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Jamaica’s national dish: Ackee and saltfish with a side of breadfruit

Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica and one of the main ingredients in the national dish, ackee and saltfish. The fruit is not native to the Caribbean island, and is rumored to have come over on a ship from West Africa. While it has been introduced to Central America, Florida and nearby islands, Jamaica is the only place where the plant produces enough fruit to be canned and exported throughout the world. The canned ackee is primarily sold to expatriate Jamaicans living abroad, as very few other cultures include the fruit on their menus.

Fresh ackee, if prepared improperly, can be toxic, but there is nothing to worry about when it comes from a can, so expatriates can pick some up at the market to prepare a traditional Jamaican breakfast. Many Jamaicans who are working abroad send money to Jamaica so their families can buy the ingredients to make their own ackee and saltfish. Nothing brings families together like sharing a meal, even if they are doing so over long distances.

To make the national dish of Jamaica, you will need saltfish, ackee, a hot pepper (traditionally Scotch Bonnet peppers are used), onion, tomato and spices. The fish is sauteed with all of the vegetables and spices while the ackee boils. The fruit is added last and the entire concoction is heated thoroughly, and then it's ready to be gobbled down.

Since the dish is a bit on the spicy side, roast breadfruit can compliment it nicely. The fruit gets its name from the flavor it has once it has been cooked, which is said to resemble that of bread or potatoes. Breadfruit trees can be found around the world in countries near the equator, and since one tree can produce as many as 200 fruits in a season in certain regions, it is a very popular source of food.

Roasting a breadfruit is simple. All you do is remove the stem and roast it. Traditionally it is done over an open fire, but throwing it in the over at about 350 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour ought to do the trick if you don't have a fire pit. Once the skin has turned brown, just slice it, peel away the skin and serve.

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