Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ital is Vital

While a lot of West Indian people many be familiar with "Ital" food. I feel like it often gets overlooked by vegetarians, vegans and meatless Monday participants, etc.
Ital food to me is always a treat and finding a good restaurant that serves it up is like finding the treasure of One Eyed Willie just in time to save the family house.

Ital is the name for food  eaten by many followers of the Rastafarian culture. The Word "Ital" comes from the word "Vital". The overall idea is that what you put in your body should aid it, not impair it. Ital food should be natural, clean, unprocessed and from the earth.

Followers of an Ital diet require strict adherance to a vegetarian lifestyle but many ital meals and dishes are vegan. Some Rasta's will include fish less than 12 inches in length in their diets.

Basically Ital cooking is Jamacian food without the meat and usually vegan!

My favorite Ital spot in Jamaica Queens, NY got closed down but they made the BEST Ackee & Tofu evvver!!!
As a new resident of Los Angeles California, I didn't think I would be able to get my Ital fix and then I stumbled upon Saltdown Jamaican Grill in Studio City, Ca.

Saltdown Jamaican Grill is not a vegetarian/vegan restaurant but they offer several vegetarian & vegan options

Looking at the Menu was one of those times where you are at a new restaurant and before the dish you ordered is brought to your table, you are already planning what you will have the next time you visit.

I ordered the Vegan Jerk Beef and it was BANGING!!!!

I also had the festival. If you have never had festival, it's a semi sweet flour and cornmeal dough that is fried (that's the best description I can come up with). I highly recommend trying this.

There is one chef, Chef Tony Hyde so be prepared to wait for your food or call ahead if you are ordering takeout. I love restaurants like these, I think the waitress was his wife (but I am not sure).

Toward the end of our meal he came to our table to see if everything was to our liking. I will definitely go back to this restaurant and as I try new dishes I will be sure to post my reviews.

In NY, especially in the boroughs it is very easy to find Ital Cuisine. In other states it may be a little harder but just call your local Jamacian restuarant (if you have one) to find out if they offer Ital dishes.

Below is a example of an Ital Food Recipe taken from and created by forum member Tuff Gong

  • 1lb 8ozs to 1lb 14ozs sweet potato (I used 1lb 14ozs in this Pudding)
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 ½tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 to 1 ¼4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups soaked raisins (I have mine soaked in Sherry for over 5 years now. I top it off with more Raisins, Prunes and Sherry every time it gets too low in the bottle.)
  • ½ - 1 cup flour (More or less flour will make it firmer or less so I used half a cup) 
  • 5ozs Beet Root or Carrots (optional)
  1. Puree sweet potato and coconut milk in blender
  2. Pour mixture into a bowl
  3. Dice beet root
  4. Add all the ingreidents to the bowl. Mix and pour into a well greased 8" or 10" round tin
    (vegetable shortening to grease the tin)
  5. Bake at 350F for 1 ½ hours then 300F for 25 mins
  6. Best eaten the next day or at least 5 hours after cooking.
  7. The pudding sets as it cools.
If you find a Ital place you love or if you have a great recipe post it in the comments below! 

Irie. One Love.


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