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Jamaican Seasoned Rice

If I were to name a type of food that we Jamaicans use creatively to make a meal, rice would be counted in the top five. We have rice recipes that would give the Chinese food for thought…sorry for the pun.

Starting with plain ol’ white rice or barefoot rice as we call it, our curried goat, tin mackerel, and salt fish dishes would never gain any prominence were it not for this grain.

The real deal is that we have been hooked on rice ever since it was introduced in Jamaica from where or when I do not know. When I was a child, however, there were many different brands of rice such as, Demarara, Grace, and other no name cheap brands around Jones Town, Kingston 12 that were just on the tip of everybody’s tongue.

Back then most of the little grocery shops were owned by Chinese merchants who would not hesitate to sell you uncooked rice in brown paper bags in portions from a quarter pound to two pounds. This convenient small packaging made it easy to make a little rice meal when you feel a little bit ‘pekish’ as we would say…Yah Mon!

The two types of rice, brown and white, that were sold by the merchants had a few peculiarities worth mentioning. Apart from the varied quality of the rice itself, there was a low quality control factor that made me question the safety of the rice, then, and the noticeable different texture after the rice was cooked.

We also had to remove foreign matter from the bulk rice that was stored in barrels under the countertop which was sold to the public for consumption by merchants who cared only about the bottom line.

Saying that to say this, today things are different; you have a choice to get your different grade rice all pre-packaged in plastic bags from a super market and so forth. And the quality is far superior to what we had to put with back then.

Without rice, I cannot imagine what we would eat with curry goat at a party. On the other hand, if we did not have curried goat we could eat anyone of our many rice dishes and still be satisfied, oh yeah!

Now Jamaican seasoned rice can be made many different ways. It depends on several different factors such as: available ingredients, money, geographical location, and the food season you are in. Also, the flavors change from salty, greasy, bland, and even ital. As I have stated already, it depends on many factors.

Well the Jamaican seasoned rice I like is the one that has an off orange color with a little ‘bun ‘bun. A little bit greasy and spicy…that’s just my choice.

---LABRISH---

‘BUN BUN in our parlance is the food that is slightly burnt at the bottom of the pot. This kind of cooking is sometimes deliberately done to please the children because they love it so much. Adults love it like that too but some won’t admit it, you know.

----LABRISH---

Anyway, this seasoned rice recipe is from my wife, Mavis, who says that this recipe is a good one for the whole family to enjoy.

Jamaican Seasoned Rice

2 sprigs of Thyme

3 stalks of Scallion

1 small Tomato (diced)

Oil

2 oz. butter

2 lb Rice

¼ Salt Fish (dried boneless Cod)

1 scotch bonnet Pepper (optional)

6 cups Water

1 oz. Tomato Ketchup

Salt to taste

Boil the salt fish in water with one spring of thyme until it is soft. Let’s say 20 minutes or so…you don’t have to be exact. While the fish is cooking, you should sauté the tomato and scallion with the other sprig of thyme in a skillet.

When the saltfish is cooked, turn down the fire under the pot to medium and use two forks to shred the saltfish into small pieces. Now add all the ingredients, except the butter, to the pot and stir them around with a fork. Taste the pot to see if there is enough salt to your liking. If not, add a little more salt.

Turn the fire to medium high and let the rice cook without the pot cover for 10 minutes and then add the butter to the rice. Wait until the water is evaporated just below the rice surface and then cover the pot and let it simmer on medium low until rice is cooked.

Serve in dinner plates… just like that.

Remember the scotch bonnet pepper is very hot. You don’t have to use it. You can use black pepper instead. Also, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cooking seasoned rice. You can add other ingredients or even change the ones in this recipe. You have, however, the basic idea of how to get a quick seasoned rice meal…Yah Mon!

I’ve also had Jamaican seasoned rice with shrimp, bully-beef, cabbage, susumber, and red herring. The possibilities are endless…Yah Mon!!!

Happy Cooking,

Uncle Zack




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