Saturday, January 9, 2010

Belize Adventures

Last summer I took a trip to Belize.  We spent almost all of our time on the western side, near Guatemala, in and around a small city called San Ignacio.

San Ignacio

The place was gorgeous - very rainforest-like with beautiful plants I'd never seen before, strange creatures making noise all around, and Mayan ruins hidden in the jungle.

Xunantunich ruins near the border of Guatemala
The heat and humidity resembled a rainforest too.  I was hot  the entire time we were in Belize.  The lack of air conditioning almost everywhere certainly didn't help things.

Unfortunately I didn't get a very good sampling of the food.  I was doing volunteer work so most of the time we were fed by the group we were volunteering for (almost always American food - Wonder bread, bologna, Oreos) and when we did get to eat out, we were usually taken to Americanized restaurants.  It tortured me not to eat the delicious smelling chicken in the markets, or sample some strange new fruits.

 Grilled chicken for sale at the market

So many strange fruits that looked so good!

Eventually I did get to try a few of the truly Belizian foods.  On our last day, we had a barbecue by the side of a big lazy river, and our hosts made us the famous chicken I'd seen grilling in the markets.  It was completely amazing.  Perfectly juicy, nice and crispy with a red tint (thanks to the Belizian spice I came to love so much, Recado, which comes in big cubes like bouillon or powdered).

At the river, western Belize

I also had rice and beans and beans and rice (different things!), plantains, shrimp ceviche, Fry Jacks (kind of like a sopapilla but thicker), and Johnny Cakes which were fluffy biscuits usually made with coconut milk, giving them a sweet flavor.

I did get a chance to buy some seasonings at the market while we were there.  I picked up a nice big bag of the Recado and some good looking curry powder.

The yellow packet is curry powder and the two red are two types of Recado

I also tried termites straight off the tree.  We were lucky enough one day to have a tour guide to a Mayan ruin and along the way he talked a lot about medicinal plants and what the indigenous people used to eat.  We stopped at a big tree with a massive nest in it and he began picking off the termites and popping them into his mouth.  Eventually most of us on the tour joined in. 

Termite nest
They are actually pretty good - a little crunchy in a weird way, like roe on sushi, but they tasted a lot like carrots to me.  Not bad, but I prefer the chicken.

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