Nigel Spence: A Recipe for Crab Cakes, Jamaican Style


By Nigel Spence
CJ Contributor

There was great excitement in Jamaica last week as President Barack Obama paid a visit to our island paradise.

He was the first sitting US President in over 30 years to have made an official visit to our Nation — the last one being President Ronald Reagan.

Here in the US there is great speculation as to the reason for such a visit.

Some believe it to be a reinforcement of the IMF program, others believe since Jamaica has been receiving help from China and Venezuela, the US is making sure to reinforce their long-time presence/friendship. However, simply put, according to the President as he addressed a group of U.W.I. students – “I just like the vibes.”

In keeping with that vibe, one of his first stops was the Bob Marley Museum to pay homage to our Reggae King.  With the sounds of “One Love” playing on the speakers outside, the President remarked that this quick trip to the museum was one of his favorite stops of his entire presidency.

I am sure no self-respecting Jamaican would be surprised by that comment as wi dun know once a likkle “Bob” start play and “di music hits yuh, yuh feel no pain”.

That’s not all though – looks like the President created another historical moment when as a result of his visit, the famous “Cashpot” lottery airing was displaced. This has never, ever happened before – not even during the Olympics or hurricane!!

“Cashpot” is a game of numbers. Each number represents certain signs, for example, if someone had a dream or got a sign about lizards, they most likely would buy the corresponding number for lizard, expecting a win.

Before the Obama visit, NOTHING stopped the Cashpot drawing from being aired at its regularly scheduled time…  I wonder wha’ number woulda play fi dat? (

Now, I love my Jamaica, but every time I go visit and come back is one thing I always have to complain about  – the many potholes  – some of dem large enough to house a family of 4!!

Thanks to the scheduled visit by President Obama, what never happened in years, apparently happened in days; old roads were torn up and replaced with silky smooth asphalt.

Everyone hurriedly took a drive just to enjoy the moment in case the Government somehow reversed it after the visit! Ha!

The “roadworks” personnel claimed the repairs were already scheduled and was not because of the visit, but yuh cyaan fool Jamaican people especially when dem see dat the only roads repaired in haste were the ones traveled by Mr. President.

That must explain why Prime Minister Portia Simpson said to President Obama,  “I just want to say to you, you might not know, but you’re very loved in this country, Jamaica”.

She is so right – because anyone or anything that finally made those craters get fixed so quickly would have a special place in our hearts!

I don’t know what kind of food they served Mr Obama during his visit but I got to understand that he missed out on sampling a great feast of crab and roast corn or roast yam from the many vendor stalls located at National Heroes Park.

It is said they do whopping brisk business, especially on Friday nights but not this time — all the stalls were temporarily removed as part of the clean-up effort for the visit.  According to one distraught vendor: “Imagine, the Queen come here and them never remove wi, the Prince also come and we were allowed to stay, so why now?

I guess Mr. President won’t know what he truly missed. But in case any of you missed out too, you may want to check out my latest recipe – fit for a Regent, Prime Minister or President.

This dish won’t fix any potholes but it definitely will fill the hole in your stomach and that’s a promise!

This is not quite the same as the boiled crabs that have been sold at Heroes Circle for decades but rather the cheat version.

This dish makes for easy eating of crabs as the meat has already been removed from the shell and formed into super delicious mounds of tender crabmeat without the bother and hassle of de-shelling at the table.  Enjoy!

Jamaican Crab Cake Recipe

1 Pound Jamaican “Land Crab” meat

1/2 Cup Mayonnaise

1/4 Cup chopped scallions

Red bell pepper, fine dice, 2 Tablespoons

Egg, beaten, 1 each

Salt 1/2 teaspoon

Dijon Mustard 1 teaspoon

Breadcrumbs  1/2 Cup

Jamaican Hot Pepper Sauce – A Dash

Parsley, fine chopped, 2 Tablespoon


Combine the mayonnaise with the scallions, bell pepper, mustard, and hot pepper sauce and salt. Reserve chilled.

Combine the breadcrumbs and parsley.

Combine mayonnaise mixture with crabmeat, and then incorporate breadcrumbs/parsley mixture into crabmeat mixture along with the beaten egg.

Form into crab cakes.

Allow to chill in the fridge for about an hour.

Pan fry over medium heat on both sides until cooked through.

Nigel Spence, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Nigel freelanced at the Television Food Network for 3 years where he worked with culinary luminaries such as Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. Chef Spence has appeared twice on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where he emerged the victor in cook offs against the Food Network star and was featured on CBS  when he appeared on Tony’s Table as well as ABC’s Neighborhood Eats, NBC’s  The Today Show , Sirius’ Everyday Living with Martha Stewart and TVFN’s Chopped. The acclaimed and New York Times-reviewed Ripe Kitchen and Bar is Mr Spence’s first entrepreneurial endeavour.


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