Jamaican Curry


This is a recipe told by my grandpa. Now 79 years old, he lived the first 26 years of his life in a crowded house in Old Harbour, Jamaica. He moved to New York in ‘68 and has lived in the US since. A lot of his family still live in Jamaica and the country is still the place of his roots. He is Jamaican, Chinese, and Indian. He has a thick Jamaican accent so if you can read this in a Jamaican accent it may add to the experience. This is a transcribed script of what was said in the story, with the various “umm’s” and “uhh’s” omitted.

How To Cook Curry

“Well, one of the bad things that I did not learn from them (his parents), or did not get help from them, was because I didn’t participate in cooking and all that. I had it made when I was living with my parents in Jamaica, but I never did go around the fire at all. Later in life after I left home and got married I remembered what they used to do, like for instance I remember cooking some of the local dishes like curry chicken or curry goat. I learn a lot from them, like how to prepare it, cut it up and wash it, you clean it real good. With the curry chicken, a special way that the chinese does the curry chicken is the spices. One of the main spice was a scotch bonnet pepper. It was very hot. They have a way of rating pepper by how hot it is and this scotch bonnet goes way up there. Apart from the indian pepper, but it might be the hottest in the world. But the scotch bonnet is not only hot it has a nice flavor to it. So if you’re doing curry, curry chicken or curry goat, you want to use that scotch bonnet. For some reason after you season it up it takes a long process to cook goat, because there’s hardly any fat on the goat. It’s mostly muscle. The goat runs a lot so it doesn’t have a lot of fat like a sheep or a cow. It’s very lean so you have to cook it real long. So they use a lot of curry, that really yellow indian one. And they use a lot of… that thing, let me go to the pantry. They use the pepper and the garlic on the curry. And a curry that they use a lot is the Blue Mountain Curry. Tell her (my mom), they can mix the Blue Mountain Curry with the Sam’s curry and it makes three more bottles. As for the curry, you just got to cook it real long and add a lot of onion and green scallion (a vegetable) and cook it until you take a fork, it can stick it easily, and that’s when you know it’s cooked properly. Yesterday we cooked some curry chicken, but chicken is much easier, it cook much faster than the curry goat. But the curry goat is like a national dish in jamaica.


My grandpa told me this meal over facetime the other day. Ever since I’ve been a kid, curry chicken and goat have been a staple food of our family gatherings. You often can’t go to a family reunion of ours without seeing a curry dish made by grandpa. You may notice that the process of cooking it is very vague. That is actually how he tells people to cook it, saying things like just cook it until it’s done or add a bit of pepper. For example, my dad learned how to cook curry from him, and that is exactly the way my grandpa taught him how to cook it. This is certainly an interesting way of passing on folk recipes. The process of cooking curry definitely has a learning curve when learning it this way: learning how much water and how long to cook it add to the variety that it gets across the family. Without having clear measurements the curry dish always comes out different, and usually pretty tasty. 

My grandpa also gives a variant ingredient with the scotch bonnet pepper. His dad was chinese so this ingredient was an addition from that part of his heritage. By the way, the scotch bonnet is not one of the hottest peppers in the world. The curry dish also has origins in India and not so surprisingly, my grandpa is also Indian. Curry has always been a classic food in his life and will continue to be in ours.