Mannish water is a unique Jamaican soup made from a collection of ingredients including bananas, Scotch bonnet peppers, potatoes and the head, testicles, feet and internal organs of a goat. The soup is usually made in a large pot over an outdoor fire, where it is boiled for hours, and is most often sold by vendors from outdoor stalls. The dish can be served with flour dumplings that are cooked in the soup; it also can be poured over rice, eaten with baked yams or even sipped like a hot beverage when mixed with rum. Mannish water can often be found at parties and celebrations, where it is consumed either before or after drinking alcohol.
There are a few different properties attributed to mannish water. One of the most common is that, when eaten, it acts as an aphrodisiac. It also is said to reduce the intoxicating effects of alcohol and act as a remedy for hangovers. The robust flavor and heavy ingredients also have led to the belief that mannish water provides extra power and strength to the person drinking it, which might have some basis in fact because the primary ingredients in the soup are energy-producing carbohydrates and proteins. Culturally, aside from being considered an aphrodisiac, eating mannish water is sometimes said to increase a person’s masculinity.
The main ingredient in mannish water is the meat — usually goat, although lamb also can be used. The head of the goat is used in its entirety, including the tongue, brains and eyes. The feet of the goat, which contain a gelatin that will thicken the soup, are added along with the heart and several other pieces of offal. The pieces are usually carved into small chunks and then boiled by themselves in a large amount of water for several hours until all the flavors have been extracted and the water has turned to stock.
After the goat parts have cooked, several other ingredients are added to the mannish water. These can include potatoes, yams, bananas, carrots and allspice seeds. Almost all recipes also have thyme, garlic and the incredibly hot Scotch bonnet peppers in the soup. These ingredients are cooked in the pot with the goat meat for an hour or longer, until done.
Once the goat soup is finished, it can be left over a low fire so it continues to boil, but the Scotch bonnet peppers are removed so their heat does not overpower the rest of the ingredients. There are not many formal, indoor restaurants that serve mannish water, making it primarily the domain of outdoor street vendors. The soup is very popular on certain occasions, including weddings, and is sold commercially either canned or frozen.