Among the first things visitors and tourists in Belize come to quickly realize is that there are no established fast food franchise restaurants in the country. Belize has no Kentucky Fried Chicken or McDonald’s. To get that you will have to mosey across the border to Chetumal in neighboring Mexico, or take a drive to Flores or Puerto Barrios – the closest big cities in Guatemala.
It can be a culture shock for some but at the same time a welcome respite from the concrete jungle and rat race that visitors to our shores are escaping. Enjoy your Belize holidays in paradise and local cusine.
Fast food joints are very common throughout Belize, perhaps due to the lack of the big franchise fast food chains. Some are well advertised by colorful and sometimes garish signs or just ask the nearest pedestrian or taxi driver. Most Belize fast food joints are very small mom and pop establishments, or even as simple as a small table mounted on a sidewalk – sometimes with a little gas stove to keep the food hot.
Weekends and evenings see an upsurge of street side vendors as working Belizeans seeking extra income haul out the barbecue grill and hawk their fast food from almost every street corner in most population centers. This is the face of Belize Fast Food.
Fast food outlets usually have a small area where you can stand at a counter or sit at a bench or wooden stool to eat. These are little shops without elaborate signage or glass doors.
Typical Belize fast food that you will find on the menu includes the usual beef and cheese burger and fries, fried chicken and fries, rice and beans, barbecued chicken, beef, pork – or if you are lucky – game meat such as deer or gibnut. Other popular items include fish, chicken or beans panades, garnaches, tostadas, tacos, and salbutes.
A burrito is a flour tortilla stuffed with chicken or beef, cheese, beans, and cabbage, and then rolled up. Cost: US $1.00 each.
A taco is a corn tortilla rolled up and stuffed with chicken, beef or pork and chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro and pepper to taste. A variation is fried tacos topped with grated hard cheese and chopped cabbage and onion sauce. Cost: US$.50 each.
Garnaches are corn tortillas deep fried golden crispy, then covered with refried beans, grated Dutch Cheese, chopped onions, habanero pepper, onion and cilantro steeped in lime juice or vinegar. US $1.00 for six.
Panades are corn tortilla turnovers stuffed with meat, beans, or fish, deep fried and accompanied with a sauce consisting of chopped onions, pepper, cabbage and cilantro. Cost: US $1.00 for six.
Salbutes are corn meal tortillas lightly fried to make them soft, topped with refried beans, shredded stewed chicken, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and cilantro. Cost: US $1.00 for four.
Another popular Belize dish are tamales which are corn meal stuffed with chicken or pork, onions, green peas, and tomatoes, wrapped in smoked plantain leaves, then steamed over an open hearth fire. Cost: US $.50 to $1.00
Cowfoot Soup is a delicacy mostly available on weekends. This is made from cowfeet and oxtail that is simmered and slow cooked to render a thick soup along with allspice, okra, and potatoes served either with crisp fried corn tortillas or steamed rice and accompanied with onion and habanero pepper sauce. A hearty and filling food and very economical. Cost: US $2.50 to $4.00
And of course practically any Belize restaurant or diner, except Chinese, features rice and beans as the mainstay. The dish consists of red kidney or black beans cooked with rice and coconut milk and accompanied with stewed beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, lobster, fried fish, fish fillet, or game meat when available, potato salad and fried ripe plantain. Cost US$2.50 to US$5.00
Belize Garnaches Recipe
Ingredients: 1 lb. corn tortilla, 4 oz. cabbage and onions, 1 cup red kidney or black beans mashed or blended, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp ground black pepper, ¼ lb. (1 cup) grated hard cheese, 1 medium carrot grated, ½ cup vinegar, cooking oil for frying
Method: 1. Wash hands 2. Mash or blend cooked beans, season and fry (set aside) 3. Grate cheese (set aside) 4. Grate carrot 5. Shred cabbage and onion and put carrot and cabbage in small bowl with vinegar 6. Fry tortillas 7. Put beans on refried tortilla 8. Cover with cabbage, onions and carrots 9. Sprinkle top with grated cheese. Serve and enjoy!
Tip: For quick preparation use canned refried red kidney or black beans.
Travel Channel Bizarre Foods Host Andrew Zimmern visits Belize