Terrain of rugged, mountainous uplands and wet coastal lowlands set the tone and pace in the southern area of Belize. Distinct ethnic ties and customs are strong, but traditionally food in the south is similar to Mayan food with a profusion of nuts and seeds, cocoa, and a wide variety of spices.
Northern Belize resembles Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula demographically and culturally. The language and customs of the Yucatan and Guatemala influence food choices, are a part of daily life, and reflect the annual harvest.
Corn is a prominent ingredient in most dishes like tortillas, tacos, or tamales. Black beans, squash, plantains and peppers accent most meals.
Seafood is fresh and plentiful and a staple along the coasts. Conch and lobster top the list of traditional foods, and when in season, is relatively inexpensive. Colorful Stella bone fish, grouper, and snapper are some of the wide variety of fin fish traditionally included in the daily diet.
Hot sauce of habanera peppers adorns almost every dining table.
Belize rice possibly earns the title,"national dish". Rice and small red beans cooked in coconut milk, with grated coconut and lots of black pepper, accompany almost every dish.
Vegetables are not prominent in the cuisine. Most restaurants serve a simple cabbage salad or a salad of potatoes or beets. Tomatoes are used for salsas.
Mangoes, papayas, pineapples, melons, bananas and star fruit are plentiful and often replace vegetables in dishes and menus. Coconut pie and bread pudding are popular desserts.
Stews of chicken, beef, and fish use a wide range of spices, including annatto seed. Chimole, or black gumbo, is highly popular.
Roasted and grilled meat and poultry are common in Belize. Gibnuit, iguana, wild boar, and armadillo are some of the more interesting and unusual wild game found on many menus.
Breakfast is usually scrambled eggs and refried beans. Baked Johnnycakes or deep-fried fry jacks dusted with powdered sugar accompany.
Sandwiches and snacks have a heavy Mexican and American influence. Roadside carts sell tacos, and tamales, meat pies and deep-fried empanadas; Conch fritters, hot and crispy, are popular and tasty appetizers. Fish, shrimp, and conch burgers served on plain white bread are excellent.
Eating traditional food in Belize can be a delicious lesson in georgraphy and culture of the country, Some dishes are hot and spicy, others are filled with deep and wondrous flavor; all speak volumes about the country and its heritage.
by Joan Mccord for Helium.com