1. Belize Rice and Beans
Rice and beans with a choice of beef, chicken, pork, lobster, shrimp or game meat (the gibnut is FABULOUS) is one of the most important items on the local diet, approaching something like the national dish. The meat is cooked with recado (a spice made with annato seed, a native herb with a characteristic deep red color), and garlic. The meat portion can be fried, stewed or grilled. When stewed the gravy from the meat is generously ladled unto the rice and beans. When ordering Rice and Beans with meat such as fried fish, whole or fillet, it is wise to order meat or chicken gravy ladled unto your dish, otherwise the rice and beans may be too dry. This makes for a sinfully delicious dish that will put your diet on pause,
Belize Rice and Beans is cooked in coconut milk. The dish is served with potato salad and ripe fried or baked plantain when in season and fresh Habanero, onion and lime juice sauce. Rice and Beans reigns as the quintessential Belize dish.
2. Belize Fruit Cake
This Fruit Cake, is a traditional Belizean rum cake. Popular around holidays, it is a cake with preserved fruits baked in and then stored for a couple of days after being generously doused with dark local or Caribbean rum. Belize fruit cake connoisseurs prefer a cake that has been baked to perfection, moist inside and with a brown crust outside with no visible cracks, and aged for at least one week. This process melds the various ingredients into a truly great fruit cake that can be enjoyed with a glass of locally made wine or a soft drink, preferably lemonade.
The combination of a sweet cake and Caribbean rum is sure to make an excellent end to a magnificent meal – tipsy or otherwise. Two types are made – the traditional Black Fruit Cake infused with caramel coloring, and the White Fruit Cake that is lighter and minus the caramel. Christmas in Belize is not complete without Belize Fruit Cake,
3. Cashew and Craboo Wines
Cashew wine is made from the fermented cashew fruit – not the more well known nut. A native and traditional liqueur of the Belize River Valley it produces a sweet and potent wine that is deceptively mild and alluring.
These wines are home made and of varying quality and potency but most locals have their favorite supplier and can direct you to the better producers. Cashew and Craboo wine are best served very well chilled. Some folks serve these wines with cracked ice. But beware – overindulgence can lead to a hefty hangover.
Cashew and other native wine can be obtained most anywhere in Belize. Main cashew wine producing areas are Burrel Boom and Crooked Tree in the Belize District. A local winery, BelMer Wines makes cashew and other wines from local fruits such as mango and blackberry.
4. Johnny Cakes
Johnny cakes, sometimes referred to as journey cakes, are small baked bread cakes, made with flour and coconut milk. They are best when cooked in the traditional fire hearth. The Johnny Cake is often cut in half and slathered with butter, re-fried beans and cheese and sold as a Belize fast food for breakfast. With added bits of stewed chicken or beef, it doubles as an economical, nutritious and hearty lunch for those on the go. It more commonly accompanies a breakfast of scrambled or sunny side up eggs, re-fried beans, cheese and bacon.
A companion is the Fry Jack made of flour, baking soda, shortening and deep fried. The Johnny cake is dry and can last for several days and was used in the days before refrigeration when mahogany workers had to go on long trips, hence the name “journey cakes”. Fry Jacks are best eaten hot right after preparation. But we have found that fry jacks can be stored for a few hours and later heated in a microwave (easy does it) making it almost as good as when they were first prepared.
Ceviche is made from conch or shrimp or combined in a mixed dish. The seafood is diced and steeped in lime juice for a few hours under refrigeration and tossed with sliced cucumber, tomatoes, onions and chopped cilantro, black pepper and Habanero pepper. There are some cooks that recommend you briefly par boil the ceviche meat before storing it under refrigeration with the lime juice to better marry the flavors. Best served chilled.
Some Belizeans prefer the queen conch for a gourmet ceviche. Like Mexico, local chefs incorporate fresh fish fillet sushi-style chunks (Lion fish is excellent as is octopus) into the ceviche but this is optional.
6. Cochinita Pibil
Cochinita Pibil is a traditional Yucatec-Maya slow roasted pork dish. Belizeans who do not speak Spanish call this dish Pibil Pork. Preparation consists of marinating the meat in an acidic sour orange juice flavored with annato seed paste (a local spice known as recado), garlic, allspice and onion.
The meat is then wrapped in plantain leaf, placed inside a large roasting pan that then goes underground or inside a clay oven with firewood and slow cooked and smoked for hours until the meat is succulent and tender.
The cochinita pibil dish is served with hot hand-made corn tortillas, avocado and fresh Habanero Pepper sauce. The meat with tomato, onion and peppers is also used to make Pibil tacos.
Tamales are squares of cornmeal stuffed with chicken, pork or beans, along with green peas, onion and chunks of tomato, wrapped in smoked plantain leaves,and held together with the string stripped off plantain leave.
The tamales are then steamed over an open fire until cooked. Tamales colados are a variation where the corn meal is pressed through a fine mesh making for a creamy and smooth tamale that just melts in your mouth. Tamales are cheap and available most anywhere in the country especially at public markets. And best of all because of their ingredients and method of preparation, are a healthy and nutritious meal for those on the go or on a budget. For more budget Belize food check out our Belize Fast Food Page.
8. Chicken Escabeche
Escabeche is a an exotic chicken soup with its roots in Yucatec Maya and Spanish cuisine. The chicken is seasoned with oregano and thyme, lightly broiled, then roasted and served in a light and clear chicken soup seasoned with onions, black pepper, allspice, and Jalapeno pepper. The Jalapeno pepper is not as fiery as the Habanero and most people can easily handle this pepper.
The base of the soup is white sugar cane vinegar and chicken stock. Some purists prefer sour orange. The dish is served piping hot with hand made corn tortillas. Onions play a major part of this dish and ideally should be white Mexican onions with little or no bite in flavor. The onions should be crisp and not overcooked.
9. Belizean Desserts
Dessert anyone? Local deserts are many but top picks include Soursop ice cream. The Soursop fruit (Annona muricata) is at once sweet and tart, very healthy and a leading anti oxidant and widely available in Belize. Soursop is also enjoyed mixed with condensed milk and chilled.
Cassava (Manihot esculenta) pudding is another favorite dessert – and sweet and very nutritious. Another popular dessert is the craboo, also known as nance or nanche (Byrsonima crassifolia) ice cream. This is made from the fruit that grows all over the countryside. Craboo is also popular made as a wine.
10. Belikin Beer
Belikin Beer and Belize are synonymous. Belikin is one of the ancient Maya names for Belize and means Road To The Sea. Belikin is made in the style of a German pilsner and has won many international awards.
Tourists and visitors soon learn to ask for an ice cold Belikin to wash down a meal or get in the groove on a wild night out. Belikin is a tuly an indigenous beer and according to some beer lovers, easily holds its own against imported beers. This is the only beer made here. Imported beer is heavily taxed by the government and excellent brews from neighboring Guatemala and Mexico are prohibited.