The Story of Curry Goat
You may have noticed curried goat on our menu. If you haven’t tried this decadent Jamaican dish, you’re missing out. The foods of the Caribbean, particularly Jamaica, reflect the rich cultural diversity of those who migrated to Jamaica. We’ve already talked about the origins of Jerk Chicken and how this special way of preparing chicken arose from a need to keep campfires to a minimum. The story of curry goat also has its roots in the people who immigrated to Jamaica.
As one might suspect the “curry” part of curried goat comes from those Indian and Chinese immigrants who played a role in the development of the national cuisine. Not only did they bring rice with them, they brought curried goat.
In the late 18th century and early 19th century, the British attempted to entice Chinese workers to migrate to Jamaica and other Caribbean islands including British Guiana, Trinidad, and Tobago. These initial efforts failed, but in 1854 two ships of Chinese workers arrived on Jamaican shores – one from China and one from Panama. More workers migrated over the next twenty years, and a third wave of 680 Chinese immigrants arrived in 1884. Between 1845 and 1917, over 36,000 immigrants from India came to Jamaica under the British indenture system. Most were from South India, and around 66% of those who came stayed on the island. In 1917, the indentured servant system was outlawed.
Both cultural groups had a significant impact on Jamaican culture. In addition to artwork, the food they brought shaped Jamaican cuisine. Those from India brought okra, eggplant, curry, dal, and chutney as well as plums, mangos, jackfruit, and tamarind. The Chinese brought soy sauce. Many Jamaican meat dishes include soy sauce. The Chinese also introduced stir fry to Jamaican food.
Jamaican curry goat is a dish that combines these influences. It is quite the special dish – often served at significant life events – weddings, parties, fun fairs, etc. This is partially due to the cost of goat meat on the island. It is more expensive than chicken or beef. It is also due to the fact that it takes time to cook.
The goat meat, with bones left in for optimal flavor, is traditionally marinated for at least 24 hours before it is cooked in order to bring out the most flavor possible. The dish is marinated in Jamaican spices before it is slow cooked in a curry sauce. Ingredients include scallions, thyme, curry powder, onions, ginger, garlic, and – key to any Jamaican dish – scotch bonnet peppers. In addition to including goat, the curry is cooked with potatoes. Some Jamaicans include pimento berries in the dish when they cook it.
Our curry goat dish includes goat, carrots, and Irish potatoes. It is seasoned and marinated then we stew it until it is tender and filled with flavor. WE serve it with a side of rice and peas and garnish it with steamed cabbage and plantains.