The Holidays…oh what a time to be in Belize! The slightly chilled mornings, merry spirits, and the savoury dishes make it a perfect time for visiting. The end of the year is long awaited to dust off family recipes and prepare a bounty of food. If you’re fortunate to be in Belize during the holidays we recommend trying these signature holiday foods and drinks specially enjoyed at this time of the year.
Rum Popo. While similar in appearance to eggnog, Belizean rum popo packs quite a punch. The key ingredient in this thick, creamy drink is, of course, Belizean rum! In the weeks leading up to the holidays, Belizeans search near and afar for the best rum popo maker to place their orders. Prized family recipes are tightly guarded. Enjoy this delightfully rich holiday drink with a slice of fruit cake!
Christmas Ham. Turkey takes a backseat at the dinner table in Belize to make way for the star of the holiday feast – Christmas ham. An aroma of spices and seasonings fill the air come Christmas Eve as families bake their decadently prepared ham to perfection. The succulent flavor comes from a combination of the clove spice, honey, mustard, brown sugar and other ingredients.
Local Wine. Fruits such as cashew, craboo, sorrel and blackberry are harvested when in season to prepare these sweet tangy wines just in time for the holidays. Wine-making was once a common tradition with every village and town having a well-known wine maker. A rainbow assortment of wines can be found at farmer markets and along the highways. Popular flavours such as blackberry and cashew can be found in stores year-round.
Tamales/Bollos. This local staple can be found throughout the year and is equally enjoyed during the holidays. The traditional Maya dish made from grounded corn is filled with chicken or pork, and steamed in plantain or banana leaves. The experience of unwrapping this dish to get to the delicious filling is like unwrapping another Christmas gift but tastier.
Sahou. A warm cup of this creamy porridge on a chilly morning is heavenly. Sahou is a non-alcoholic traditional Garifuna drink made from freshly grated cassava, coconut milk, nutmeg, vanilla and sweetened with sugar, honey or condensed milk. If you’re on the Southeast Coast, look for this tasty drink on restaurant menus or find it being sold by street side vendors.
Black Fruit Cake. This festive holiday dessert is Belize’s version of a rum cake. Burnt sugar syrup (blackening) or caramel and local stout is added to the batter to give it the distinct dark color. Dried fruits are soaked in rum in the weeks or days leading up to the holidays, adding to its unique flavor. In true Belizean hospitality, visitors are welcomed into homes during the holidays with a slice of this local delicacy.
If you’re not in Belize for the holidays, try these local recipes to make your own rum popo, black fruit cake, and Christmas ham in Belizean style. Enjoy during the holidays or at any time of the year!
Photo of ham courtesy: Lauren Burn