What: The consummate spicy, satisfying on-the-go Jamaican fast food, the beef patty is an indigenous handheld pie with origins reflecting the island’s colonial past. Introduced to Jamaica by the English (and their Cornish pasties), it was the East Indian servants and African slaves who made it the deeply flavorful food it is today, by adding cumin, curry, and cayenne to the mix (the latter was soon joined by the fiery stylings of the local Scotch bonnet pepper). Encased in a flaky yellow pastry—the color typically comes from turmeric—beef is the traditional filling, but nowadays you’ll find lots of options: beef and cheese, chicken, vegetable, shrimp, even soy. They are a staple of bakeries and casual eateries, but they’re also very commonly encountered at one of two decades-old chains on the island.
Where: This beef patty was from one such chain, Juici Patties (multiple locations including Lot 138K Boundbrook, Portland, map), just outside Port Antonio. Here’s an instance when you don’t have to doubt your decision to hit a chain—it’s very local, and Jamaicans love it.
When: Mon-Sat, 7am-10pm (At breakfast, you can grab a peanut porridge alongside your patty.)
Order: We love ourselves a spicy chicken patty, which tend to run heavy on the curry flavor, but you owe it to yourself to try a beef patty (JA$130) or three. Minced beef and onion and lots of spice run together almost puree-like inside a piping-hot, perfectly flaky golden shell. It’s really hard to go wrong with this, folks.
Good to know: Patty places always sell coco bread, too—a super soft, subtly sweet, buttery white bread made with some coconut milk. Nice to try on the side, but if you want to make like a local, sandwich your patty inside it!
Alternatively: You’ll find Juici, and its competitor Tastee, scattered all over the island; chances are, there’s one nearby. In fact, if you’re flying into Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport, there’s a Tastee right outside, near where the taxis congregate. It’s just about the most perfect welcome you can get to this country.