Belize, the only English-speaking country in Central America, has a potpourri of culinary influences, including Chinese, Mexican, Creole, and European. You'll find seafood or chicken and a hearty helping of spices at the heart of most Belizean meals.
You won't travel far before realizing that one of the favorite Belize specialties is fresh fish. All along the Caribbean and Gulf coasts are opportunities to indulge in piscine delicacies: lobster, shrimp, red snapper, sea bass, halibut, barracuda, conch, and lots more prepared in a variety of ways. Even the tiniest cafe will prepare sweet, fresh fish.
Try the unusual conch (kaahnk), which has been a staple in the diet of the Mayan and Central American along the Caribbean coast for centuries. It's often used in ceviche. Some consider this raw fish; actually, it's marinated in lime juice with onions, peppers, and a host of spices—no longer raw, and very tasty! Another favorite conch is pounded, dipped in egg and then cracker crumbs, and sautéd quickly (like abalone steak in California) with a squirt of fresh lime. Caution: If it's cooked too long it becomes tough and rubbery. Conch fritters are minced pieces of conch mixed into a flour batter and fried—delicious.
A very ethnic way to prepare fish is to cook it in coconut milk and local spices; it's called seri. In many dishes plantain or green bananas are grated into various recipes, and seaweed is used now and then. All contribute to new and unique flavors.
Many ethnic groups in Belize are hunters. Jungle game varies. Wild duck is served during certain times of the year and is prepared in several ways that must be tried. Iguana is common, gibnut (a rabbitlike rodent) is said to be very tasty, and the Maya eat a wide variety of wild game cooked in a spicy red sauce. If you're invited for dinner by a local Maya, don't be surprised to find the likes of crested guan, tinamou, brocket deer, peccary, armadillo, agouti, paca, turtle, iguana, and iguana eggs.
All that grand Belizean fare wouldn't be authentic without a dash or two of Marie Sharp's hot sauce. It's at nearly every restaurant in the entire country. It comes in three levels of pungency: mild, hot, and fiery hot (believe them). But be careful, the taste grows on people. Some people take it back by the case.
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This page modified January 2007