Jamaica is an island that possesses a rich culture and a wonderful culinary heritage. No trip to Jamaica would be complete without trying some of the island’s unique and tasty cuisines. One of the must have experiences requires a sense of adventure. To taste pan chicken you have to make a stop at one of the many street corners where chefs ply their trade. The chefs can usually be found on the streets from around evening time to the wee hours of the morning. The chefs primarily cater to Jamaicans heading home from work and locals and tourists alike who partake in the party or bar scene, or other night adventures.
Pan chicken in Jamaica traditionally is prepared as a “jerked” style chicken cooked by street chefs. Jerk style is a form of cooking that originated in Jamaica where meat is dry seasoned or wet marinated with a spicy and often hot dressing known as “jerk seasoning”. Each chef will have his or her own unique blend of jerk seasoning made from combining pimento, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, garlic, thyme, scotch bonnet peppers and other ingredients. Also some creative pan chefs have been known to use tamarind, peanut butter, teriyaki and other styled seasonings when cooking with their portable drum grills.
Pan chicken chefs use portable steel drums cut in half as grills. The drums are cut across the length and then are kept attached with hinges. Additionally holes are drilled into the drums to provide ventilation.
Pan chicken is as much a part of the Jamaican identity as reggae music, fast sprinters and the beautiful white sand beaches. When visiting Jamaica it is definitely worth while to sample pan chicken which is Jamaica’s most popular street side food. The chicken is cooked until the meat is very tender and is usually accompanied by bread, yam, breadfruit or festival. The presentation is very simple, but the taste is very flavorful. Some people like to add hot pepper sauce and ketchup to their pan chicken while others like to savor it with just the seasoning in which it was grilled. Whichever your preference, one of the pluses about pan chicken, especially to budget travelers, is that it is a relatively inexpensive and filling meal.
It is hard to come across pan chicken outside Jamaica, but it can be found in select parts of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom thanks to the movement of people within the Jamaican diaspora.