If it’s the end of the world, let’s eat like the Mayans

In ancient Mayan culture, corn was considered a gift from gods.

A bite of Belize. This country was once home to the ancient Mayans, who are said to have predicted the end of the world on Dec. 21. If that’s the case, go out with a full stomach.

Pureco Cochinita Pibil

“Cochinita (small pig) pibil (to bury) literally translates to ‘buried whole suckling pig,’” write the editors of Flavors of Belize magazine in their book of the same name about this recipe.

“Traditionally, you should marinate the pork in the same manner but cook the whole pig wrapped in banana leaves underground with fire wood and hot stones for hours until tender.”

This recipe by Chef Sean Kuylen can also be cooked in a slow cooker, on low for 12 hours or on high for six hours.

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Pierce pork with knife and insert garlic cloves all around.

2. Mix all dry ingredients; combine with recado, diluted in orange juice and coat pork. Marinate overnight.

3. Place pork in large roasting pan lined with banana leaves. Add onion, sweet pepper and place cilantro on top. Pour remaining marinade liquid and add more water to pan to approximately 1 inch high. Cover with banana leaves and seal tightly with foil.

4. Bake for 5 hours or until meat is very tender and starts to release from the bone. Shred pork and serve on warm corn tortillas topped with pickled red onions or habanero salsa.


  • 5 lbs pork shoulder or pork leg, bone in
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp red recado, diluted to form paste
  • 1/2 cup sour orange juice
  • Smoked banana leaves
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 2 medium green bell pep-pers, quartered
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced


In ancient Mayan culture, corn was considered a gift from gods.

“In ancient Maya culture, corn represented much more than a grain used for food,” write the editors of Flavors of Belize magazine in their cookbook. “Corn was also considered a gift from the gods and cultivating it was a sacred duty. In fact, according to the sacred book of the Maya, (Popol Vuh), the gods created humans from corn.”

1. Peel corn, reserving clean husks. Purée corn with water in a blender. Pour into a large mixing bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients.

2. Place 1/4 to 1/3 cup mixture onto the centre of each reserved husk. Bring sides together, making sure to overlap and fold pointed end upward. Secure each with string.

3. Place 2 to 3 inches of water in sauce pot, bring to a boil and arrange dukunu folded side down. Boil for about 1/2 hour. Remove from husk and serve.


  • 10 to 12 green corn on the cob, shucked
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste