The ancient Mayan culture still lives on today in the kitchens of the local Mayan people, which echo the traditions of the ancestors. Some of the modern day cuisine enjoyed by Belize’s indigenous community have been staples for centuries and now have spread to the rest of the world for others to enjoy. Some of our most beloved foods, such as chocolate and guacamole, have their origins from the times when the cities of Caracol, Tikal, and Xunantunich were at their peak. At MayaWalk Tours we discover the traditional cuisine of this strong and resilient culture, on our cultural tours and on our chocolate making tours. Here is just a sampling of the best of Mayan culinary traditions:
Best when eaten hot and steaming, this corn based meal is the Mayan version of fast food. Tamales can be found for sale at the market or by street vendors throughout San Ignacio and are perfect as a quick meal on the go. The preparation is lengthy and time consuming, but the end product is a meal in a pouch, ready to take on the road as a power packed snack. Traditionally, tamales were served at festivals and holidays but now they are available any time of year. This is a healthy combination of corn flour, masa, soaked in water and steamed to a dumpling consistency, filled with chicken or pork and veggies, along with a tasty sauce, all wrapped in banana or plantain leaf. Delicious!
CALDO de POLLO
This is a simple and delicious traditional chicken soup made by the Kekchi and Mopan Mayan people of the small villages throughout Belize. In a very traditional setting, the recipe starts with a chicken from the backyard, also known as “local chicken”, which is butchered and cleaned, cut into pieces and sautéed in garlic and spices. A stock of annatto, a local spice which is the base for a majority of Belizean cuisine, chicken broth, and herbs such as culantro, paprika, thyme, and hot habanero powder, bathes the local veggies such as cho cho, onion, and cassava root, and the chicken pieces, in a mouth watering soup served with fresh corn tortillas. All prepared over the fire hearth!
This most mouth watering dish also traces its origins to the ancient times. In the most authentic fashion, an entire pig is marinated in spices and orange juice and slow cooked underground, buried under hot rocks in the sand. The meat becomes soft and juicy, falling off the bone. It is pulled and shredded, topped with fresh herbs and pico de gallo and, of course, served with handmade corn tortillas. A dish fit for royalty which was surely enjoyed by the Mayan aristocratic family who built the original settlement of San Ignacio, Cahal Pech.
This short list is just a sampling of the rich and amazing dishes you will discover here in Belize. Just as Belize is a melting pot of indigenous, European, African, and Caribbean cultures, the food from local kitchens is diverse and tasty, stimulating your taste buds and your senses to the unique blend of history and tradition that makes our beautiful country so fabulous and bountiful. Come enjoy with us and if you have any questions just let us know!