When I told my trainer Sarah that I was taking a Belizean cooking class, her expression was a close match to the title of my post. Knowing I do not care to cook it was guaranteed to be the last thing she expected to come out of my mouth. While she is right for the most part, I do have a few exceptions. A fun atmosphere, and cooking with other people is generally a couple of them. Plus when you find out you are one of the ingredients in Belizean cooking 101 food tour and you get hand-delivered a Belizean wood cutting board with cheese knife for an invitation, it definitely builds excitement.
Our two chefs were Farrah from Dangriga and Kieran from San Ignacio with Felipe being our main guide and his sister Dora was in the background helping out and making sure we were all enjoying ourselves.
After a fast handwash, we started dessert with sweet potato pone and of course, since it was a press tour, a gazillion pictures of Farrah making fresh coconut milk came before any of us started playing sous chef.
Half the group were called to help grate coconut. I conveniently forgot to raise my hand for that job my friend Ashley from Lonely Planet who is also not a big cook decided to try getting busy in the kitchen as you can see from my pic below. Farah was walking checking on the guest graters, while Kieran gave us tips for making sure there were no lumps.
I smiled and kept my lips zipped as Felipe was telling us how we will all be able to cook this at home.
Next came making a simple cutino sauce. While the ingredients were few, it took a chefs hand to slice the red onions nice and thin. We folded in 3 parts orange juice and 1 part lime and we mastered the 3 finger pinch for salt 2 finger pinch for black pepper.
Our last bit of the appetizer prep was conch and shrimp ceviche. Then came the moment we were all waiting for – eating. This time our onions were diced. I am not going to lie, this was my best-looking dish of the day and best-tasting thanks to the real chefs. I tried to cook conch once, not an easy task; it ended up like tire rubber. The Ceviche we made was perfect. Now you get the gist of why a non-cook would get excited about cooking class. Even though it was an assisted A+ I can still cross making a tasty ceviche off my list of things I thought I could never do well. I managed to pull off thanks to Belizean Cooking 101.
Rum class was next up. Not only did we learn a bit about its history in Belize and where the distilleries are located, we got offered tasters of anything we wanted including cashew and berry wine. Ordinarily, I say yes and pass my alcoholic beverage to a nearby drinker, however, today there was no need. The Belize Food Tour staff was amazing all day at not only making sure our drinks were full but that we were having a good time and did not want for anything. Their virgin zingy ginger lime watermelon juice was a big hit so much so that the pitcher was long gone by day’s end.
Back to the business at hand – cooking. Our main course was the 3 amigos – panandes, garnachas, and salbutes. These foods were passed down from Mestizo (mixed Spanish and Mayan descent) and European culture – technically that means pirates somehow had a hand in things 😀 While Mestizo people can be found countrywide, they are more common to northern Belize in Orange Walk and Corozal districts and to west in Belmopan and San Ignacio.
But first a picture of the Three Amigos. They lit up the room and made us all feel as comfortable as sitting at a friends kitchen table enjoying a holiday meal. Only our version included Punta dancing and we were making fresh made Belizean “fast food” not turkey dinner.
A few of my classmates really got interactive and set foot in the kitchen (the closest I got was the sink to wash my hands). Ottmar of Caye to Belize stirring the pot, Rebecca aka San Pedro Scoop pouring the beans, and chopping onions was Mary Rodriguez aka Tia Chocolate and My Beautiful Belize.
I am sure a few of you are now thinking that I did little to no cooking in my class. The first two pictures below are my proof that I did something besides watch other people cook and take notes – I made masa balls and squished them 😀 Kieran and Farrah did all the heavy lifting dropping our creations in boiling oil to get all crispy.
I would have done better to take a picture of one my classmates to the left of me, Mary Rodriguez aka Tia Chocolate and My Beautiful Belize and Erin Santiago aka My Tasty Travels and Caye to Belize. Both great cooks and all their food came out looking perfect. While mine tasted as it should, (can’t go wrong when someone is doing half the cooking) they could have been a bit better dressed.
Last but not least it was time for our delicious sweet potato pone made even better served warm in a coconut cup with fresh whipped cream – mmm. I knew it was going to taste good, off and on during the class I kept getting a subtle hint of sweet aromatherapy. It almost made me wish Felipe was wrong and that I would, in fact, be smelling this from my own oven. I will just have to settle for going back to cooking class for more.
Belizean cooking 101 is a great new foodie option. Or if you really do not like to cook even in a party setting you can go straight to one of the two walking food tours and eat your way around San Pedro. Visit Belize Food Tours website to find out how you can eat like a local. Click to read what other travelers and locals have to say about this tour.
These tours will hit the mark if you…
- Are looking for a tour on Ambergris Caye
- Like trying new foods
- Looking to spend under $100
Savor Belize Dinner Tour is $72 USD per person, Belizean Bites Lunch Tour is $62 USD per person, Belizean Kitchen 3 course cooking class is $75 USD per person.
Since I talk to her the most of the group, I asked Dora for her two cents about the business and here is what she had to say – We are going to be introducing a shorter class which should be a little less, so stay tuned! Our team absolutely loves to be able to take you to our favorite local places while telling you the stories of the island through food and now we are excited to be able to provide a fun space to fully immerse yourself in Belizean culture; get your hands dirty and learn to make our favorite Belizean foods. It’s the perfect combo. We hope that in some small way, our little company does its part to help preserve the cultures that make us truly unique, the cultures we are so proud to represent. So now when you’re missing Belizean fry Jacks or Salbutes you’ll be able to make them at home, until your next visit.