When planning a trip to Belize, one tends to forget to include a list of the best dishes to try alongside their adventure-filled itinerary. Belize is the home of an incredibly wide array of cuisines, all stemming from its kaleidoscopic range of cultures. Delve deep into what they have to offer, especially when it comes to food. This is one thing you cannot overlook, as it will make your Belizean experience all the more worthwhile. Your palate will be introduced to flavors you will love – and definitely crave when you’re no longer here. So take full advantage of your visit in Belize and try the below seven history-infused dishes once in Belize.
Not to be confused with Mexican tamales, the tamales from Belize are an important staple descended from the Maya culture. While it may look like a wider version of a Mexican tamale, this is where the similarities end. These tamales are wrapped in banana leaves and are comprised of two parts: the masa and the col. The masa forms the firm outer layer while the delicious col is the filling made of spices, seasoned meat and – dare we say – magic itself. Every family in Belize has a slightly different version of this meal, making it an adventure each time you taste. Not only is the corn filling, but it’s also an important microcosm of the Maya influence in Belize.
Orange Walk Tacos
Move over, hard-shelled tacos from Taco Bell. The real tacos are in the northern districts of Belize, a dish beloved by people from all walks of life. Even if found in a southern district, the name “Orange Walk Tacos” is tacked on stands as a way to make ensure its authenticity. Belizeans take their tacos very seriously, mostly eaten at breakfast to start the day on the right foot. The tacos are made with warm corn tortillas and filled with seasoned chicken or pork that has been cooking overnight. Once served, choose a variety of sauces to add like tomato sauces or hot sauces (ahem, Marie Sharp’s anyone?). However, regardless of garnish, the small, rolled-up tacos are easy to satisfy anyone with its taste alone.
Though the name seems to imply a connection to tamales, it is anything but. This dish, known as either dukunu or tamalitos, uses the same method of wrapping the meal in a sort of leaf as a Mexican tamale. Instead of banana leaves, they are delicately wrapped in corn husks, keeping them warm and fresh. The contents are made from blending corn and coconut milk and the results end up being much smaller than tamales. There are different ways to eat it, many choosing stew chicken as a side or even frying the tamalito itself. Wildly multifaceted, this dish will broaden your sense of taste to a slew of different flavors combined into one.
Hudut Bararu, or just Hudut, is arguably the most famous entree from the Garifuna people. Its two main ingredients, mashed plantains and stewed fish, come together to create an amalgamation of flavors. This soup is one you do not expect to love immediately but pleasantly surprises you when you do. The sweetness of the plantain and coconut milk in the soup come together to complement the tang of the fish. There is no denying the tender love and care the Garifuna people put into creating this labor-intensive dish. While there might be ways to do it abroad with technology such as food processors or blenders, the Garifuna prefer to use the traditional process of cooking hudut. A large, wooden mortar and pestle are used to mash the plantain and a special tool is employed to manually grate the coconut, both creating the perfect foundation for hudut. The Garifuna dedicate their time to craft this wonderful meal that is mostly treated as a family affair due to its labor-intensive steps.
Rice and Beans
Ask any Belizean and they will tell you that rice and beans is the unofficial national dish of Belize. While it’s often attributed to the Creole culture, it’s considered a national staple and is every Belizean’s go-to for lunchtime. A simple dish, rice and beans packs quite a punch. You’ll notice its often accompanied by stewed chicken and coleslaw or potato salad. What keeps this dish a staple is the many ways you can change the sides. You can choose from pork, chicken, or even gibnut. (The latter is a rodent that was allegedly served to Queen Elizabeth II in 1985, earning the name the “royal rat”). Whatever artful combination you create, don’t forget to add the delicious onion sauce paired with some fried plantains. Oh, and here’s a helpful tip: don’t make the mistake of calling it beans and rice! That is a completely different type of meal for us Belizean folk.
If this list reveals anything about Belizeans, it’s for sure our undying love for corn. Garnachas utilizes it once again as its base, using fried corn tortillas as the little “plate” to hold the other ingredients. They are then topped off with blended beans, cabbage, grated cheese and onions. It may sound like a random assortment of ingredients, but these distinct flavors all come together as a wonderful evening snack. Most commonly known as a street food snack, you can find garnachas at food stalls almost everywhere in the country. One sells as cheap as $0.25 and it is common to buy as few dollars’ worth to quench your cravings. Pair it with a refreshing soft drink or horchata and you’re good to go.
Too flat and crispy to be called bread and too airy to be called a tortilla, Belizeans created the blessing that is fryjacks. Even though it is mostly paired with beans, chicken or cheese, fryjacks are also enjoyed as a mere puffed snack. It might be one of the few bites that Belizeans can eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Consisting mainly of flour and water, the dough is kneaded and left to rise before it is fried in lots of oil. The process is fairly easy, meaning you can slather it up with jam, cheese, or eat it plain right then and there. Learn how to make this pillowy goodness expertly and you won’t have to wait until your next trip to Belize to devour it.
If any of these made your mouth water or sent you scurrying to add them to your Belize bucket list, you’ll be delighted to learn about the Lodge at Chaa Creek’s culinary experience. Chaa Creek’s Open Hearth Hands-On class teaches you both the history and the methods that lead to delicious results. Each day is dedicated to a Belizean culture, meaning you’ll leave Belize with a few ethnic recipes up your sleeve! To help you get started, send us an email at reservations[at]chaacreek.com