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The East Indian population of Jamaica is considerably smaller than that of T&T, but their curries are also esteemed. The first East Indians arrived in Falmouth aboard the Athenium in 1843, and within fifty years curries had risen to prominence on the island. The Jamaica Cookery Book, published in 1893, offered several curry recipes, including a simple but ingenious tropical curry sauce: coconut jelly (the immature center of a green coconut) was boiled in coconut water with cinnamon and curry powder until thick.
The most popular curry dish in Jamaica is curry goat (not "curried goat"). In fact, according to Helen Willinsky, author of Jerk: Barbecue from Jamaica, it is "one of our national dishes." She wrote: "We always serve it for our special occasions, and it seems to be one of the best-remembered dishes by tourists." The first time I tasted curry goat in Jamaica, in a restaurant frequented by locals in Ocho Rios in 1984, he had to be careful not to swallow numerous sharp slivers of bone. In a truly authentic recipe, the goat meat is chopped up--bones and all--because Jamaican cooks believe that the marrow in the bones helps to flavor the dish. The goat was cooked in a large, cast-iron kettle over a wood fire in the backyard of the restaurant.
The second time I tasted curry goat in Jamaica, in 1993, the venue was a bit fancier, but the taste was the same. That time, the goat was prepared by the chef of the Ciboney Resort (also in Ocho Rios) and was served at a rather elegant buffet at a beach party.
In the early days, curry goat was considered to be a masculine dish, and there was a certain ritual involved with its serving. Zora Neale Hurston, an American anthropologist who traveled extensively in Jamaica in the 1930s, was fortunate enough to be invited to an all-male curry goat party. "On to the Magnus plantation and the curry goat feed," she wrote. "This feast is so masculine that chicken soup would not be allowed. It must be soup from roosters. After the cock soup comes ram goat and rice. No nanny goat in this meal either. It is ram goat or nothing." In my recipe for Jamaican Curry Goat rams are not so critical--either gender of goat is permissible.
In the French Antilles, the word for curry is colombo, named for the capital of Sri Lanka. A typical colombo, such as the Christmas specialty, Pork Colombo from Martinique, begins with a Ceylon Dark Curry Powder is made into a paste that contains, in addition to some standard curry spices, crushed fresh garlic, ginger, and habanero chiles.