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Rice & Beans and Stewed Chicken – Belize National Dish – Day 33/Dish 17

February 8, 2010

Today we are headed back to the Caribbean.  It is a fairly simple matter to travel to Belize from Belgium but you do have to cross the Atlantic again.  Belize is located on the Yucatan Peninsula between Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.  Belize has the distinction of being the only English speaking country in Central America.  It has a small population of only about 330,000 people and the local dialect is Creole English.  Think of Jamaica’s “Hey Mon” patois, and you would be fairly close to the sounds of Belizean Creole.  Of course, both places were English colonies with a melting pot of local ethnicities so this should not be a huge surprise.

In history, Belize was one of the only areas of Central America that was settled by the British.  Originally it was called British Honduras which remained until the 1970’s after which independence from England was gained in 1981.

Belize City is the largest population center in Belize but Belmopan was built 45 miles inland to protect the capitol from hurricanes that regularly make landfall in the region.  Belize’s government and infrastructure are frequently systems first employed by the British.

Belize is a part of what was once a vast empire of Maya people and cities.  You can find many historical sites throughout Belize and the Yucatan.  When you have stood on the Apex of a 300 foot high building that looks like a pyramid and is entirely built by hand, you begin to get a sense of how advanced the Maya people were.  And then mysteriously, around 900 AD the entire society fell apart leaving scattered remnants of what was once a powerful and advanced society.  Nobody knows the exact cause of the downfall, but theories from a peasant revolt to overuse of the land are widely accepted.

Today you can still see the Mayan heritage throughout the country.  But, Belize is also a vast melting pot of African, European, Asian and Middle Eastern people who chose this beautiful country to call home or in some cases were brought here as slaves for the once thriving Timber industry.  There are villages of Maya, Garifuna (African), Mennonite, Guatemalan, Mexican and Honduran people as well as larger cities that are far more diverse.  The influence can be seen in the various aspects of the cultural life of Belizeans and is perhaps best felt in the Music and Food of this place.

If you travel to Belize, be sure to get out and see the country.  Due to its small size, it can be navigated by vehicle and most locations can be reached within an easy days drive (although some of the roads are rough).  The rainforests are beautiful and the world famous cays of Belize offer snorkling, diving, fishing and beach going for the beach resort traveller.  The inland areas offer great eco-experiences for the more adventurous such as tubing through ancient limestone caves, massive waterfalls or swimming in Cenotes, deep sinkholes.  And the music is great for dancing and bobbing your head with a good mix of Reggae, Soca and Punta being the main styles.

The national dish of Belize is called 1, 2, 3 (thanks Lisa) and consists of Rice and Beans, Stewed Chicken and Potato Salad.  This dish reflects the Caribbean culinary tradition, local produce and British influence (potato salad) in equal parts and is very popular.  And last but not least, do not hesitate to try the local beer, Belikin.  You will not be sorry.

We will be cooking the 1 and 2 in this recipe while a friend is bringing the 3 for dinner.  Maybe I will get her to post her recipe later. 

At the Belize Zoo, Northern Highway, Belize CA with my "Belizean American" girls 2009

For the record, I am fortunate enough to be married to a Belizean Woman and have two beautiful Belizean American daughters, so my cooking will be judged especially closely tonight.  I give this dish a 3 for difficulty due to the time in preparation and the fact that I will have astute and well versed critics judging the outcome.  Wish me luck…

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION

Rating:

Appearance:  3 out of 5

Aroma:  4 out of 5

Flavor:  4 out of 5

Total:  11 out of 15

Ingredients

For the Stewed Chicken:

 1 whole Chicken, cut in serving pieces

1 teaspoon Salt

1/2 teaspoon White Pepper

2 balls Recado (You can buy it here) or search for red recado recipes(can substitute small amount of cayenne and paprika)

 1 sliced onion

3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil (more if needed)

1 tablespoon White Vinegar

1 cup Water

2 teaspoons Brown Sugar (Use Raw Cane Sugar)

1 cup Water

1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

 For the Rice and Beans:

 1 cup Red Kidney Beans Dry

1 cup thick Coconut Cream (Milk)

1 Onion, sliced

1 clove Garlic

2 cups White Rice

Salt and Pepper to taste

 Preparation:

For the Stewed Chicken:

To season with recado, get the palms of your hands wet with a bit of oil or chicken fat, then place a ball of recado in your palms and rub it around till it forms a paste which you then wipe on the chicken.  You do not need a lot of Recado.  A thin rub will do the job.

Cut Chicken in serving pieces and place on a cookie sheet and season with Salt, White Pepper, Recado, and Sliced Onion.

Brown Chicken in hot oil until well browned.

Pour off excess fat. Cook over low heat adding Vinegar and Water.

In a small frying pan, brown the Cane Sugar. Add 1 cup Water and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce while deglazing the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon(stir the bits of sugar off the bottom).

Add Sugar and Worcestershire mixture to the stew and cook until Chicken is done.

For the Rice and Beans:

Soak Beans overnight in enough Water to cover.  

Boil beans covered until tender and whole about 1.5 hours, adding 1/2 Onion and garlic when almost tender.

Add Coconut Cream and the rest of the Onion along with the Salt and Pepper.  

Wash Rice and add to Beans.

Cook over gentle heat until liquid is absorbed about 20 minutes.

Stir gently with fork and add a little water from time to time until rice is cooked. 

If the bottom scorches, carefully finish cooking without stirring up the bottom adding water from time to time if needed.  In Belize they call the burnt bottom “Rice Bun” and it is good to eat.  Just do not stir it through the rice.

You can thicken the gravy with 3 tsp corn starch in about ½ cup of cold water then simmer for 5-10 minutes till it thickens.

 To serve:

 Pour chicken and sauce over rice and beans. Serve with potato salad, fried plantain, and lots of cold beer.

  

Recipe Sources: The Belize Hospitality Authority HA CookBook & http://www.justgoodeats.com/recipes/show.php?record_ID=153

Edited by Eric Ackerson

Sources for historical reference on Maya:

http://www.thenagain.info/webchron/Americas/EndMaya.html

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2010 11:35 am

    What a marvelous dish! My mouth is watering over the idea of red beans and rice made with coconut milk – I will definitely try this.

    Your national dish posts are a fantastic way to highlight national cuisines that have long been overshadowed by a handful of countries. I can’t believe what I’ve been missing and we’re only in the B’s!

  2. Jill permalink
    October 4, 2010 12:34 pm

    Just stopped by Belize on a cruise, loved the zoo. Of couse had to stop where the locals eat for a plate of , of course, rice & beans (cooked in coconut milk) chicken stew and potato salad which hubby washed down with a Belikin beer. Y-U-M

  3. October 4, 2010 3:25 pm

    Thanks Jill, glad you got to visit Belize and try 1-2-3 first hand. The food of Belize is simple and delicious. My father in law will be especially happy about your husbands beer choice as he has worked for Belikin for almost 3 decades! If you had a Coke or Fanta while you were there, you were also sampling his “work”.

    Cheers,
    Eric

  4. olga maryna waigth permalink
    March 14, 2011 4:25 pm

    Hi I grow up in BelizeNknow I’m liaving in unites states of america.and I will tell u try the rice and beans and stewed chicken,I always cook for my kids u will love is is DELICIOSO.Very nice,VERY NICE

    • March 14, 2011 5:47 pm

      Hi and welcome to Myhungrytum.com! I wanted to tell you how excited I was to get your comment because my wife grew up in Belize too! Her name is Jihad Shoman. I have two beautiful Belizean American daughters and I love Belize. I go there as often as I can. You are right, the stewed chicken is one of my favorite dishes, besides the BBQ chicken, but I am not a huge fan of Belize Rice and Beans. I also love garnaches, dukunu and many other Belize dishes. Where do you live now?

  5. Kathy Dingman permalink
    May 21, 2011 12:44 pm

    I have tried the stewed chicken. That is so awsome that I must cook it at home. Where can I buy recado-or what are the portions of alternate spices?
    I live in Denver Colorado

    • July 3, 2011 10:46 am

      Wow I am so sorry I took sooooo long to reply. I have been too busy in my personal and work life to do much writing or tending to the blog lately.

      Recado can usually be found at Hispanic grocery stores in the spice section. It might be called Adobo de achiote. It comes in liquid, powder and paste form. I like the paste to which I add a small amount of vegetable oil to increase the recipe. You do not need to use very much. For a whole chicken maybe 2 tbsp of finished recado with the oil in it will do the job…

      I hope your search is successful and that you enjoy the finished product.
      Eric

  6. jenelle permalink
    August 10, 2011 10:21 pm

    I just got back from a cruise that past true belize we went for a tour up the old belize river there was a restaurant along the way were we had lunch i had the stew chicken red bean rice and a green salad and a orange fanta the chicken was fall of the bone tender the rice had a smokey taste to it while no one new i did it was cook fireside but it taste so great i had to find out how to cook that style chicken so on the way back to the ship i past by the belize market the lady who was selling the spices was so nice she sold me what i needed for it and give me a print out of the recipe i was so happy it can’t wait to try it.

    • October 14, 2011 8:03 pm

      Jenelle we did that same stop on a cruise three years ago and the food was amazing! I will be trying this recipe this week.

  7. Angela permalink
    October 20, 2011 6:19 pm

    Making this as we speak (the chicken at least). Making traditional pinto gallo since I wanted to use up cilantro, no coconut milk, etc.

    It smells delicious, but does not look as nice and brown as in your photo. Will report in abbut an hour. 😉 Thanks!

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