When people plan their Belize vacation, they often times overlook a major attraction – Belizean Food.
Belize’s culinary practices reflects the country’s multiethnic society and rich history. When you combine the numerous elements in Belizean cooking – from early Maya civilizations through to the British colonists, the vivacious African influences, the attempted Spanish conquest, the Mennonite farming communities and the more recent arrival of many other cultures and you have a recipe for something very extraordinary indeed.
Meals that have as much history as Belize are still served today. Tamales, for example, have their origin in the earliest Maya cuisine, as does the savory pibil style of cooking meats. Our Belizean barbecues are a throwback to the days of pirates standing around the cooking meat drinking ale or rum and trading stories.
Not much has changed, has it?
Arawak cooking, combined with African influences, also survives today in Garifuna cooking. Meals such as sere, fufu, cassava bread and hudut hold their own place in the Belizean culinary honor 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, 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 people.
Here we list a primer of Belizean cuisine:
Rice & Beans
You can’t live in Belize, or spend a vacation here, without eating rice & beans. It is the national staple and some people eat it every single day! No kidding.
Belizean tamales are a traditional Maya and Mestizo food. In northern Belize, in Corozal and Orange Walk Districts tamales come in two varieties: “Collado” and “torteado”. In Western Belize there is a third variety of tamales called “bollos”.
Escabeche, a delicious stew found throughout Latin America, can be found in as many forms as there are fish in the sea. In fact, fish is sometimes used as a main ingredient in Escabeche, but mostly it is prepared using the more traditional chicken.
This delectable little appetizer is also a quick lunch for many people, and is 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, Salbutes are little tortillas fried and topped with shredded onion and cabbage and cheese, and which will often have recados and other spices and is usually softer in texture.
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. Wrapped in tortillas, pibil brings finger lickin’ good to a whole new level. If you have a chance to try pibil, jump at it!
Hudut is one food that everyone loves. It is served here in Belize mostly in the Southern region of Belize where it has more presence of the Garifuna people. Hudut is made from Plantain, cooked until tender and mashed with a big mortar and pestle. Then we cook it up with local fish like snapper and dip it into some coconut milk.
Chirmole, also know as “Black Dinner” is a tasty black colored soup with roots in Mayan and Mestizo cultures but enjoyed by all in Belize.
A popular and simple way to make a whole chicken, this Belizean dish is found at street vendors, restaurants, parties, and at family dinners.