Ackee and Saltfish is the National Dish of Jamaica but neither ingredient is of Jamaican origin.
Ackee is derived from the original name Ankye that comes from the Twi language of Ghana. Its botanical name, Blighia sapida, was given in honour of Captain William Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame. Captain Bligh brought ackee plants from Jamaica to Kew Botanical Gardens in London in 1793, so became the first person to introduce the exotic plant to the UKs Botanical Society.
Indigenous to Africa’s Ivory and Gold Coasts, where it bears the name Akye Fufo, lshin or Ankye, ackee was imported to the island from West Africa, on a slave ship in 1778. Now it grows in Jamaica abundantly. It is more widely eaten in Jamaica than anywhere else, and it has become Jamaica’s National Fruit.
West Indian sugar cane planters originally imported salted cod into Jamaica as a cheap source of protein-rich food for the enslaved Africans. Now it is one of our staple foods.
Saltfish is fish cured with dry salt so it is preserved for eating later. Drying and/or salting, either with dry salt or with brine, was the only widely available method of preserving fish until the 19th century.
Salt Fish and Ackee, or Ackee and Saltfish as some people say, can be eaten anytime, but it is very common to have it for Breakfast or Brunch.
Cooking ackee and saltfish together
Ackee looks like scrambled eggs when boiled and its creamy sweet taste contrasts well with the saltiness of the saltfish. The dish can be eaten at any time.
Jamaicans sauté the boiled ackee with saltfish, onions, tomatoes, black pepper, a dash of thyme and a little touch of scotch bonnet chilli pepper, to create one of Jamaica’s greatest dishes.
You can serve this up with fried plantain or bammy for breakfast or with green banana, white yam and boiled plantain for a more substantial meal.
Occasionally, I like to add bacon to the mix. You should try it sometime.