Jamaican Home Cooking

Ask any Jamaican chef about memories of their family’s holiday meals, and you’re bound to get a good story about some good old Jamaican home cooking. For home cooks seeking inspiration for our own holiday tables, we turned to Jamaican Chef Sian Rose to find out the favorite childhood holiday dishes, and the memories behind them.

Chef Sian moved from her native Jamaica to South Florida when she was ten years old. Back and forth to the island dozens of times since then, her love of cooking originated in the place where she was born. In 2008 she founded Sian’s Cooking, the catering company specializing in Caribbean cuisine she now operates out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In addition to capitalizing on her cooking skills, Chef Sian keeps a blog where she catalogues her “ongoing food ventures.”


Mannish water (or goat soup) is the first thing Sian thinks of when asked about Jamaican holiday cuisine. This soup is “not for the faint of heart,” she says, as the main ingredients “are goat’s head, tripe” and other unmentionable body parts. Growing up on the island, Sian remembers being acutely aware the holidays were near when the family brought home a male goat. Years later, she still makes sure her uncle freezes some of his holiday soup for her, sometimes keeping it for months before she visits the island.

Jamaican Mannish Water

4 pounds goat’s head and tripe (cut into small pieces)
4 gallons water
3 tablespoon salt
12 green bananas, chopped
1 pound coco malanga, chopped
1 pound yam, chopped
1 pound carrots diced
1 pound “cho cho” (also known as chayote), diced
1 pound potatoes, chopped
1 pound flour for dumplings
1 bunch scallions, about 6 stalks, chopped
1 medium habanero pepper, whole
4 sprigs thyme
1 cup overproof white rum
3 packages of pumpkin or mannish water soup mix

Clean meat thoroughly with diluted vinegar water. In a 14 quart or larger pot, add meat
to salted, boiling water and let it scald for about 10 minutes. Discard the water. Add 2
gallons of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to the pot and return to the fire. Cover and let
meat simmer over medium heat for one hour. While meat cooks, prepare the remaining
ingredients. Cut tips from bananas, leave skin on, and cut into small rounds. Peel and
cut the remaining vegetables into small, bite-sized pieces.

After meat has cooked, add vegetables and other ground provisions to the pot. Prepare the dumplings. Add more water, up to 2 gallons. Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. Add dumplings to the pot. Stir well and bring to a boil. Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer for an additional 20 minutes. Taste for flavor. Add more salt and black pepper if desired.

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