The Flavorful Jamaican Dish That Starts With Canned Corned Beef

From upscale tinned seafood to cured meats and pickled vegetables, the culinary world is shedding increasingly deserved attention to preserved foods. Especially when used in combination with fresh ingredients, a stored tin not only eases the assembly of components but elevates their flavor, too.

For an aromatic enlivening of canned corned beef, turn to a Jamaican dish known as bully beef. Assembled in minutes, the food craftily dresses up preserved meat into a dish bursting with flavor. Part spicy, sweet, and deeply savory bully beef is a liquidy stew-like creation, perfect when served atop a hearty side.

And it all comes together by simply sautéing ingredients like bold scotch bonnets, aromatic root vegetables, and corned beef with sauces in a pan. All components that, especially in a Jamaican kitchen, are readily accessible pantry staples. So, why did this flavorful dish become a Jamaican staple? Let's dive into bully beef's fascinating globalized origins.

Background of bully beef

The dish's use of corned beef traces back to Jamaica's colonial period since the island was under British rule from the 17th century until independence in 1962. Such a period coincides with the prevalence of Irish corned beef, which was exported abroad throughout the Commonwealth. Tins of the salted beed product ended up in Jamaica, practical for their durability, especially during hurricane season.

Bully beef's stewed nature pays homage to French cooking, with the name derived from bouilli, French for boiled meat. Such a slow-cooked beef preparation became prevalent throughout the Americas, emerging as varying regional renditions of Pot-au-Feu. Jamaica's bully beef is a further deviated version of the dish, easing preparation by eliminating cooking the beef from scratch.

And its flavors are distinctly Jamaican, incorporating beloved ingredients like spicy scotch bonnet peppers and browning, a beloved sweet and savory sauce on the island. Such a combination results in a delicious creation with an unmistakable taste. But what else goes into the dish?

What is in bully beef?

Regardless of the interpretations, preparation always starts with a can of corned beef, a cornerstone of bully beef. It's enlivened with a medley of flavors, imbued through a swift cooking process. First, there's a backbone of aromatics, including garlic, onions, scallions, bell peppers, and a scotch bonnet. The mix is traditionally seasoned with thyme, and some add all-purpose seasoning. After sweating the vegetables in a pan, the beef is introduced and all components are stirred together.

Next, come the liquid additions. Sweetness is introduced through a can of sweetcorn, ketchup, or browning. The beef is quickly stirred together with the liquids for a few minutes, and the dish is done. The preparation generates an ample amount of liquidy bits, so bully beef is served with a generous serving of sides. Traditional options include a combination of white rice, fried plantains, or Johnny Cakes, a fried dough. Just a bite will showcase the dish's allure — a savory affair full of bright, balanced flavors — making a second serving nearly guaranteed.