Garifuna food is traditionally based on the staple foods of cassava, plantain and banana, combined with fish and other seafood. The colors of the Garifuna flag reflect the importance of cassava to the Garifuna people, as the yellow stripe represents the color of cassava bread (“ereba” in the Garifuna language).
Cassava is not only made into flatbread, but also into sweet deserts such as cassava pudding (also known as plastic cake due to its rubbery consistency), and sweetened drinks like sahou. It is also sometimes included in stews.
Plantain and banana are used both ripe and unripe (green) in Garifuna food. The word “hudut” is commonly used to refer to the popular fish and coconut milk stew served with mashed plantain. In actual fact is the word for the plantain alone. The plantain served with the fish is a combination of around three parts green plantain to one part ripe plantain. Both are boiled and then pounded together in a wooden “mata” until the consistency of a moist dough. Mashed plantain is served with other Garifuna dishes such as “Tikini” and “Tapado”.
“Hudut” – mashed green & ripe plantain with fish sere in the background
Green bananas are used in savoury dishes such as green banana fritters. These are made by grating green bananas and seasoning before making them into patties ready to fry. They are also used in “bundiga“, another stew, and in “darasa”, which is basically tamales made with green banana instead of corn. Dried banana and plantain powder are also used to make a Garifuna porridge called “gungude”.
Below are some Garifuna items and jewellery pieces made by us from sea glass collected in Belize.
Drum, dance & dine with us under our beautiful thatch palapa at Warasa!
Please note:This is an activity for larger groups only (10 guests or more). For smaller groups, we recommend one of our other activities, such as a drumming lesson, or half-day package.
Enjoy an evening with us at Warasa. Your activity begins with a short history of the Garifuna history and culture. Then we will move onto a 30 minute professional group performance followed by a short dance lesson where you will learn some of the traditional dances like paranda, punta and jonkunu. Finally, sit back and relax and enjoy a traditional Garifuna meal of “Hudut” – fresh fish fillet sauteed in coconut milk with mild spices and served with mashed plantain.
Price per person:
Groups of 10 -13 people: $17.50USD/$35BZD per person
While English maybe the official language, Kriol, the language of Belize, is the real language. Based on English, but with its own grammar system, and lots of other words thrown in, on first coming here, you will probably understand 50-70% of what people say on the streets.
Some proper English words that I think I almost never used at home are used all the time here. Examples include variations of the verb “to vex”, which is used all the time instead of annoyed, angry, pissed off etc, e.g.: “Wha’ yu di geh vex wid me for?” ‘What are you getting angry with me for?”.
My father-in-law, who’s first languages are actually Garifuna and Spanish, broke the news to me that “di crab done condemn some of di okra” that he planted (although happily not all, and as the surviving okra plants are now 12 foot high, they are out of reach of even the largest of blue crabs). Even now, sometimes Ray will say things that have me simply replying “huh?” in confusion. Some call Kriol simplified English, but to me, there is nothing simple about it, and like with all languages, there are some things that only make sense when they are said in Kriol.
I will leave you with January’s recipe from this year’s Kriol Kalinda for stewed gibnut, a huge rabbit-like rodent, which can indeed be made with rabbit if anyone feels like being chef.
It’s alternative name, Royal Rat, comes from the fact that it was fed to Queen Elizabeth during her last visit. I’m not sure whether she found eating an over-sized rodent vexing or not, but I’m sure she’s been fed many strange things in her time.
Schoo Raiyal Rat
The Royal Rat -Picture and Recipe courtesy of the Kriol Council of Belize (http://www.nationalkriolcouncil.org/) and their fantastic annual Kriol Calendar.
¼ or ½ a wan gibnat (bowt 3 pong)
1/8 kop vineega er di joos a 2 laim
1 teespoon seezn saal
3 plog gyaalik, chap op; er 2 teespoon jrai gyaalik
½ teespoon blak pepa
½ teespoon taim
1 tayblspoon saiz rikaado
1 tayblspoon Lea ‘n’ Perrins saas
1 meedyon oanyan, slais op
2 kop vejitablz
How fu mek it: Wash meet wid vineega er laim. Kot op di meet eena di saiz porshan weh yu waahn. Jrayn di meet gud gud. Miks op aal di seeznin dehn lang wid di saas sotay yu ga wahn wet amonk. Rob dat op gud-wan pahn di meet. Den set di meet wan said fu soak dong wahn lee owa self; oavanait eena frij gud tu (di langa di beta). Heet ail eena yu pan. Ad di meet. Ton dong heet tu meedyom. Brayz fu 30-40 minits; ad 1/3 kop waata evri now ahn den wen di meet jrai owt, sotay ih tenda. Kova di pat meentaim if yu waahn ih moa tenda. Yu ku ad di vejitablz fahn di taim yu staat to brayz if yu waahn dehn saafi saafi, er wayt sotay now fu ad di vejitablz if you waahn dehn moa ferm. Ad lee moa waata ahn kuk dong tu ail. Serv wid blak-aiy peez ahn rais, bayk plaantin ahn pitayta salad.
Rikaado, or “recado” is a Belizean seasoning made from the annatto plant (the same plant used to colour orange cheese). You can use paprika instead.
The first time I ate a plantain was when I lived in Brixton, London, five minutes’ walk away from Electric Avenue market. I had bought a large banana, but it didn’t want to peel properly, and it was a weird shade of yellow inside, and it tasted unripe and made my tongue feel funny even though it was a deep yellow on the outside. I had wondered for a while why so many market vendors in Brixton sold giant mouldy black bananas, but never really investigated. Of course, I now know that I had actually bought a plantain, the banana’s starchier cousin. Unfortunately I realised this after I had already subjected my friend Harriet to the same ‘banana’ eating experience.
Yellow and green plantain for sale on Electric Avenue, Brixton
These days, I am a plantain and banana expert – I even work in the so-called “banana belt” villages of Belize (helping the local teachers get trained). Thanks to Ray’s dad Mario, I know how to cook green bananas (you grate them and make them into burger shaped savoury “banana fritters” to eat with fish), yellow bananas (ok so they’re still best eaten straight out of their skin, but taste oh so much better when they’ve ripened on the tree!); over-ripe black-skinned plantain (chopped into slices lengthways and fried into unhealthy deliciousness); ripe plantain mixed with green plantain (boiled then pounded into submission ready to eat with hudut, a delicious Garifuna fish and coconut stew) and everything in between. When I say I know how to cook all these things, I mean I watch Mario do it regularly – I leave all the actual cooking up to him!
I know that to grow a banana or plantain tree you just get a piece of banana tree stalk, stick it in the ground, and you’ll have bananas less then a year later. I know that good banana cultivation requires the merciless hacking down of all runt banana trees that sprout out of the bottom of the mother banana tree, leaving only the strongest daughter to rule once the mother has borne her bananas and is also mercilessly slaughtered.
Bananas freshly picked from Belize's banana belt for export
Yes I now have utmost respect for the humble banana family – and next time you see a Fyffes Belize banana at your local supermarket in the UK or Ireland, just think, I might have driven past that banana while it was still on its tree while visiting a school in a Mayan village just a few weeks previously.