In 2012, a small Jamaican restaurant opened in the corner of an easy-to-miss strip mall in Greensboro, NC - the small town where I attended college. If you've read my previous articles, you know that I didn't grow up on exotic foods to say the least, so Jamaican food was new to me. However, I was a few years into living a vegan lifestyle, and I was feeling adventurous, so a friend and I stopped by one morning for a late breakfast.

I had already heard good reviews of this brand new hole-in-the-wall from some of my vegan friends; however, when I sat down to order, what I saw on the menu was entirely underwhelming.

The entire menu appeared to be comprised of the same cheap ingredients I cooked with at home as a college student. It turns out I was right. When my food came out, the presentation of the dish wasn't any better. My food appeared cheap, bland and undercooked.

I couldn't have been more wrong

The dish was painfully simple, yet full of incredible flavor, ranging from spicy to sweet, to savory. I was entirely won over and immediately enamored by a flavor palette unlike anything else I had ever tasted. Unfortunately, during the economic peak of frozen yogurt and Spanish tapas, this Jamaican getaway failed to generate enough business and closed its doors months later. Alas, Greensboro's best-kept secret remained a secret.

Aside from a few promising food trucks, I never found another restaurant that mimicked the simplistic elegance and ingenuity of my first Jamaican love. So, five years later, I decided to do what any amateur vegan cook would do: I tried making it at home.

The results exceeded my expectations

After performing a simple Google search, I found a simple, tasty recipe on Vegetarian Times, almost identical to the one I had back in 2012.

Granted, a few details were modified since this dish was actually originated on the nearby island of Cuba. If you're like me, I prefer getting my ingredients as cheap as I can without compromising quality and nutrition. Every ingredient in the recipe can be purchased at a conventional grocery store, all under $10 (USD). The ingredients included:

  • 2 ripe plantains
  • 1 cup of brown rice
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 of a white onion
  • 1/2 of a green bell pepper
  • 1 bouillon cube
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (or plant-based oil of your choice)
  • 1 green onion (for garnish)
  • cilantro to taste (optional)
  • Salt And Pepper to taste

To prepare this dish, cook the brown rice in boiling water and set aside.

Next, cut the plantains into cubes and cook in 1 tbsp of oil. Set the plantains aside in a small bowl. Dice the yellow onion and green pepper and cook them down in the remaining 1 tbsp of oil until the onions are yellow. Add the black beans, cumin, salt, and pepper into the pan and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. Finally, place the vegetables on top of the rice and top with plantains, green onion, and cilantro. I like to serve it with a glass of orange juice. Enjoy!

**If you are new to cooking with plantains, make sure they are completely ripe before peeling them. They should be almost completely brown all over before using.**