If you’re a food enthusiast living in Jamaica, you’ve probably heard of the Street Food Saturdays river dining experience in Kingston. The popular monthly event is headed by Chef Simone Walker-Barrett, and has become a coveted culinary retreat over the years. The executive chef and brand have expanded to now include a deliciously-unique offer― Street Food Saturdays coal stove cooking experience!
Chef Walker Barrett is an educator, by nature and profession. She doesn’t limit sharing her culinary passion and knowledge to the classroom; I’ve witnessed her molding cooks at Street Food Saturdays events firsthand. It’s impressive to see the evolution of her chefs, some of which I remember during earlier stages of the monthly river dining event. Street Food Saturdays coal stove cooking experience is just another way she puts her passion for food and education to work.
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Street Food Saturdays Coal Stove Cooking Experience
Entering the riverside venue in the rural hills of Mt. James revealed a lovely picnic-style setup on a raised deck. It wasn’t their signature river dining seating but arguably just as appealing, if not more. The intimate staging began with everyone unraveling red bows to unbox an included gift package. It contained branded Street food Saturdays kitchenware that we would immediately put to use for our coal stove cooking experience:
• Recipe cards
• Table Sauce
• Wooden stirring spoon
• Shovel spoon
• Measuring spoons
• Pot holder
• Kitchen towel
By the way, before you continue…
Pin for future travels!
Traditional Jamaican Recipe Demonstrations
Before donning our new aprons, Chef Walker-Barrett aroused our taste buds with quick culinary demonstrations of a few Jamaican favourites.
Cook Up / Pick Up Saltfish
A colourful array of chopped onions, scallions, and peppers sat alongside shredded codfish. She whipped up a delectable bowl of cook up saltfish in front of us, served with a side of water crackers. Our group scooped mounds of the salted cod delight onto the crunchy platter, munching on cracker after cracker as we prepped for the coal stove cooking.
Tamarind (Tambrin) Balls
As the cook up saltfish lessened by the minute, another Jamaican treat became the focus. A big plate of tart tamarind was kneaded with sugar. Everyone picked off pieces and shaped them between the palms of hands before rolling them into more sugar. We repeatedly popped the sweet and sour bonbon, as much as our cheeks could handle.
Peanut Drops / Cake
Later on, a pot on a coal stove came into play to caramelize sugar and fuse nuts together. A flavour combo of peanuts, almonds, vanilla, and sugar was heated then put to cool on a banana leaf. The peanut drops were hard to resist, evident from some eager taste testers biting into them before the liquid sugar fully hardened. If you’ve never had peanut drops hot and fresh from the pot, let me tell you now that you’re missing out!
Jamaican Coal Stove Cooking
After the appetizer previews, we felt fully ready to take on the challenge of coal stove cooking― Street Food Saturdays style! The river is a pleasant backdrop to the outdoor cooking setting (plus acts a good natural resource for cleansing hands). Each person was assigned a different recipe card by Chef Walker-Barrett, mine was crayfish rundown. Crayfish (/janga/ Jamaican shrimp/ ‘swims’) is one street food I get particularly excited about. Whenever I’m passing through Middle Quarter’s ‘shrimp country’ or a menu has crayfish soup (case in point: Kingston Kitchen) I just have to have it! I was thrilled to be preparing janga for the very 1st time, and under the tutelage of a chef whose cooking I already adore.
The Street food Saturdays coal stove cooking experience provides individual food stations facing the riverside. Armed with easy-to-follow recipe cards and pre-quantified ingredients, the coal stove is lit and you’re ready to get cooking. As the live fire blazes, burning coal adds flavour to the food. I couldn’t help but peek at the stations of my fellow chefs-in-training when the mix of aromas shared the air. With the guidance of Chef Walker-Barrett and instructions of the provided recipe cards the group produced a fantastic spread including Street Food Saturdays favourites:
- Rum-fiah shrimp
- Pimento chicken
- Steamed Fish wrapped in banana leaf
- Charcoal pork tenderloin
- Crayfish rundown
- Pak choy salad
To top it off, additions of roasted sweet potato, ripe plantain, fried bread, fried bammy, and red herring pasta courtesy of Chef Walker-Barrett were added to the smorgasbord. Once the dishes were plated, us foodies-turned-chefs retired beneath the decorated gazebo to feast on our creations. The entire spread was full of colour, aromatic, and delicious! EVERY – SINGLE – DISH made me lick my lips in satisfaction, similar to the many times I’ve sat with friends to indulge at a Street Food Saturdays river dining event. The festival of flavours was heaped onto large dishes and enjoyed with the surrounding green and soft rush of the river in the background. Everyone packed multiple takeaway boxes for 2nd servings, plus for sharing the culinary goodness with loved ones [allegedly].
What is a Jamaican Coal Stove?
A coal stove is a staple in Jamaican culture and households for decades. The basin-like, cast-iron pot is fueled by charcoal, which burns less over longer periods when compared to other fuels. A coal stove is traditionally used for outdoor cooking, and is especially practical when electricity or gas is unavailable. Even though stove evolution over the years has decreased the overall use of coal stoves around Jamaica, it is still very present in modern day gastronomy. It is more common in rural areas but is also called upon for roadside food stops and outdoor trips like camping and riverside/seaside retreats. I wish I had these coal stove cooking skills before a St. Thomas river cookout with friends…it’s not like I would’ve used them, but still would’ve been nice to have!
As someone who typically doesn’t want anyone in my space while in the kitchen, I found this open-air learning experience to be just as comfortable as it was stimulating. The al fresco atmosphere, attractive décor, unique menu, and impressive end-products set this apart from any ordinary cooking class in my opinion. The Street Food Saturdays coal stove cooking experience is exactly that― a uniquely Jamaican culinary experience!
RESERVE YOUR COAL STOVE COOKING EXPERIENCE
Learn new recipes and the tradition Jamaican coal stove cooking method with this unique offer by Street Food Saturdays!
Book online to get outside and get cooking. Coal stove cooking experience is offered by special request and availability.