Jamaican Cook Shops

Cook Shops are establishments that usually serve hot food and cold snacks, as an alternative to a fast food takeaway / eateries, although the food is rarely fast and is invariably much more healthy and tasty than the local burger or pizza joint! Each has their own specialities and popular dishes they like to offer, but you can often find them open from early in the morning until late at night serving delicious cheap food.

In the mornings savour the delicious taste of porridge…. hominy corn, peanut, cornmeal and banana are all popular flavours of this filling and delicious dish served in a sanitary hot cup (polystyrene cup) with a lid and plastic spoon so you can take it with you; if they have it go for a grater of fresh Jamaican nutmeg on the top to make the flavours pop!

Soup is also a popular option which is filling and satisfying and is readily drank by the locals no matter how hot the weather! Some popular flavours are: red peas, chicken, fish tea (fish soup), mannish water (goat soup), pumpkin and conch (seafood soup) soup and chicken foot soup, which is again served in a sanitary hot cup with a spoon. Most of the soups contain a mixture of ‘hard food’ which may consist of things such as, yam, sweet potato, green banana, dumplings or pumpkin mixed with onion, garlic, pimento, thyme and other seasonings or packet soup mixes to produce a hearty soup. I have never seen Jamaican style soup blended to produce a thick broth like those we are familiar with eating alongside bread in the UK, but they are equally delicious.

They also serve dishes such as fried dumplings, fried chicken or fish served with rice, which are known as boxed food; the large portion is huge and can easily feed two adults, or an adult and two small children.

Vegetarian or Vegan

If you are vegetarian / vegan your best bet is to verbally ask “is there any meat kind in this dish/soup/etc” to make sure you are safe to eat it, as something as innocuous as red peas soup, which may seem quite safe to eat often has pork or other meat included in the recipe. On a side note, if ordering fish / steamed cabbage or callaloo and rice or similar, again verbally check if the gravy is meat / fish / vegetable gravy and take it ‘dry’ if it doesn’t agree with your principles. There are many ‘Ital’ restaurants which specialise in vegetarian and vegan food, but that is another story! Enjoy Yum!

Average Prices of Food in Cook Shops:

• Porridge, such as hominy corn, peanut, cornmeal and banana are approx. $50 for a small cup.

• Soup, such as red peas, chicken, fish tea and mannish water are approx. $50 for a  small cup.

• Box food, such as fried chicken with rice, or fish with rice: from $200 for a small (which is really medium-sized) and $300 for a large portion. The large portion can feed a very hungry man, or in my case serves me for two adequate sized main meals, or ideal for sharing with someone.

PLEASE NOTE: All monetary values in this article using the ‘$’ sign as a pre-fix; refer to the Jamaican National Currency of Jamaican Dollars. You may find this abbreviated elsewhere, as JMD$ or J$ to distinguish it from American Dollars. However, as I am British and this is article is about Jamaica I am sticking with just using the $ sign! If you see US$ you know I am referring to American Currency.

These Prices are Correct as of July 2012 and based on average prices collated from in and around rural St. Ann’s.

For further information on Cook Shops and for details about shop keepers and their stores in general, look at the page on ‘Local Shops’ which is found at: http://sweetjamaica.co.uk/jamaican-local-shops/