Every culture has their own unusual ‘delicacies’ and Belizeans are no exception. Maybe due to the mix of cultures that settled here; the escaped Africans slaves as well as the German Mennonites, Maya (and more) over the years who brought their own customs and traditions. Mash that into one melting pot and you have a plethora of bizarre!
1. Meet the Gibnut or Paca, also affectionately known as the Royal Rat (since served to Queen Elizabeth II on her Belize visit some years ago). Many Belizeans will tell you its a must-try delicacy. Check out Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern gibnut feast here.
2. Split pea soup with Pig tails or Pig Snouts – served with handmade flour dumplings over white rice, this Belizean comfort food is dear to our hearts.
3. It’s no secret that Belizeans love game meat and the Peccary is no exception. Stewed, roasted, smoked or any other variation – it’s an exotic dish that begs to be tried.
4. Armadillo – also known to the Maya as “Wech” is often roasted and served in tacos (with a twist of lime, yum!), as sal-picon (a roasted meat ceviche) and a variety of other ways .
5. Cow-foot or Cow-tongue soup – a famous Belizean response to a hangover is exactly what it says it is.
6. Hickatee or River Turtle is prized meat – already an endangered specie and with a limited hunting season in Belize, consider yourself lucky if you get to try it.
7. Bamboo Chicken or Iguanas – Definitely an acquired taste and mostly consumed in rural areas, but if your taste buds crave the rare and exotic – this is a must try! (Don’t worry, our resident iguanas are perfectly safe from our kitchen!)
8. Bukut or Stinking-Toe (Cassia Grandis) – Not all the bizarre food in Belize are animals; this lovely tree that showers Ka’ana’s guests with its tender pink petals as they’re shown to their rooms, produces pods with sticky, jam-like sections surrounding the seeds. The odor leaves much to be desired (hence its Belizean name) but it’s well known for its medicinal and nutritional values.
The jade head was discovered at in the Belize District’s Mayan site of Altun Ha in 1968 by Dr. David Pendergast of the Royal Ontario Museum of Canada. The head, along with forty other objects, had been placed within a large tomb that was located below the stairblock on the Temple of the Masonry Altars. At the center of the tomb were the remains of an elderly adult male. This elite person was likely an important ruler of the site during his lifetime and may have commissioned an artist to produce the large carved object. We do not know the exact date that the head was carved, but analysis of cultural remains within the tomb suggests that the burial, and accompanying grave goods, were deposited in the structure sometime between 600 and 650 A.D.
Weighing 9.75 pounds and standing almost 6 inches high, the jade head remains the single largest carved jade object yet discovered in the Maya area. Its crossed eyes, fang-like elements on either side of the mouth, and the ahau glyph on the forehead all identify the head as a representation of the Maya sun god Kinich Ahau. Along with Chac (rain god) and Yum Kax (corn god), Kinich Ahau was among the most important deities in the Maya pantheon.
The Kinich Ahau head is truly a remarkable object and exquisite work of art. It is the only one of its kind in all of Mesoamerica. Because it was carved with nothing more than stone tools, we know that it may have taken many months, if not years, to produce. It was also carved from one large solid piece of jade that was imported from the Motagua River Valley region of Guatemala. Jade was also the most precious of stones to the Maya. Beside its exotic origins, its green colour reflected that of water and the corn plant, the two most precious, life sustaining substances to the ancient Maya of northern Belize.
As it undoubtedly was to the prehistoric inhabitants of Altun Ha, the jade head continues to be a most important icon to the people of Belize today. It is prominently displayed on all Belize currency and has become an important symbol of our nation.
Carlota, Candy and Mirsa are our most pleasant (not to mention the loveliest) of our servers here at Ka’ana. I dodged them while they took a well-deserved break out by the fire deck. They were as always, happy to speak with me and definitely willing to pose for the camera
Do you have any specials you personally prefer from our menu?
Carlota: I love the glazed pork chops – the way these guys prepare it so juicy and tender makes your mouth water – its really good!
Candy: I love lobster – when its in season I will definitely always have it and recommend it.
Mirsa: I definitely love the shrimp-chorizo wrap, when I eat here this has always been a favorite and I always recommend to guests as well.
What do you guys love most about your job here at Ka’ana and what inspires you?
Carlota: well to tell the truth, I honestly love the natural beauty of the place. I love going about my work and hearing the birds singing early in the morning, the trees and nature in general; knowing that guests are enjoying it.
Candy: I love interacting with guests. I love serving them new things and seeing them enjoy it and knowing that I contribute to their happiness.
Mirsa: I love seeing guests happy as well,showing them what I can about my country and helping them to get the best experience ever really makes me happy.
Where is Belize? That is the question most people ask when first hearing about Belize. Contrary to what some people think, Belize is not in South America, nor Africa. It is, however, situated in the heart of Central America.
Most people don’t know that this Caribbean wonder is just a hop, skip and a jump from the U.S. Right under Mexico, next to Guatemala, welcoming the waves of the Caribbean Sea in the East. But that is part of it’s charm.
For the most part, only a small portion of the world’s tourist population has been to Belize; that has kept Belize’s Barrier Reef, Maya ruins and pristine rain forest “unspoiled” for all to enjoy.
Armando Cocom is an up-and-coming young chef in our kitchen. A local “boy” from the nearby Maya village of Succotz, only a couple miles down the road – he has been with Ka’ana almost from the onset. I caught up with him as he was preparing one of the new in-house specials and asked him a bit about what makes him tick.
How long have you been here at Ka’ana and how did you come about to your current position?
Well, I started out as a dishwasher when Ka’ana just opened in 2007, left for a short while, then returned and have been here ever since. To tell the truth I was just a regular kid that lived to play football in my village, I never really thought about what I wanted to do in life, but I realized I was growing up and had to find a job; this was actually my first job.
So how did you come about cooking?
Well, being here for a bit, I started observing what was going on around me – I noticed the other chefs and the preparation going on and I thought it was like “art” to see the food plated the way it was using all the ingredients grown right here in our organic garden – something that is not common at other resorts. Hearing the feedback from our guests was also very exciting and inspirational to me, so I started paying more attention. Pretty soon I was assisting and getting more involved.
What’s the most exciting part about your job?
The most exciting part about my job, honestly, (smiling shyly) is that I love what I do 101%! I never knew that I would find my life’s calling; I love being in the kitchen and being creative even when I am learning a new skill or technique. I am constantly training and learning – these days with Chef Jeff and its really great to work with him.
Is there anything that you personally helped to create that’s on our menu?
Actually I helped to come up with the concept of the layered tortillas recipe that I know is a crowd favorite.
Any advice to others who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Well of course, I would tell that if they find out that they really like to do what I do then to show their interest and go the extra mile to learn for themselves and train whenever possible and not to let anyone distract them from their dream. A special thanks to my bosses for taking an interest in this “village boy” and giving him an opportunity to excel!
Who doesn’t love the taste of hot corn tortillas? Here’s a forever-something you can take home from Belize – Maya knowledge. We’ll set you up with an authentic Maya cook from a nearby village who will demonstrate how she prepares this local staple while you assist.
Belize has a wonderfully diverse society, made up of a multiplicity of cultures and speaking many languages. English is the official language but Spanish is widely spoken. It stands out as the country with the largest ratio of land to people. Unlike its neighbors and other developed countries, the country is uncrowded and full of wide open spaces.
Bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the south and west, and the enchanting Caribbean sea to the east, our little jewel is only about 180 miles long and up to 68 miles wide. With a population of approximately 312,000 people (2011 census), the population density is the lowest in Central American and one of the lowest in the world making for wide open spaces to explore and discover.
Belize’s relatively undiscovered status has been one of the country’s most powerful attractants over the centuries and the inhabitants from the time of its modern history have liked it just that way. The area was the center of the vast Mayan Civilization founded about 2,000 B.C.
In Belize we grow up on sweet corn and here at Ka’ana we absolutely LOVE it. You can find it as a gelato and in some of our cocktails (Who doesn’t love Ka’ana’s signature Sweet Corn Colada?). Some people even add it to our fish tacos.
Corn is grown successfully in Belize, with the Cayo, Toledo and some parts of the Orange Walk District being particularly successful. It’s sweet, it’s crunchy and definitely satisfying and the best part is that you can get it from anywhere – from street vendors or fine restaurants in a variety of options.
As kids we grew up eating “sugar-corn” ice-cream and popsicles, you can also get rich and creamy atole – hot or chilled. Here in Belize we love sweet corn smothered in butter or lime and chile – even dipped in cream and sprinkle with cheese, yum yum!
The Mayas adored it, today’s new generations still enjoy it and now you too can get your sweet corn fix whenever you visit us!
Adrenaline junkies get ready for the ultimate adventure duo: Ziplining high above the jungle canopy and later floating through cavernous sanctuaries where Mayas once performed their sacred rituals with only your guide and headlamps to lead the way. Check out more details here.