One of the great things about being on Ambergris Caye or anywhere in Belize, in general, is when it comes to eating the local dishes. There are a variety of options to choose from that meet any price range from a $2 taco to a delicious extravagant meal and everything in between. Since I live on the island I am primarily focusing on Restaurants in San Pedro.
Fry Jack – Simple bread dough fried in oil served instead of toast. Best with the local honey, if you ask me. Local jams are another choice and with so many fruits to work with you have lots to choose from. I also will dip these into my refried beans or fill them with eggs and veggies from my plate – much more versatile than simple toast.
Johnnycake – These are made from flour, coconut milk, salt, and oil, traditionally cooked over an open flame. They can be eaten along with breakfast or made into a sandwich, often filled with eggs, beans, or ham & cheese. Perfect for traveling, and why it’s original name used to be called “journey cake”.
Meat Pie – Made by the local bakeries and sold in stores, on street and from bicycles this is very popular with locals. Filled with savory beef, pork or chicken and some vegetables, this flaky crusted, palm-sized treat is sure to hit the spot on the way to work. And if it’s lobster season the lobster pies are not to be missed.
Roadside Bar BQ – a daily staple for many and by far the most served dish in the country. Belizean Fast Food. They make it easy for you by setting up their carts or cooking stalls near to roads. Choices of meats are usually chicken or pork, sometimes beef too. Always on a bed of rice & beans with a dollop of coleslaw on the side. This country runs on rice/beans. if you are lucky you also get some fried plantain as a sweet finish. These places appear only for the meal times and then quietly disappear, although the larger, more permanent ones leave their tents and BarBQ’s and sometimes even table and chairs. Tamales – This is pureed cornmeal, stuffed with beans, pork or chicken and some onions and tomato then wrapped in plantain leaves and steamed – It is severed still wrapped in the leaf. Tamales are relatively healthy and cheap, often made with a mole negro.
Stewed Chicken – Name says it all with chefs using many local ingredients such as fruits, cassava, and sweet potatoes and usually red recado is added. Recado is a spice mixture that usually includes annatto, oregano, cumin, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, allspice, garlic, and salt. It has a very distinct red color. Served with some rice/beans and coleslaw.
Chimole or Black Soup – This soup/stew is made with achiote paste, which gives it a distinctive black color. The soup version is thinner, using chicken and eggs as the main ingredients, whereas the stew version has more vegetables added.
Ceviche – This is a great substitute for salsa. Originally a Peruvian dish, it has traveled all over Central America. It is made from onions, tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, and cilantro in a lime juice that cures the meat that is added – fish, shrimp or conch. If the dish is served fresh the seafood can be raw, where the acidity of the lime will “cook’ the meat. If you go out on an all-day fishing excursion this will almost always be served with seafood that’s been pulled fresh from the sea.
Cochinita Pibil Pork – This is often referred to as Yucatan slow-roasted pork. The recipe has its influences from both Maya and Europeans and is very popular in Mexico as well as Belize. The meat is marinated with citrus and annatto, providing the distinctive red color, peppers, garlic wrapped in banana or plantain leaves, and then very slow roasted. Both the acids of the citrus and the slow roasting technique ensure that this meat is very moist, very tender, and definitely tasty! Served with tortillas and you guessed it – Rice and Beans with a dollop of coleslaw!
Garnaches, tostada, salbutes – Not really a meal, more of an appetizer or tapas these are a little hard to separate sometimes. It all has to do with the toppings and style of the bottom, I think. A garnache is a fried tortilla chip with refried beans, cabbage and cheese. A tostada is the same bottom with more toppings – beans, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, onions, salsa, and meat. And a salbute is a deep fried, puffed tortilla served with lettuce, avocado, pickled veggies, and chicken. All tasty and can be very affordable from street vendors.
You can often find local made sweet treats near the cash at variety stores here.
For restaurants look for desserts made with local ingredients such as cassava pudding, anything coconut, anything with soursop or craboo and let’s not forget about plantain. Plantain, fried in coconut oil, then drizzled in local honey with a dash of cinnamon is a personal favorite.