On the last weekend of each month, Street Food Saturdays consistently impresses patrons as they are provided an opportunity to indulge in traditional local dishes with a gourmet twist.
Continue pass Manor Park onto Stony Hill towards the Golden Spring community. From Golden Spring square, you’ll turn right at the gas station and go over a bridge to reveal the green mountain side. A series of event signs will lead you pass Mount Pleasant into the Mount James District to find a bar overlooking the Plantain Garden River.
Street Food on the River
It’s an all-hands-on event where supportive family members and friends collectively aid in food and venue preparations ahead of the midday serving, headed by Chef Simone Walker-Barrett. From the wee hours of the morning to the early afternoon, food is chopped, flavoured, and smoked to be ready for hungry visitors from near and far. Rising smoke from cooking stations below a bridge indicated that this was the destination. On this particular occasion were smoke barrel cookers, charcoal burner stoves, pots, pans, utensils, and a washing station all in the middle of a flowing river stream. The staging took place on the river, an occurrence that only happens twice a year. In most instances, seating and tents are set overlooking the stream, however picnicking on the river is actually how the event started back in 2015. A speaker box projects feel-good local tunes that spread throughout the space to the neighbouring church and jerk centre venues setting the mood for the occasion.
Patrons flow in, scanning the menu board of the day’s specials and purchasing their meal tickets with eagerness and curiosity. Once Chef Walker-Barrett signals the green light, patrons line up to collect choice(s) of meat, a complimentary side order, and additional side(s) if they so choose, then dine by the river or have food packed in cardboard boxes and brown paper bags to go.
On this day the menu included:
- Janga (crayfish) Soup
- Rum Barbecue Short Ribs
- Wet Sugar Cured Grilled Pork Belly
- Guava Glazed Turkey Neck
- Charcoal Chicken
- Roast Fish w/ Scotch Bonnet Butter
- Curried Conch Pasta
- Roast Breadfruit w/ Garlic Butter
- Cinnamon Bammies
- Fried Green Plantain
What’s On The Menu?
Every meal choice looked and smelled so appetizing that it was hard to choose just one. Luckily, you don’t have to and I definitely did not limit my desires; let’s just say, I didn’t have to eat for the rest of the day! Let’s talk about each dish…
- The Janga Soup had enough crayfish stirring around in the pot for all takers to get a whole one in their cups. Besides small pieces of crushed pumpkin, the janga seemingly was the only solid food in the soup; no dumpling, yam, corn etc. Usually this would be a disappointment, but with the savoury seasoning simmering in the bubbling stock (say that 3x fast), THAT WAS COMPLETELY OK!
- The Rum BBQ Short Ribs meat is tender and slid right off the bone with ease. The slight char leaves it crispy but far from burned, and its spices are soaked into the meat and not just sitting on the surface.
- Wet Sugar Pork Belly servings of chunky pork meat (not fat!) came with a satisfying mix of sweet and salty taste thanks to the glaze. The pork was in no way dry and of perfect consistency.
- Guava Glazed Turkey Neck paired the fruity tang of guava with the slightly salty taste of the thin meat on the bone. Chomping while holding the neck bone by both ends is the best method to kiss away the sliver of tasty meat and glaze drippings from the bone.
- Initially I thought Charcoal Chicken would be similar to jerk chicken, but boy was I wrong! Unlike many jerked chickens, the charcoal chicken was not overpowered by the taste of smoke then masked by ketchup and/or pepper sauce. What they did have in common was the chicken was very well-seasoned with a distinct taste. It was enjoyable on its own, with no special glaze or sauce; just filled with flavour.
- Roast Fish w/ Scotch Bonnet Butter had hints of pepper soaked into the meat. The spiced butter wasn’t even needed to combat dryness or blandness; the fish was flaky and moist all on its own!
- Let me admit that I’ve never enjoyed conch before trying the Curried Conch Pasta. Curried minced conch was blended with cheesy macaroni to create a surprisingly yummy comfort meal. This was definitely a unique twist from any mac & cheese dish I’ve ever had; it even lingers on your palate. The texture of the giant mollusc is usually too chewy for my liking. In this case however, other patrons looked to me with curious eyes awaiting a review before deciding to purchase; I urged them to grab a serving.
- Side orders of cinnamon bammies, roast breadfruit w/ garlic butter, and fried green plantains included a small quirk to create a noticeable difference in taste to typical starches. They each added an interesting element to an already unique meal.
Cool Off at the Juice Stand
A few steps away from the river was a natural juice bar decorated with vibrant, home-grown fruits. Here, patrons chose to cool down with the nectar of a choice of blended drinks: lemon grass lemonade, fruit smoothie, or jackfruit daiquiri. All drinks are made cold with fresh ingredients on the spot and served in a sizeable cup with a lid and straw. There was even an option to spike drinks with white rum (at no extra cost)!
Rooted in the childhood hometown of Head Chef Simone Walker-Barrett, not only is Street Food Saturdays good food and good vibes, but it is also an authentic experience in rural Jamaica that exhibits the impact of community, foundation and support. I wonder what’s on the menu next month, don’t you?
Let me know in the comments what item(s) from this menu you would love to try!
- Delectability 90%
- Food Variety 80%
- Atmosphere 80%
- Staff Interactions 90%
PLAN YOUR VISIT
Street Food Saturdays is a pop up kitchen that is hosted by the Plantain Garden River on the last Saturday of each month in the hills of Mount James, St Andrew. It boasts traditional Jamaican cuisine served in with gourmet influence. The menu options change with each staging, so no matter when you visit it’s a whole new experience for your taste buds.
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This is a sponsored post, though I ensure not to endorse anything I haven’t personally enjoyed.