Everyday, I am eager to share my love of vegan food, of vibrant spices and of natural flavors with the world - not only in the finest restaurants, but also, at the buffets, the walk up counters and anywhere else people dine. That’s why, when I finally got the opportunity to head to Jamaica, to the island of Peppa, Gizzada and of course jerk, I choose to share the experience. It’s the diversity of the Caribbean country that draws me to its lush shores, while its national motto 'Out of Many One People', refers to its inhabitants, the food can easily be included. Jamaica offers up a palette of food flavors, spices and local delicacies amazingly different from its nearby Caribbean neighbors. Stepping off the plane into the warm island breezes, my ears were immediately filled with the melodic punchiness of steel drums, instantly I was inspired to get to the resort and start cooking. I joined the talented staff at the Iberostar Grand Rose Hall in Montego Bay. We were treated to our own private cooking space in the Asian restaurant, far away from the mass production kitchen. Because of the smaller quarters, there was an intimacy that enveloped the six of us, a vegan world all to ourselves.
Our first recipe was playful - we made hotdogs. Vegan hotdogs in Jamaica! They were anything but the usual pork weiner on a bleached white bun Carrots are the key to a perfect vegan hotdog. You may wonder, “how can a carrot mimic the taste of a hot dog?” I have taken years to master this recipe. I use a marinade created from liquid smoke, tamari (gluten-free soy) worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, turmeric, a drop of maple syrup. Pre steamed carrots are bathed in this smokey and robust marinade overnight. They are placed over the coals and char grilled to perfection. Served on a soft traditional white mini bun and topped with my homemade mayo, sauerkraut, and hot mustard. My team agreed that it was simple enough, and a clear favorite of mine. With the marriage of fresh, traditional flavors, all of a sudden I have undivided attention for the rest of the week. As I was here to really cook and learn, I dived passionately into the tastes and textures of Jamaican cuisine and infuse the menu of this resort with strong vegan culinary options.
We started with Jackfruit jerk tacos. If you haven’t experienced one - you are missing out. Jackfruit is the world’s largest fruit, in the fig, mulberry and breadfruit family, that surprisingly has the texture of pulled pork. The marinade I created is a combination of bbq sauce, maple syrup, lime and garlic seasoning. Of course there are other ingredients mixed in but they are trade secrets. I then topped it off with a Caribbean mango coleslaw, toasted almonds and scallions to add a fresh grassy finish. The taste begins of course with a crunch, then a soft texture and finally the smooth, bold and even smokey finish that comes from the jackfruit. This cornucopia of flavors are then set a top a lightly grilled corn tortilla and finished with a spicy jerk cashew creme sauce. My love of vegan cooking comes from dishes exactly like this one - where the line between food and art is so blurred that in the end, your eyes feel just as satisfied as your stomach. And that was my goal, from my starters right through to the desserts, to create a showcase of astonishing plant-based creations. And being here, in Jamaica, brings this full body experience full circle - this island’s vibe is so chill, the people are so friendly, the climate so fresh and calm.
Until next time, “Kip chill an luv y!”