Ackee & Saltfish aka Jamaica's national dish is a must-try (thank me later). Originally native to West Africa ackee was brought to Jamaica in 1778 and is now actually one of the most dangerous foods if eaten unripe. So please don’t eat unripe or forced ripe ackees. Saltfish or salted cod came to the island via the slave trade due to the need for an inexpensive protein that could survive the long trips across the Atlantic without spoiling. That concludes your history lesson and now back to our regularly scheduled program.
To be honest, in my early teens, I wasn’t a fan of ackee because of the texture and I actively avoided eating it right up until we moved to a house with an ackee tree. Talk about serendipity. We now had a free supply of ackee for cooking so I decided to give it another try and ended up really liking it. So what does ackee taste like? My mother describes it as bland. LOL. On its own with no seasonings yes it is bland, but ackee is a versatile ingredient that can be used in salads, fried rice, curry, pasta, etc. which is why I'm glad I got past my ackee avoidance phase.
Saltfish, the other component of this dish requires a bulk of the work as we try to remove a lot of the saltiness by soaking it overnight then boiling it ("salt is the black man/woman's kryptonite" - Meyhem Lauren). This dish is filled with so much flavor that your tastebuds will certainly be in for a treat, and I wouldn't be surprised if this became your new favorite meal. You can eat this for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. This is a judgment-free zone so do what makes you happy and keeps your belly full.
P.S. It is on the spicier side due to the jalapenos which are totally optional if you’re not into spicy foods. Have fun and enjoy!
190z can Ackees in Salt Water
16oz bag Boned Salted Codfish
1 medium Onion (Thinly sliced)
1 Red Bell Pepper (Deseeded and thinly sliced)
1 Jalapeno (Deseeded and sliced into rounds)
3 slices Bacon (cooked to your preference, broken into bite-size pieces)
1 stalk Thyme
4 tbsp Cooking Oil
1 tbsp Black pepper
In a large container place saltfish, cover with cold water. Place the closed container in the fridge and soak overnight. OR. Soak saltfish for 6-8 hours replacing the water twice. OR. Boil the saltfish for an hour replacing the water two to four times until tender.
1. After soaking the saltfish, drain the water, rinse then place the saltfish in a medium-sized pot, fill it with enough water to cover, and bring to a boil.
2. Cook until tender. Est. Time: 30minutes
3. Pour out the salty water carefully, rinse saltfish with cold water to cool, then flake the fish into bite-size pieces.
4. Heat cooking oil in a skillet over medium heat and add onion, bell peppers, jalapenos, and thyme. Cook until fragrant. Est. Time: 2-3 minutes.
5. Add flaked saltfish, stir to combine. While the saltfish heats up, open canned ackees, drain using a strainer, and rinse with cold water.
6. Once saltfish is heated gently fold in ackee, bacon pieces, season with black pepper, and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes. Serve hot.
This can be paired with festivals, breadfruit, boiled green bananas, fried plantains, and even white rice (don’t knock that last one till you’ve tried it). Hope you enjoy.