I was fortunate enough to visit the lovely country of Belize a few weeks back. Suffice it to say there will be a multiple of blog posts to follow on the subject. However, I need to start where my heart was on this trip…my stomach.
I was planning on having my socks knocked off by the wildlife and the snorkeling and the Mayan ruins. But, what really surprised me in this little gem of a country is the inexpensive and delicious street and local food.
Immediately upon arriving to our very fist destination, Orange Walk Town, we set out to find something to eat. We were trying to get a feel for things so we hit a local restaurant called Nahil Mayab. We had Arrichero tacos and empanandas accompanied by the local and tasty Belizean beer called Belekin. I thought surely the trip was ruined because nothing could top this meal. Boy was I wrong.
The food got cheaper and better as the trip went on. We got more courageous and excited to pay very little for quality food. Orange Walk is apparently known for its street tacos so we tried a few while we were there. Tacos were the equivalent of three for fifty cents! Yes, I said three for fifty cents. And they were sublime. The only thing I didn’t have the guts to try, and I regret it now, was the mystery beverage out of a plastic bag tied with a straw sticking out. That went one step over the edge of my comfort zone.
Next we ate local baked sweet breads. We had a splendid time with all of the local people and felt very safe the entire trip. But, funny enough a local person asked my husband for money only once. Eric gave him some money and asked him what was good at the bakery. The guy pointed out his favorite baked goods and they turned out to be a delicious and again ridiculously cheap breakfast.
Nearby the Belize Zoo, on the main highway, is a road food shack called G&J. It was here Eric had the best Chicken curry he will ever have in his life. (I had stewed chicken that was seriously perfect.) Here, he proclaimed he may never try curry chicken again because he has had the best and nothing could outdo it. It was also here that I was handed a strangers baby. I stepped up on to the deck and two ladies were lounging eating their lunch. I smiled and said hello and before I could even make eye contact one of them asked if I wanted to hold their tiny infant and she was trust in my direction. I politely said no thinking I might make her uncomfortable being a stranger and all. (I was wrong.) She was proud to show off their daughter trusting the fact I was a fellow woman and all would be ok.
Before I go any further I need to talk about the Belizean onion habanero sauce. Virtually every place we visited had their own home-made brand of this standard sauce. The sauce essentially consists of a variation on the following ingredients; finely chopped white onion, cilantro, habanero, lime juice, sometimes tomato, sometimes carrot, and sometimes vinegar. Eric and I fell in love with this sauce. In fact it was the first thing we made when we got home. Behold the glory of the onion sauce housed in an old jar with a communal spoon.
Talking about onion habanero sauce is making me thirsty which brings me to Rum Punches. This is clearly the drink of the islands one that you never get tired of and one that is not made with any consistency anywhere in the country. All I can tell you is it generally included some sort of delightful local juice and rum. Panty Ripper is another version that is basically rum and pineapple juice. It embarrassed me every time I ordered one but I ordered them nonetheless. In a quest to eat cheaply on this trip we of course bought our own rum and juice and made our own the entire trip and I must say the bartender did a top rate job!
Our next stop was San Ignacio where the locals are known for their Panades, Salbuntes, fried tacos and chicken tostadas. We ate at Minchos which was supposed to be a local favorite. But, our favorite in this town was a small local food vendor near the river called Pasadito. She made the most perfect chicken tostadas with homemade tostadas, a bit of black bean, cabbage, and onion habanero sauce. (Hers was the best but it was also the spiciest!)
Another of my favorite bites of “street food” in San Ignacio was a Pork Pie from two local girls walking down the street selling them. It was ironic because we were sitting on a stool waiting for the food we ordered from Tattas Fast food when they came by to see if we wanted one. (It was only fifty cents so we couldn’t resist and it was delightful.)
We moved on towards the coast where the seafood became the star. In Placencia, grilled snapper was on the menu at Mango’s and was as fresh as fresh can be. While this wasn’t street food per se it was very reasonable and was worth a stop.
Fried snapper and stewed chicken was on the menu at Vern’s kitchen in Siene Bight not far from Placencia. Again, it was ridiculously inexpensive and fresh with a lot of local flavor.
Heading back towards Belize City we stopped for another local dish called Garnaches. They are essentially a tostada with bean and cabbage and no meat. This particular rendition has ketchup on it! I assumed this was only a “garnish” and boy was I wrong. Three for fifty cents again made us so excited we felt like we were getting away with something.
After taking the water taxi to Caye Caulker from Belize City we asked the owner of our place where the locals ate. She told us to go by Terry’s place for dinner where Eric ate the freshest and most delightful lobster he has ever encountered. I asked Terry how often his fisherman went out. He told me his fisherman was his father-in-law and he delivered lobster and other fish to Terry twice per day because he didn’t have or need a freezer. Eric’s lobster, which was no less than two hours old from the sea, was BBQ’s in front of us and only cost a mere twelve dollars. I enjoyed Jerk Chicken at Terry’s that was also out of this world.
It was in Caye Caulker that I had my first decent cup of coffee. It turns out that most people in Belize don’t know what “bean” coffee is. They rely on instant coffee or none at all. I found this strange considering their proximity to Guatemala. Regardless, I had a splendid iced coffee at Amor y Café where the ice cubes were actually frozen coffee.
The second local recommendation that was made to us on Caye Caulker was Maggie’s. I had curry vegetable and Eric had Curry Lobster for dinner. The curry was delicious and Eric had another divine lobster dinner for approximately ten dollars.
On our last day in Caye Caulker we experienced the fried goodness that was a Fry Jack. The bread in a Fry Jack reminds me of a sourdough pancake although to be honest I am not exactly sure what it really is. I didn’t ask because I didn’t want the magic to be spoiled. We had a multitude of options on what to put inside of our Fry Jack. I had egg and bean and Eric had Egg, cheese, and ham. I would never eat anything else for breakfast every again if I lived there. Period.
In case your mouth is still watering below are some additional food porn shots free of charge…
Conch Fritters in Corozal Town.
Fresh Rock Crab in Caye Caulker
Picnic Stewed Chicken and Rice provided on a River tour of Lamanai
Pork Tacos in San Ignacio
BBQ Chicken on the main road to Placencia
Home made alcohol.