NY TIMES

While it is hard to pin down any truly distinctive Belizean cuisine, what you will find in Belize is a mix of Caribbean, Mexican, African, Spanish, and Mayan culinary influences. You'll also find burgers, pizzas, Chinese food, and even Indian restaurants.

Belize's strongest suit is its seafood. Fresh fish, lobster, shrimp, and conch are widely available, especially in the beach and island destinations. Belize has historically been a major exporter of lobster, but overharvesting has caused the population to decline. It is still readily available and relatively inexpensive, but there is a lobster season, from June 15 to February 14.

Rice and beans is a major staple, often served as an accompaniment to almost any main dish. A slight difference is to be inferred between "rice and beans," which are usually cooked (sometimes in coconut milk) and served together, and "beans and rice," which are usually cooked and served separately. Belizeans tend to use a small red bean, but black beans are sometimes used.

Aside from rice and beans, if there were such a thing as a national dish it would be stew chicken and its close cousins stew beef and stew fish. These Kriol-based recipes are dark stews that get their color from a broad mix of spices, as well as red recado, which is made from annatto seed or achiote. A similar and related stew commonly found around Belize is chimole, which is sometimes called black gumbo.

Perhaps the most distinctive element of Belizean cuisine and dining is Marie Sharp's Hot Sauce. Almost no dining table is complete without a bottle of Marie Sharp's. The original Marie Sharp's is a very spicy sauce made from a base of habanero peppers, carrots, and onions. Currently, Marie Sharp's has a wide range of different hot sauces, jams, and chutneys. If you have a hankering for the hot stuff, you will find that your options aren't confined to Marie Sharp's. In many restaurants, you will often see a jar of habanero peppers and onions marinating in simple white vinegar. Marie Sharp's original sauce was named Melinda's; however, she no longer has anything to do with Melinda's (it's not even made in Belize anymore). One other local hot sauce you might see is Lizette's, which is also quite good.

A new local product to look out for is homemade organic chocolate, which you'll see in supermarkets and gift shops around the country under the label Goss Chocolate (www.gosschocolate.com).

Meals & Dining Customs

Belizeans tend to eat three meals a day, in similar fashion and hours to North Americans. Breakfasts tend to be served between 6:30 and 9am; lunch between noon and 2pm; and dinner between 6 and 10pm. Most meals and dining experiences are quite informal. In fact, there are only a few restaurants in the entire country that could be considered semiformal, and none require a jacket or tie, although you could certainly wear them.

Breakfast -- The typical breakfast in Belize is quite simple, usually anchored by some scrambled eggs and refried red or black beans. However, instead of toast, you will often have a choice of tortillas, johnnycakes, or fry jacks to accompany them. A johnnycake is a semidry, baked, round flour biscuit, served with butter or stuffed with ham and/or cheese. Fry jacks are a similar batter and shape, but deep-fried, and either served as is or dusted with confectioner's sugar. The most common tortillas served in Belize are corn tortillas.

Appetizers -- Conch fritters are by far the country's most popular and tastiest appetizer. These deep-fried balls of flour batter and chopped conch meat are on most bar and restaurant menus in the country, particularly on the cayes and along the coast. Try some.

Sandwiches & Snacks -- Belize's light menus show a heavy Mexican and American influence. Many simple eateries and roadside carts will feature simple tacos, tamales (also called dukunu), or garnaches. The latter, a fried corn tortilla topped with beans, cheese, or shredded meat or chicken, would probably be considered a tostada by many. Popular stuffed pastries include meat pies and panades, small, deep-fried empanadas.

You can also get traditional sandwiches, often served on sliced white bread, as well as American-style burgers. I personally recommend looking for fish, shrimp, or conch burgers, which are available at most beach and island destinations.

Meat, Poultry & Wild Game -- Belizeans also eat a fair amount of meat and poultry, as well as some more interesting game. Because Belize only recently began to raise its own beef, the country relied for a long time on wild game. Some of the more interesting game items you might see on a Belizean menu include gibnut (paca) and iguana. The gibnut is a large rodent, Agouti paca, which some say tastes like rabbit, although I find it a bit gamier. Iguana is frequently called "bamboo chicken," and it does actually taste a bit like chicken. Occasionally, you may also come across wild boar, armadillo, or some other forest-dwelling creature.

Another popular wild animal found in restaurants is the sea turtle, endangered all over the world, including in Belize. It's not yet illegal to sell sea turtle within Belize, but international agreements prohibit its export. Please don't order turtle steak, turtle soup, or turtle eggs. In fact, I'm a little hesitant to recommend the eating of wild game at all. So far, there's no reliable data on the impact that the hunting of wild game has had or could have, but there is reason for concern. Belize is struggling to preserve its natural environment, and as long as people order wild game, it will continue to show up on menus. Exceptions would be any farm-raised wild animals, like iguanas. When harvested from commercial "iguana farms," this wild game actually has the potential to mix sustainable yield with modern conservation.

    The Queen's Rat -- The gibnut is often called "The Queen's Rat" or "The Royal Rat" because Queen Elizabeth was served gibnut during a visit here. Headlines in London read "Queen eats rat."

Seafood -- Seafood is the basic staple of most of the country's coastal and island destinations. It is fresh and plentiful. Shrimp, conch, lobster (in season), and a variety of fish are almost always on the menu. You're best off sticking to simple preparations, either grilled or fried. My favorite fishes are grouper, snapper, and dorado (or mahimahi). You will also come across barracuda, shark, and marlin. You'll rarely find snook on the menu, and if so, you should definitely try this delicate white fish.

If you are in a Garífuna region, you should not miss the chance to try hudut, a fish stew or whole fish preparation served in a coconut-milk broth, often accompanied by mashed, fried green plantains. Sere is a very similar Kriol dish that seems more like a traditional fish or seafood stew, but again, based on a coconut-milk broth.

Ceviche, a cold marinade of fish, conch, and/or shrimp "cooked" in lime juice and seasoned, is a great treat for lunch or as an appetizer.

Vegetables -- On the whole, you'll find vegetables surprisingly lacking in Belizean meals. Fresh garden salads are rare and hard to come by. A lack of fresh ingredients makes other vegetable dishes and sides almost as uncommon. Most restaurant meals come accompanied by a simple slaw of grated cabbage, or a potato or beet salad.

Fruits -- Belize has a wealth of delicious tropical fruits. The most common are mangoes (the season begins in May), papayas, pineapples, melons, and bananas. Other fruits you might find include the fruit of the cashew tree, which has orange or yellow glossy skin, and carambola (star fruit), a tart fruit whose cross-sections form perfect stars.

Desserts -- Belize doesn't have a very extravagant or refined dessert culture. After all, the country was colonized by the British, not the French. However, you can usually find homemade coconut pie, chocolate pie, or bread pudding on most menus. Flan, an egg-and-condensed-milk custard imported from Mexico, is also popular.

Beverages -- Most major brands of soft drinks are available, as are fresh lime juice (limeade) and orange juice. You're in the tropics, so expect to find fresh shakes made with papaya, pineapple, or mango.

One of the most unique drinks you're likely to sample anywhere is a seaweed shake, a cooling concoction made of dried seaweed, evaporated and condensed milk, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and blended with ice. Seaweed shakes are sometimes kicked up with a shot of rum or brandy.

Water -- Much of the drinking water in Belize is rainwater. People use the roofs of their houses to collect water in a cistern, which supplies them for the year. Tap water isn't generally considered safe to drink, even in most cities and popular tourist towns. The water in Belize City and San Ignacio is relatively safe to drink, but travelers often get a touch of diarrhea whenever they hit a foreign country, so always play it safe. Ask for bottled drinking water at your hotel, and whenever you can, pick up a bottle of spring or purified water (available in most markets) to have handy.

Beer, Wine & Liquor -- The Belize Brewing Company's Belikin beer is the national beer of Belize. It comes in several varieties, including Belikin Lager, Belikin Premium, and Belikin Stout. The recipes and original brew masters all came from Germany. Both the lager and premium are full-bodied, hearty beers. The Belikin brewery also bottles a locally produced Guinness Stout, as thick and rich as its brand name demands.

As you'll find throughout the Caribbean, rum is the liquor of choice in Belize. There are several brands and distilleries producing rum in Belize. Probably the finest Belizean rum is the 5-year-aged Prestige. One of the most popular brands you'll come across is 1 Barrel, which has a hint of vanilla, and is slightly sweet for my taste.

Belize doesn't produce any traditional wines of note. The climate and soil are not very well suited for growing the right kinds of grapes. On Ambergris Caye, the Rendezvous Restaurant & Winery does in fact import grape juice for the purpose of producing and bottling their own wines, although they are really more of a novelty than a delicacy.

Several different fruit wines are produced in Belize using native fruits, including pineapple and even banana. These wines are very sweet and are more a novelty than anything else. In remote parts of the country, you'll find homemade fruit wines that are a bit like hard cider.

http://travel.nytimes.com/


10 Most Common Ingredients Used In Belizean Food

It is not a mystery that Belizeans are excellent cooks – both male and females. Even though I am a male, I can cook from well prepared pastas to the most iconic Belizean dish – the Rice and Beans. Talk about being multi-talented!

I am obsessed with the kitchen in so many ways that I always keep it stacked with a variety of ingredients. And when I am ready, I cook something for both my wife and I; who needs restaurants anyway. Don’t even ask how she thanks me later– kisses here, kisses there. O’ how I love cooking!

But what makes us excellent chefs? It could be that we have inherited these abilities from our ancestors. What do you think? I don’t even know my ancestors so I can jump to that conclusion. How about you?

I studied this carefully and came up with my own little conclusion; what makes us extra-ordinary cooks has nothing to do with us, but a lot with the ingredients we use.

I went to take a look at my kitchen and compared it with my mother’s, and boy was I surprised. I found out that she was using the same ingredients that my wife and I were using. I observed other people’s kitchens and I noticed the same ingredients.

It is safe to say that most Belizean cooks use the same ingredients to prepare their food. So we have gathered here a list of the most common ingredients found in Belizean Food.

1. Corn – Arguably the most popular ingredient in Central America. Corn is used in most of the food we prepare here in Belize, making it one of the most common ingredients found in Belizean food. Corn is used to make tamales, tacos, salbutes, panades, corn tortillas, garnaches and so much more.

2. Beans – If you are a Belizean you definitely eat beans at least three time for the week. Therefore  beans deservedly fall in this list. Beans is mainly used to prepare beans soup here in Belize.

3. Rice – A magical mixture of rice and beans makes one of Belize’s favorite dishes -- the rice and beans.

4. Coconut Oil – A perfect rice and beans must be complimented by some coconut oil. Oil is also used to prepare other Belizeans traditional dishes.

5. Onion – While onion is not the nicest ingredient in this list, I had to include it because we use it in almost every dish we prepare here in Belize. Basically, onion is like oxygen for our food, if it doesn't have onion it is not perfect.

6. Sweet Peppers – This ingredient is used in soups, fast foods, sauces and in many other Belizean foods, so rightfully it made it in this list of the most common ingredients found in Belizean food.

7. Tomatoes – Tomatoes is the brother of sweet peppers. Wherever you see one you will see the other. This ingredient is used to prepare excellent sauces and nice vegetable salads.

8. Season All – This ingredient is what gives everything you cook the taste that it has. The use of the entire family of season all has become a tradition in the preparation of food here in Belize.

9. Flour – While flour is the least used in this list, it is still one of the most common ingredients used here in Belize. It is used to make the famous tortillas.

10. Salt and Pepper – Salt and pepper is used to add the final touch to a well prepared meal. Some Belizeans love their pepper along with their meals.

iBelmopan Blog


Top 10 Belizean Food

Top 10 Belizean Food Infographic

If you share the same taste that I have for my Belizean food, you would agree that Belizean food is simply the best! Don't you think? Here is an excellent infograhic of the Top 10 Belizean Food, according to popular Chaa Creek travel blog. Fantastic job my friend!
One of my first happy discoveries about Belize was how wonderful and varied the food is. Generally inexpensive,dining in Belize is a treat. There’s great variety, ingredients are fresh, and hygiene is never a worry. I’ve dined with gusto from excellent resort kitchens to beach shacks and the humblest of street side vendors, and never had a rumble of tummy discontent. It’s usually real food made by real folks with a certain amount of Belize’s national ingredient – pride.

Any selection of the Belizean culinary arts is by nature a multicultural melange, and here are my top favourites.
Top 10 Belizean Food Infographic

Fry Jacks is one the best breakfast fast food that Belizeans love.


Top 10 Belizean Food Infographic

Panades is one of my favorite if not my most favorite Belizean fast food. Panades is one of the most common fast foods prepared in Belize. Apart from being one of my favorite foods, panades holds a special place in the hearts of many food lovers. Because I love panades so much, I decided to make an interesting graph on the anatomy of present-day Belizean panades and how they are prepared here in Belize. The graph might seem to display some controversial information but in the end panades is one of the most delicious foods you can eat here in Belize, Period!



Top 10 Belizean Food Infographic

I am not a big fan of Gibnut but my parents love the meat from this forest rodent. I have seen it prepared it many several ways -- even in BBQ.

Top 10 Belizean Food Infographic

My mother knows to make the best Escabache around, Period!


Belizean Food: Typical and Traditional things to try

Belizean food is simple, always fresh and amazing. If you’ve traveled in Central America you’ll notice that there are many similarities between Belizean cuisine and traditional food found in places like El Salvador, Costa Rica and even Mexico…but each meal has a slight twist – it might be a few added ingredients or the way it is eaten.

So take advantage of Belize being a melting pot of cultures and experience an explosion of flavours that will enchant all of your senses. Here’s a basic guide with a list of the best things to taste – bookmark this page or write it down, your culinary adventure awaits!

Appetizers

  • Conch fritters
  • Ceviche
  • Cheese Dip
  • Belizean Pico de Gallo

Breakfast

  • Johnny Cakes
  • Fry Jacks (fried flour dough)
  • Chaya with Eggs
  • Flour Tortillas
  • Meat Pie

Lunch and Dinner

  • Rice and Beans with Stew Chicken (sides of Potato Salad and Fried Plantains)
  • Bollos (similar to Tamales)
  • Dukunu (think Corn bread but a lot heftier – add stewed chicken to make it a complete meal)
  • Boil up (A mix of ground food)
  • Seafood (fresh fish, lobster and shrimp meals)
  • Pupusas (brought to Belize by refugees of El Salvador)

Fast Food

  • Garnaches
  • Panades
  • Salbutes
  • Tacos (fried or on a soft corn tortilla)
  • Fry Chicken (Chinese Restaurant)

Belizean Soups

  • Conch soup
  • Cowfoot soup
  • Hudut (Coconut fish soup)
  • Escabeche (Onion soup)
  • Caldo – Beef or Chicken

Bizarre Foods

  • Iguana (Bamboo chicken)
  • Gibnut (Known as the Royal Rat)
  • Bokotora (River turtle)
  • Armadillo

Desserts and Sweets

  • Coconut Tart
  • Lemon Pie
  • Tres Leches Cake
  • Rum Raison Bread Pudding
  • Rum Fruit Cake (during Christmas season)
  • Belizean Fudge (think Peanut Brittle)
  • Sweet Potato Pudding

Drinks

  • Belikin Beer & Stout
  • Rum (Caribbean Rum and One Barrel Rum)
  • Cashew Wine
  • Fresh Natural Juices (Lime, Orange, Pineapple, Watermelon)
  • Seaweed Drink
  • Coke, Fanta and Sprite (Its more carbonated and natural brown sugar is used)

Belize Adventure


5 Must Try Dishes in Belize

When traveling to an unfamiliar country, it is always recommended to do some research on where you’re going, what activities there are, what languages are spoken and even what to eat. Home to a melting-pot of cultures and races, there is quite a wide variety of food to choose from when visiting Belize. The following is a list of our picks for the “5 Must Try Dishes in Belize.” Enjoy!

Rice & Beans

Photo Courtesy: littlebelizerestaurant.net

The closest thing to a national dish of Belize is without a doubt: Rice & Beans with stewed chicken, potato salad and fried plantains. This Belizean Staple can also be served with your choice of meats including beef, pork, lobster, gibnut and fish. Not a fan of potato salad? Coleslaw and macaroni salad are also side options. 

Tip: If you’re a fan of a little spice with your food, try the onion strips soaked in habanero peppers and vinegar or the world famous Marie Sharp’s Pepper Sauce.

Cow Foot Soup

Photo Courtesy: cahalpech.com

Cow Foot Soup is made from cow feet that are simmered and slow cooked to render a thick soup along with black pepper, cilantro, carrots, onions, okra, and potatoes. It is served with either corn tortillas or white rice.

Chirmole

Photo Courtesy: Uncornered Market

Chirmole, also known by locals as “Black Dinner,” is a tasty black coloured soup served with long simmered chicken, carrots, potatoes, onion strips and boiled eggs. This dish is typically found in Maya and Mestizo households and served with corn tortillas but can also be enjoyed throughout Belize.

Boil Up

Photo Courtesy: cahalpech.com

Boil up is a main staple of the Southern part of Belize and is a dish containing boiled eggs, pig tail, fish, ground plantains, sweet potatoes (and/or cassava), topped with a sautéed onion and tomato sauce.

Conch Soup


Conch Soup takes tenderized pieces of sweet conch and turns them into a hearty and filling stew. Long simmering tenderizes the meat and results in a sumptuous soup dish served with coconut milk infused rice and tasty, fried plantain strips.

Honorable Mention - Meat Pies


Meat pies are one of the tastiest and surprisingly filling Belizean treats to have “on-the-go.” These flaky, miniature pies are filled primarily with ground beef but the chicken variety has become quite popular in its own right. Whether you prefer eating them fast or eating them slow, meat pies are definitely a treat to enjoy when visiting Belize.

Maya Island Air


6 Delicious Food choices in Belize

To eat like a local!

Top-6-Belize-Local-Food

When you think about Belize, your first thoughts don’t usually remind you about the food in Belize. Your first thoughts are usually about the glorious Belize Blue Hole, the Great Barrier Reef, the remnants of the vast Maya Empire dotting the landscape, the jolly Belizean faces and the pristine rainforests and nature reserves we are home to.

Belizean cuisine reflects the country’s multiethnic population and rich history. When you blend all the diverse ingredients starting from the early Maya settlement through to the pirate past, the British settlers, the vibrant African influences, the attempted Spanish conquest, the Mennonite farming communities and the more recent influx of many other cultures, you have a recipe for something very, very special!

Foods that originated thousands of years ago are still served every day in Belize. Tamal is a perfect example, having its origin in the earliest Maya cuisine, as does the finger-licking-good Cochinita Pibil style of cooking pork meat. This cochinita pibil is a skinned pig, marinated with strong acidic citrus juice, colored and flavored with annatto seed, wrapped in plantain leaves and buried underground overnight for a slow-roast. Barbecue got its start with Buccaneers, whose name comes from buccan, an Arawak word for smoking meat, an occupation pirates busied themselves with while on shore or traded to keep a supply of meat aboard their vessels. So it is said then, that our Belizean barbecues are a throwback to the days of pirates standing around the cooking meat drinking ale or rum and swapping stories. Cool like the Caribbean breeze!

Not much has changed either! Arawak cooking, combined with African influences, also survives today through Garifuna cooking. Meals such as the sere, fufu, cassava bread and hudut hold their own place in the Belizean culinary honor roll. The Spanish influences are apparent in much of our spices. The British palate brings us a taste for bread, the styles of beer (we’re thinking Belikin beer of course), cheeses and other staples.

The list of culinary influences is far too long to list here, but you get the idea. The term “melting pot” extends to the kitchen as much as to the people.

In the coming weeks we’ll be posting our favorite Belizean recipes, and to begin, here is a primer of Belizean Food. Again, a complete list would be far too large to post here, so I’ll begin with my personal top favorite meals and snacks that are readily available when you’re feeling hungry in the jewel.

1. Rice and Beans

Top-Belize-Food-Rice-and-Beans

This Belizean staple is without a doubt the most abundant meal in Belize. From north to south, east to west and out on the cayes, you won’t go anywhere without coming across rice and beans. Every location, indeed, every family has its own variation, but all start with the basics – rice and RK, Red Kidney beans. Cook will then add more or less recados (an achiote based flavoring and coloring agent) and other spices, some coconut milk or none, and they can be moist or drier. However prepared, a meal without rice and beans is truly like a Belizean day without sunshine.

2. Stew Chicken

 Top-Belize-Food-Stew-Chicken

The perfect plate mate to rice and beans, stew chicken is another ever-present dish that arrives on the table in any number of subtle variations. As its best, it is a sublime mix of spices and melt-in-the-mouth tender chicken, and at its worse it’s not bad at all. Served with the rice and beans and a scoop of Belizean potato salad, stew chicken (and its cousins stew pork and beef) makes for a filling and tasty meal any time of the day.

3. Tamale

Top-Belize-Food-Tamale

Dating back well before the time of Christ, this Maya staple also comes in many guises, from straight out of the pot to wood smoked and are delicious hot or cold. A variety of fillings, often with but not limited to chicken or pork, make up the center of a cornmeal roll which is wrapped in corn husks and steamed or boiled into something magical. While many people may be familiar with the Mexican version served in restaurants north of the border, the Belizean tamales are the real deal; virtually unchanged for thousands of years and just as delicious today as they were when gracing the tablets of both the Maya royalty and the most humblest of homes.

4. Ceviche

Top-Belize-Food-Ceviche

This is another dish that goes back a long, long way! Simply, the seafood is marinated in limejuice with onions, garlic, habanero peppers and other ingredients and allowed to sit for a while. The complexity comes with the individual touch of each cook, and that can make a huge difference. With the Caribbean and Belize Great Barrier Reef attracting a huge variety of fish and home to a wide assortment of shellfish, ordering ceviche in Belize is always a good bet.

5. Salbutes and Garnaches

 Top-Belize-Food-Salbutes-Garnaches

These delectable little appetizers are also a quick lunch for many people, and are often used as a pep-me-up when ordered from a cart during a night of clubbing. Common throughout Yucatan and other parts of Mexico and Guatemala, I’m partial to the Belizean versions. Basically, garnaches are little tortillas fried and topped with beans, shredded onion and cabbage and cheese. Salbutes are a bit more complex, with more care going into the base, which will often have recados and other spices and is usually softer in texture. Once again, it’s the little nuances that set them apart, and great garnaches or salbutes are simply delicious.

6. Cochinita Pibil

 Top-Belize-Food-Cochinita-Pibil

Another culinary gift to the world from the Maya – Cochinita Pibil is pork at its best! Marinated and very slow roasted to a fall-apart tender deliciousness. Not much has changed with this dish since its earliest incarnations thousands of years ago. When whole suckling pigs were marinated, wrapped in leaves and buried in hot pits and covered with stones and a fire to slowly cook to perfection. These days its more likely to be various cuts of pork, and sometimes aluminum foil and ovens are employed, but the ingredients remain the same. That combined with the slow cooking, is what makes the dish so special. Wrapped in tortillas, pibil brings finger lickin’ good to a whole new level. If you have a chance to try pibil, jump at it!

There you go. People have their own favorites, but I don’t think there will be much argument over these 6 best foods that Belize has to offer. In the coming weeks we’ll be posting some more dishes and actual Belize cooking recipes, so that wherever you are in this world, you can enjoy the best of Belize at home. So stay tuned and happy dining!

Chaa Creek blog


Six of the Best

When people think of Belize, the first things that usually come to mind are the world class dive sites, the pristine rainforests, the remnants of the vast Maya Empire dotting the landscape, and the warm friendly smiles of the Belizeans.

Let’s not forget another major attraction – Belizean food.

Belizean cuisine reflects the little country’s multicultural populace and colourful history. Add all the varied ingredients starting from early Maya settlement through to the pirate past, the British settlers, the vibrant African influences, the attempted Spanish conquest, the Mennonite farming communities and the more recent influx of many other cultures and you have a recipe for something very special indeed.

Meals that originated thousands of years ago are still served every day in Belize. Tamales, for example, have their origin in the earliest Maya cuisine, as does the savoury pibil style of cooking meats. Barbeques got their start with the Buccaneers, whose name comes from buccan, an Arawak word for smoking meat, an occupation pirates busied themselves with while on shore or traded to keep a supply of meat aboard their vessels.  Our Belizean barbeques are a throwback to the days of pirates standing around the cooking meat drinking ale or rum and swapping stories.

Not much has changed, has it?

Arawak cooking, combined with African influences, also survives today in Garifuna cooking. And meals such as sere, cassava bread and hudut hold their own place in the Belizean culinary honour roll.

The Spanish influences are apparent in much of the spices, and from the British palate we have a taste for bread, the styles of beer (we’re thinking Belikin beer and stout here), cheeses and other staples.

The list of influences is far too long to list here, but you get the idea. The term “melting pot” extends to the kitchen as well as the populace.

In the coming weeks we’ll be posting our favourite Belizean recipes, and to begin, here is a primer of Belizean cuisine. Again, a complete list would be far too large to post here, so I’ll begin with my personal top favourite meals and snacks that are readily available when you’re feeling peckish in the Jewel.

belizean rice and beans

Rice and Beans

This Belizean staple is without a doubt the most ubiquitous meal in Belize. From north to south, east to west and out on the cayes, you won’t go anywhere without coming across rice and beans. Every location, indeed, every family has its own variation, but all start with the basics – rice and RKs, or red kidney beans. Cooks will then add more or less recados (an achiote based flavouring and colouring agent) and other spices, some coconut milk or none, and they can be moist or drier. However prepared, a meal without rice and beans is truly like a Belizean day without sunshine.

Stew Chicken

The perfect platemate to rice and beans, stew chicken is another ever-present dish that arrives on the table in any number of subtle variations. At its best, it is a sublime mix of spices and melt-in-the-mouth tender chicken, and at its worse it’s not bad at all. Served with the rice and beans and a scoop of Belizean potato salad, stew chicken (and its cousins pork and beef) makes for a filling and tasty meal any time of day.

Tamales

Dating back well before the time of Christ, this Maya staple also comes in many guises, from straight out of the pot to wood smoked and are delicious hot or cold. A variety of fillings, often with chicken or pork, make up the centre of a cornmeal roll which is wrapped in corn husks and steamed or boiled into something magical. While many people may be familiar with the Mexican version served in restaurants north of the border, the Belizean tamales are the real deal; virtually unchanged for thousands of years and just as delicious today as they were when gracing the tables of both the Maya royalty and the most humblest of homes.

Cevicheseafood-ceviche belize

This is another dish that goes back a long, long way, and while most coastal and island cultures have variations on seafood “cooked” with citrus juices (Tahiti’s exquisite poisson cru comes to mind, as does Fiji’s delectable Kokoda) Belizean ceviche is in a class of its own. Simply, the seafood is marinated in lime juice with onions, garlic, habanero peppers and other ingredients and allowed to sit for a while. The complexity comes with the individual touch of each cook, and that can make a huge difference. With the Caribbean and Belize Great Barrier Reef attracting a huge variety of fish and home to a wide assortment of shellfish, ordering ceviche in Belize is always a good bet.

Salbutes and Garnaches

These delectable little appetizers are also a quick lunch for many people, and are often used as a pep-me-up when ordered from a cart during a night of clubbing. Common throughout Yucatan and other parts of Mexico and Guatemala, I’m partial to the Belizean versions. Basically, garnaches are little tortillas fried and topped with beans, shredded onion and cabbage and cheese. Salbutes are a bit more complex, with more care going into the base, which will often have recados and other spices and is usually softer in texture. Once again, it’s the little nuances that set them apart, and great garnaches or salbutes are simply delicious.

Pibil

Another culinary gift to the world from the Maya, pibil is pork at its best – marinated and very slow roasted to a fall-apart tender deliciousness. Not much has changed with this dish since its earliest incarnations thousands of years ago, when whole suckling pigs were marinated, wrapped in leaves and buried in hot pits and covered with stones and a fire to slowly cook to perfection. These days it’s more likely to be various cuts of pork, and sometimes aluminium foil and ovens are employed, but the ingredients remain the same, and that, combined with the slow cooking, is what makes this dish so special. Wrapped in tortillas, pibil brings finger lickin’ good to a whole new level. If you have a chance to try pibil, jump at it!puerco-pibil-

There you go. People have their own favourites, but I don’t think there will be much argument that these are six of the best that Belize has to offer. In the coming weeks we’ll be posting some more dishes and actual recipes, so that wherever you are in this world, you can enjoy the best of Belize at home.

Chaa Creek blog