February 6th marks what would have been Bob Marley’s 71st birthday. Born in Jamaica, the reggae icon considered Ethiopia his spiritual home. To celebrate the two rich veins of his heritage, we are highlighting nine outstanding dishes from the Caribbean island and the eastern African nation. These history-rich foods embody and showcase the culinary traditions of each region. Guaranteed to satisfy your soul on Bob Marley Day 2016 – and guaranteed to be one of your #29ReasonstoLoveFebruary!
Mr. Brown’s Lounge, Chicago, Illinois
Skewered shrimp are marinated in a ‘catch a fire’ jerk sauce made with plenty of Scotch Bonnet peppers that ain’t for the faint of heart. Luckily, the sweet, soothing mango salsa keeps things cool. If that’s not enough, we recommend a tart Ting grapefruit soda or a guava milkshake to quench the flames dancing across your tongue. A side of fried plantains or coconut milk-enriched rice ‘n’ peas will also help. Make a reservation at Mr. Brown’s Lounge.
Das Ethiopian Cuisine, Washington, D.C.
Can’t make up your mind on what to order? The vegetarian entrée sampler is a good way to go. Featuring eggplant and carrot wat stew, miser wat (red lentil stew with traditional Ethiopian Berbere pepper spice), and tikil gomen (ginger and garlic amped cabbage, potatoes, and carrots) and more, its served on a bed of spongy injera bread that’s meant to be used as a utensil — and then promptly eaten. Make a reservation at Das Ethiopian Cuisine.
Taste of the Caribbean, Seattle, Washington
Meet your new favorite appetizer. Salted codfish, onions, peppers, and West Indian spices are balled up, battered, and deep-fried. Zigzagged with hot sauce and speckled with scallions, we bet you can’t eat just one of these tasteful takes on the Caribbean classic. Make a reservation at Taste of the Caribbean.
Ethiopian Diamond, Chicago, Illinois
Think of tibs as an Ethiopian stir-fry. To create tibs quosta, spinach is sautéed with garlic and onions, and then mixed with juicy chicken chunks and green peppers. Of course, it’s served with plenty of injera bread, so you can fold up the components together fajita-style. Make a reservation at Ethiopian Diamond.
Ja’ Grill, Chicago, Illinois
Chef Errol Gallimore, a Jamaican transplant, cooks his home-style oxtail in an aromatic brown sauce until the meat is falling off the bone. The rich stew is fortified with butter beans, carrots, potatoes, onions, and several varieties of pepper and is complemented with spicy rice and fried plantains. Goes well with an ice-cold Red Stripe beer. Or three. Make a reservation at Ja’ Grill.
Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge, Houston
If Ethiopia has a national chicken dish, it just might be doro wat. In this rendition, a bone-in drumstick and thigh are slow-simmered in a spicy slurry, not unlike a thick barbecue sauce, and accompanied by a hard-boiled egg. We’re fond of mashing all the components together to create a barbecued chicken ‘n’ egg salad, which we roll up in torn off pieces of injera. Make a reservation at Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge.
Miss Lily’s, New York, New York
Scotch bonnet peppers amp up chef Adam Schop’s take on classic Caribbean jerk sauce. He marinates chicken in the spicy sauce and then grills it until it gets a blackened, caramelized crust. To help diners quench the fiery flavors, it comes with pickled cucumber salad and a mix of rice and peas. Make a reservation at Miss Lily’s.
Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant, Montclair, New Jersey
Breakfast gets an international upgrade, thanks to kita fit-fit. This version is made by sautéing together bits of unleavened kitcha bread with spiced clarified butter to create a tantalizing mix of crunchy, smooth, and soft textures. It arrives with a side of honey or yogurt, so you’ll feel like you’re enjoying a bowl of Ethiopian granola. Make a reservation at Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant.
Judy’s Island Grill II, Glen Burnie, Maryland
You can jerk anything; you just have to be creative. Case in point is this jerk lobster tail, a dish you don’t often see on menus. The fiery spicing is mellowed out by the rich meat, but a glass of peanut punch, coconut water, or pineapple ginger juice can also beat the heat. Make a reservation at Judy’s Island Grill II.
How will you celebrate Bob Marley Day 2016? Are you a fan of the legendary singer and is his rich culinary heritage one of your #29ReasonstoLoveFebruary? Let us know in the comments here or over on Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell.