As I’ve discussed in my Cookbook, there’s much debate in the Caribbean when it comes to callaloo. In the southern Caribbean it’s a delicious soup-like dish made with young dasheen bush leaves, flavored with crabs (for the most part) and simmered in coconut milk. However in Jamaica, callaloo is the bush or plant (amaranth) which is prepared in several different ways, but most popular is Jamaican Callaloo With Saltfish.
In this version of cooking Jamaican callaloo ((amaranth, chorai bhagi), we’ll bypass the salted fish and go with some precooked shrimp. However you can certainly use fresh shrimp for even more flavor.
2 lbs Jamaican Callaloo
1 tablespoon Coconut Oil (or olive)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (your fav salt)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
1/4 scotch bonnet pepper
1 cup small shrimp (pre cooked)
1/2 cup water
1 medium tomato diced
2 sprigs thyme
Wash, trim and chop the callaloo into ribbons. If using some of the stem, do try to use the tender ones and try to scrape of some of the outer skin. Thinly slice the garlic, chop the onion, scallion and tomato and finely dice the scotch bonnet pepper.
Heat the oil in a wide pan on a medium flame, then go in with the onion, garlic, black pepper and scallion. Drop the heat to low and let that go for about 3-4 minutes.
It’s now time to add the shrimp (if using frozen-precooked shrimp, wash and squeeze to remove most of the water) , stir well and cook for another 3 minutes. Yes the shrimp is already precooked, so you can easily add them near the end, but I quite like adding them now to enhance the flavor of the dish. If using fresh shrimp, cook for about 3 minutes, then remove them from the pan and set aside. Add back the last 3-4 minutes of cooking.
Turn the heat up to medium high and go in with all the other ingredients (not the water or lemon juice yet) and stir well. It may seem at first that your pot is not large enough, but the callaloo will wilt down. After a couple minutes, add the water and cook until tender.
After about 10-12 minutes, taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Here is where you’ll personalize this dish by checking to see if you like the current texture of it. Some people like their Callaloo very tender, while other like a slight bit of texture to it. In my case it was close to where I like it, so I went in with the lemon juice and turned up the heat to burn off the remaining liquid in the pan.
The lemon juice will help balance the flavors of this dish and quite honestly elevate it. This dish (please review all the ingredients) can be considered gluten free and if you want to add a bit more flavor you can use coconut milk as a replacement for the water. Not the classic Jamaican callaloo with Saltfish or Chorai bhagi with saltfish as we would call it in Trinidad and Tobago, but I assure you… you’ll love this take on cooking Jamaican callaloo.