Cooks Corner: Jamaican Food Words & Phrases (Fruits & Veggies Edition)

An article in the LA Times dating back to 1988, talks about the “lure of the exotic cuisine of the Caribbean in general, and Jamaica in particular,” and how it “has popularized products from the region as more home cooks begin experimenting with some of the island’s popular dishes.” The explosion of ingredients available internationally, including healthy green choices, have brought us recipes – both traditional and contrived.

To cook brilliant Jamaican food, you need to combine the best ingredients. Synonymous with Jamaican style cooking, are whole ingredients like the fiery scotch bonnet pepper, allspice (also known as “pimento”), peppercorn, scallion, clove, cinnamon, thyme, garlic, ginger, lime, cane sugar, fresh coconut milk, nutmeg and bay leaf. The scotch bonnet pepper ranges in colors from yellow to orange to red and is considered the leading hot pepper in Jamaica. Jerk seasoning principally relies upon the use of two of these popularly used ingredients: scotch bonnet pepper and allspice. Here’s a look at some green food choices, how to say them in Patois, and how to use them in a sentence as found in the Jamaican Patios and Slang Dictionary.

©Photos by: Eartha Lowe (@earthacooks)

Breshi

English Translation: Breadfruit
The breadfruit (pictured above) is a large green fruit, usually about 10 inches in diameter, with a pebbly green skin and sponge-like flesh. Breadfruits are not edible until they are cooked and they can be used in place of any starchy vegetable, rice or pasta. Breadfruit is popularly served roasted via wood fire with Jamaica’s national dish, Ackee and Saltfish. Breadfruit is picked and eaten before it ripens and can also be served fried once roasted.

Example Sentences
Patois: Fry breshi taste good.
English: Fried breadfruit tastes delicious.

Chuo-Cho

English Translation: Chayote
“Chuo-cho” as it’s referred to in Jamaican Patois is “Chayote” squash. Chayote is a light, almost lime-green tropical fruit defined by its unique pear-like shape, and its deep linear indentations that run vertically along its thin skin that meet at its flower end. Chayote squash can be eaten both raw and cooked and at various stages of maturity. In its cooked form Chayote tastes like a cross between potato and cucumber; the taste is very bland.  Chayote is served in many Jamaican soup dishes.

Example Sentences
Patois: Mi waah sum chuo-cho fi put inna mi soup.
English: I want some chayotes to put in my soup.

ilaloo

English Translation: Callaloo
“ilaloo” is a Rasta slang for “Callaloo”, a highly popular Caribbean dish which originated from West Africa. This leafy, spinach-like vegetable is typically prepared as one would prepare swiss chard or collard greens.

Example Sentences
Patois: Mi ago cook ilallo fi brekfast.
English: I am going to cook callaloo for breakfast.

Pap chow

English Translation: Bok Choy
Bok Choy is a type of Chinese cabbage. A popular way to cook this vegetable Jamaican style is with salted codfish.

Example Sentences
Patois: Mi mada always deh force mi fi nyam pap chow and the other green vegetable dem.
English: My mother always force me to eat bok choy and the other green vegetables.

Pear

English Translation: Avocado
Optimally ripe avocados are typically known for their silky, creamy texture and rich flavours that could be described as “nutty” or “nut-like.” In Jamaica, this fruit is popularly called “pear.” Pear is what I knew the avocado as growing up, and I enjoyed eating it as a complement to Ackee and Saltfish, and as a spread on hard dough bread, instead of butter.

Pear is not only a substitute for meat or for making a quick and tasty sandwich or snack, it is also used to make tasty dips and desserts.

Example Sentences
Patois: Gimmie a slice a pear.
English: Give me a slice of avocado.

See more in Cooks Corner:

How to Look for Fresh When Buying Fish

5 Tips To Make Meal Planning Work For You!

19 thoughts on “Cooks Corner: Jamaican Food Words & Phrases (Fruits & Veggies Edition)

    • Thanks Laura. Not sure how the whole pear/avocado naming convention happened. For years living in Canada, I had no idea pomegranate was pomegranate. We had a tree in our yard and we called pomegranate “Panganat.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • I can help you with that Annika! Here are some often used Jamaican slang to impress the Island folks:
      Wha’appen? This means “What’s Up?” This is how friends greet.
      Rhaatid! an expression meaning “Wow!”
      And, if you plan to attend some exciting parties, ask where’s the “Bashment.”
      I’m sure by the end of the trip you would’ve learned the words “Walk Good” – this means goodbye, take care, safe travels and is a departing salutation, issued with good wishes.
      Thank you so much for reading the post. 😀🇯🇲

      Liked by 1 person

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