By Megan Wood On June 13, 2011 ·
Belize City is home to several distinct cultures, each with their own recipes and methods of cooking. Add proximity to the sea for fresh seafood and a climate perfect for growing coffee, cacao, and habenero peppers, and you have this food lover’s dream.
[Editor's Note: Megan Wood is the first writer-in-residence to participate in the Road Warrior program, a partnership between MatadorU and the Belize Tourism Board. Megan is spending the spring in Belize, documenting traditions of the country's diverse cultural groups. Each week, she reports on her experiences for Matador, her personal blog, and for other outlets.]
HERE IS MY GUIDE to a day of culinary delights in Belize City.
Michael Finnegan Market
Corn tortillas being made at Michael Finnegan Market.
I start the day early, at 5:30AM, downing some Belizean coffee at my hotel before setting off to the Michael Finnegan open air market on Hickattee Street. Belizeans bring fresh fish, meat, and produce from all over the country to sell. I buy a ripe mango and watch Mennonites sell watermelon, next to Creoles hawking chestnuts, alongside Mayans making corn tortillas.
Corner of West Canal and Hickattee Street
Dario’s Meat Pies
Before the sun gets much higher I walk over to Dario’s Meat Pies, a culinary tradition in Belize City.
Mmmm. Dario’s meat pies.
Mr. Dario sells his well-spiced pastries, stuffed with chicken or beef, from his shop on Hyde’s Lane, and carts on street corners around the city. The meat pies are perfect for breakfast or a snack anytime of day. I add a few splashes of Marie Sharp’s hot sauce, which comes in 7 different heats; I like the hottest, called Beware.
Walking up Albert Street toward the House of Culture, I am tempted by street vendors selling roasted corn on the cob served with limes, but I opt for a cold, fresh watermelon juice instead.
33 Hyde’s Lane
Around lunchtime I make my way to Dit’s Restaurant on King Street where the slogan is “It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice.” Ms. Nadine is still using her grandfather’s Creole recipes for Stew Chicken and Boil-Up, which is a combination of fish, cassava, plantains, and yam boiled together with coconut milk.
Ms. Nadine’s jam roll.
Ms. Nadine finally clears up the difference between beans and rice and rice and beans for me. Rice and beans are cooked together, while beans and rice are cooked separately. I order a salbute, which is a soft corn tortilla with cabbage, chicken, and pico de gallo, and Belize’s favorite beer, a Belikin Stout.
For dessert, Dit’s has a variety of homemade treats: coconut tarts, pound cake, and lemon pie. I order the most famous option, a jam roll — which is like a pop-tart that I actually want to eat, complete with homemade strawberry jam — for only fifty cents.
50 King Street
Goss Chocolate and Marie Sharp’s
Mid-afternoon snacks could include Goss Chocolate, which is made with 100% organic cacao grown in Belize, I really like the dark bar. Or try a bag of Marie Sharp’s cassava chips
Brodie’s Superstore, Albert Street
Bird’s Isle Restaurant
For dinner, I take a quick cab ride to Bird’s Isle Restaurant on the southern coast of the town. One of the prettiest restaurants in Belize City, Bird’s Isle is a big, wooden deck built right on the water with a traditional thatch roof.
The restaurant has a large tourist-friendly menu including chicken wings and conch fritters, but I like the daily rotating specials. Tonight is beef soup, which is served with white coconut rice and plantains on the side. If I linger too long over key lime pie for dessert, I might run into Karaoke, so I take a cab back to my hotel for some digestive tea and sleep.
9 Albert Street, Bird’s Isle
Keep up with Megan on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.