August 6th is Jamaican Independence Day. Celebrate! Jamaican fried dough, known as festival, is a cultural tradition that could be described as cornmeal fritters with a slight sweetness that’s ideal alongside jerk-seasoned meats.
Slightly sweet and very moreish fried dumplings, called festival, from Jamaica, these are traditionally served with jerk meats. [Editor’s Note: The term “moreish” means, quite literally, something that’s so darn good, it makes you want more.]–Virginia Burke
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CAN I MAKE ADJUSTMENTS TO FESTIVAL DOUGH?
Keep in mind, there are about as many different approaches to festival as there are home cooks who make them, so this version may be slightly more or less sweet than what you’ve had in the past. If these seem heavier than what you’re used to, they may have a slightly different proportion of cornmeal to flour. In fact, in some recipes, we’ve seen an added teaspoon of vanilla extract. Subtle differences like these are common, especially in a dish that’s as popular and widespread as Caribbean fried corn dough. Feel free to use the recipe as a blueprint, making it once and tweaking accordingly if the festival of your memories is slightly different.
Jamaican Fried Dough | Festival
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour plus more for the work surface
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Enough cold water to make a soft dough
- Oil for frying
- Mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add just enough cold water to make a stiff dough.
- Flour your hands well and knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for just a minute or so. Divide the dough into 12 portions. Roll each portion into a small cigar or sausage shape that's somewhat tapered at the ends.
- Pour enough oil into a skillet to reach about 1 inch deep. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking (about 350°F | 176°C).
- Carefully slide a few of the dumplings into the oil, being careful not to crowd the skillet. Fry, turning as necessary, until golden brown on each side, adjusting the heat if necessary, about 8 minutes total. Move them to paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining fritters. Eat 'em hot.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I really enjoyed these fritters, and they were a snap to make. I needed a half cup of water to bring the dough together, and they came out crisp on the outside but dense and soft on the inside. They’re quite plain, making them a great accompaniment to strongly flavored jerk chicken—keep some sauce aside for dipping. Don’t try to use a knife and fork on them—better to use your fingers!
Originally published December 19, 2011