originally was smoked over aromatic wood charcoal.  Most jerk in Jamaica is no longer cooked in the traditional method and is grilled over hardwood charcoal in a steel drum jerk pan.  The wood ("pimento wood"), berries, and leaves of the allspice plant among the coals contribute to jerk's distinctive flavor.

Aunt Merl's Fish Shack:  Anthony relaxes at Hellshire beach, famed for its fried fish and safe swimming.  Hellshire beach is a popular public beach that is conveniently located for the residents of Portmore and weekend visitors from Kingston.  He and guide, local film producer Sarah Manley, enjoy fresh seafood at a popular beachside eatery, Aunt Merl's Fish Shack.  They start with fresh oysters and dipped in a home-brewed hot sauce.  Followed by lobster, fried red snapper, bammy (a traditional Jamaican cassava flatbread descended from the simple flatbread eaten by the Arawaks, Jamaica's original inhabitants), and another Jamaican specialty—festival, a sort of fritter.

Cave Expedition:  Anthony reluctantly agrees to meetup with John and Ganz of the Jamaican Cave Organization to go caving.  To Anthony's chagrain, he and the crew spend a grueling morning hiking to and through an underground cave system in the Jamaican jungle.  Steep hills, poisonous rivers due to rum factory runoff, bat feces, feral cats and cockroaches the size of small children make for an interesting time.  And to add insult to injury, at the end of it all, there wasn't a tikki hut bar!

Rastafarian Meal:  Anthony visits Rae Town in Kingston, to meet with Mutabaruka who is a writer, poet, radio host, and Rastafarian disciple.  After a brief tour of the neighborhood, Mutabaruka prepares a typical Rastafarian drink and meal for Anthony.  They discuss what it means to be a Rasta and how the belief system has shaped Jamaican culture, including its food culture.

Many Rastas eat limited types of meat in accordance with the dietary Laws of the Old Testament; they do not eat shellfish or pork.  Others abstain from all meat and flesh whatsoever.  A few make a special exception allowing fish, while abstaining from all other forms of flesh.  Many Rastafari maintain a vegan or vegetarian diet all of the time.  Usage of alcohol is also generally deemed unhealthy to the Rastafari way of life.  Food approved for Rastafari is called italIn consequence, a rich alternative cuisine has developed in association with Rastafari tenets, eschewing most synthetic additives, and preferring more natural vegetables and fruits.  This cuisine can be found throughout the Caribbean and in some restaurants throughout the western world.

Recording Studio:  Anthony visits local recording artist Sanjay in his music studio during a recording session. Sanjay is trying to break into the dance hall music scene.

Sonic Sounds:   Anthony accompanies Sanjay when he takes his recording to Sonic Sounds to be pressed into a 45 inch vinyl record.  Sonic Sounds is a record factory in which wax is still used and pressed into actual vinyl records, and the 45 inch record is still very popular in Jamaica.  In order to get some exposure and make a name for himself as an up and coming new artist, Sanjay must now convince a DJ to play his music at one of the many nightly community dancehall parties, which are similar to our own urban block parties.

Dancehall is a genre of Jamaican popular music that originated in the late 1970s.  Dancehall owes its moniker to the Jamaican dance halls in which popular Jamaican recordings were played by local sound systems.  These began in the late 1940s among people from the inner city of Kingston who were not able to participate in dances uptown.  

Themes of social injustice, repatriation and the Rastafari movement were overtaken by lyrics about dancing, violence, and sexuality.  It was far removed from reggae's gentle roots and culture, and there was much debate among purists as to whether it should be considered an extension of reggae.  However, the 1990s saw a shift back towards Rastafari and cultural themes.  Today, the dancehall culture can best be described as a "space for the cultural creation and dissemination of symbols and ideologies that reflect the lived realities of its adherents, particularly those from the inner cities of Jamaica."

Blue Mountains:  Anthony travels to the Blue Mountains, the longest mountain range in Jamaica.  They include the island's highest point, the cloud-covered Blue Mountain Peak, at a height of 7402 feet.  From the summit, accessible via a walking track, both the North and South coasts of the island can be seen.  On a clear day, the outline of the island Cuba can also be seen 130 miles away.

Craighton Estate Blue Mountain Coffee Plantation: Junior gives Anthony a tour of the Craighton Estate Blue Mountain Coffee estate.  The famous Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is cultivated between 2000 and 5000 feet above sea level.  The best lots of Blue Mountain coffee are noted for their mild flavor and lack of bitterness.  Over the last several decades, this coffee has developed a reputation that has made it one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world; over 80% of all Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is exported to Japan.  In addition to its use for brewed coffee, the beans are the flavor base of Tia Maria coffee liqueur.

Home-cooked Sunday Dinner:  Junior invites Anthony to join him and his family for a home-cooked meal.  They dine on a typical Jamaican Sunday dinner of rice and pigeon peas, country-style chicken, ackee and salt fish, fried plantains, and breadfruit.

Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, and ackee and saltfish is the national dish.  The ackee fruit was imported to Jamaica from West Africa (probably on a slave ship) before 1778.  Because parts of the fruit are toxic, there are shipping restrictions when being imported.  

To prepare the dish, salt cod (packet salt fish may need to be boiled down and should be free of "pink" mold) is sautéed with boiled ackee, onions, Scotch Bonnet peppers (optional), tomatoes, and spices, such as black pepper and pimiento.  It can be garnished with crisp bacon and fresh tomatoes, and is usually served as breakfast or dinner alongside breadfruit, hard dough bread, dumplings, fried plantain, or boiled green bananas.

Suffice it to say, Anthony achieved his objective to show us the Jamaica the other travel shows rarely depict.


ARGENTINA:  From the Tango to paragliding to cattle rustling to trekking along icy glaciers, Anthony experiences it all.

AUSTRALIA:  Melbourne has been described as San Francisco without the fog.  Anthony is off to discover what makes it so special.

BERLIN:  Anthony finds himself in Berlin, a city that is for him both good and evil, Eastern and Western, repulsive and appealing.

BRAZIL:  Some say São Paulo feels like LA threw up on NYC.  But Anthony's back for the great food and its welcoming people.

Anthony revisits his love for India's vibrant culture, cuisine & communities with a trip to Kolkata & Mumbai.

COLOMBIA:  A bright and beautiful country that has gone from drug capital to food capital.  Anthony explores its unique cuisine.

EGYPT:  Anthony skips the long lines and tour buses, and visits with Egyptian locals to get a taste for what it means to be Egyptian.

GHANA:  Anthony heads to Ghana, West Africa, a land of old forts and slave castles, and a culture filled with great food and music.

GREEK ISLES:  Anthony is on a culinary odyssey to discover if Greece really does have the world's healthiest diet. 

HONG KONG:  A wonder-land of colors, lights and speed, a perfect marriage of modern and traditional, and home to great Asian cuisine.

IRELAND:  Ireland's steeped in history and traditions, both oral & written.  Anthony dispels the myths that it has the worst food on the planet.

KOREA:  Anthony gives in to his employee's pressure to visit Korea and, next thing you know, they're in Seoul and the adventure begins.

MEXICO:  Carlos, a head chef in NYC and good friend, gives Anthony a culinary tour of his hometown Puebla and nearby Mexico City.

OSAKA (Japan):  Anthony learns all about kuidaore, which means to bankrupt oneself with extravagance in food and drink!

PARIS: In this very first episode of the series, Anthony heads to the "City of Light" to show, at least the Americans, why the French don't suck.

PERU:  Anthony is on a mission to obtain personal enlightenment in a land of ancient culture, rich cuisine, and vibrant people.

QUEBEC (Canada):  Anthony is off to Québec to indulge in one of his most hedonistic pleasures–foie gras (fatty duck liver).

RAJASTHAN (India):  From gorgeous sights to enticing smells, Anthony explores the magical and delicious offerings of Rajasthan.

ROME:  Anthony adopts the mindset of the Roman people–living a simple life and eating fresh, seasonal ingredients.

RUSSIA:  Anthony explores Russia, where the food is hearty.  Along the way he meets a former Cold War spy and Miss Russia.

SHANGHAI (China):  Anthony is back in China.  From Shanghai to Tibet, he searches for the mythical Shangri-La.

SICILY:  Anthony starts his gastronomic tour through Sicily in style by sharing a spleen sandwich with Sicily's president.

SINGAPORE:  Singapore is serious about food and offers up a cuisine like no other.  Anthony dives in head-first.

SPAIN:  According to Anthony, outside of Asia, Spain is the single greatest place for culinary achievement in the world.

TOKYO:  Anthony is off to Tokyo in search of the relationship between a perfect piece of sushi and a perfect knife blade.

TUSCANY:  Anthony travels to the beautiful Tuscan countryside to visit with friends and enjoy some homemade pasta that's out of this world.

URUGUAY:  Anthony and his brother are on a mission to connect with their roots in Uruguay after learning that Bourdains once settled here.

Anthony visits Vancouver, home to a thriving film industry, gorgeous scenery, and an evolving food scene.


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