Discover corn in Belize through authentic cuisine – taste Tamales, Salbutes, Corn Tortillas, Panades, and Corn Atole. Corn has been a staple of Belize since the dawn of time. The ancient Maya called it “Ixi’im” and believed the Gods created humans from it.
A trip to Belize promises food galore. Organic, fresh, and tasty foods are always part of Belize’s charm. Corn-based meals are prepared all over Belize, from the northernmost district, Corozal, to the Cayes, and one of our southernmost districts, Toledo. Get to know the taste of Ixi’im with us.
Tamales (ta-mal-es) are a delicacy that came as an inheritance from ancestors; it’s a Blend of the Maya culture and the Spaniard’s influence, making it a Mestizo delicacy. This delicacy has corn masa as its base, complemented by chicken or pork wrapped in plantain or banana leaves. Yes, banana or plantain leaves give this unique delicacy an authentic flavor. Talk about that ancient organic trend! Although the food is not only found in Belize, it certainly has a Belizean twist when prepared with Belizean-made recado, pepper, and condiments that are indigenous to the Mesoamerica area. Enjoy tamales at the San Ignacio local market and on special occasions such as weddings and prayers for the dead in Mestizo strongholds such as Belize’s Northern and Western Districts.
Salbutes (sal-bu-tes) is a deep-fried corn tortilla topped with shredded chicken and fresh cabbage, tomato, and cilantro. Did you picture it? I hope so. This delicacy is once again a cultural gift from the Mestizos. Consumed all over Belize, Salbutes are often considered Friday night appetizers consumed in every Mestizo household. Corn masa or dough serves as this dish’s base, the most crucial element since the rest of the ingredients are placed on top. Deep frying the orange-colored masa takes seconds, making it a perfect and sumptuous meal for kids. Please don’t take our word for it. Venture to your nearest Belizean restaurant and ask for salbutes.
Picture yourself eating nourishment that had its genesis in the great Mayan culture. Thousands of years ago, the ancient Maya in the cities of Xunantunich, Chichen Itza, and Tikal prepared corn dough to make tortillas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each day this ritual was repeated, even during the conquest and evidently after it.
Form the circular round dough, press it in a rhythmic motion, and place it on the hot comal. Simply amazing! Be a part of this living manifestation of the Maya culture and consume years of cultural heritage. Eat corn tortillas with beans, eggs, soups, butter, and cheese. Making it is relatively straightforward, but it is an art that does take time to master. Learn this art at Chaa Creek’s Open Hearth Hands-On culinary Experience. Feel the heat coming from the ceramic comal, hear the crackling of the firewood as the fire slowly consumes its source of life, and lastly, form your corn tortillas at the heart of the Maya civilization.
Panades (pa-na-des) is another delicacy made of corn. Neatly folded into a half-moon-shaped corn dough pampers shredded chicken, fish, or beans to later be deep-fried in hot oil. This orange-colored, deep-fried delicacy has been a go-to quick meal for the Mestizos and eventually for all Belizeans. Often complimented by fresh diced onions or cabbage, it is a food that everyone can consume. Find them at the nearest market or fast food establishments on the streets of San Ignacio or even Belize City.
Often consumed by the elderly, corn atole is like a porridge made after the corn is ground and made into masa/dough. This corn porridge is smooth in taste and can be enjoyed either hot or cold or during essential rituals—this drink is not commonly found in restaurants, unlike the rest of the meals. But if you ever have the opportunity to consume this creamy delicacy, hesitate not.