Pristine warm turquoise waters, white powdery sand and the world’s second largest coral reef – the small country of Belize is a bit of a paradise. Let’s not forget the lush and tropical Central American jungle full of wildlife, dotted with ancient Mayan ruins.
Food-wise, it’s a mix-up of African, Caribbean, Mayan, Mexican and Spanish. So that means loads of seafood, slow-cooked meats and poultry, tubers, grains and tropical fruits.
Stew chicken is up there as being one of the more common dishes – generally served at lunch or dinner. I absolutely love it, though it does vary no matter where you are in the country. Nobody follows one recipe, do they?
On our first trip to Belize back in 2002, I remember looking around a small grocery store on Caye Caulker. Exploring local grocers whist travelling is fascinating – a perfect way to get a sense of what the cuisine is like and a great way to discover new ingredients.
I spotted small plastic pouches filled with something called recado – a firm ball of deep red paste I knew nothing about, back then. I now know it’s an achiote-based spice paste that’s used quite a bit in this part of the world – something that’s very much like the achiote paste I now make and use at home.
Something else I spotted was the vaguely-named “season all” – a spice powder that contains who-knows-what as they never really list the ingredients.
Both these ingredients – recado and season all – seem to be prominent players in stew chicken. I’ve developed my own version of this Belizean staple, using achiote in place of recado, and chicken bouillon and other spices instead of season all.
Another thing I tossed in there was a small tin of salsa taquera – a spicy salsa made with tomatillos and red morita peppers. It’s a Mexican product that I found at Panetta Mercado in Marrickville Metro, in Sydney, but I’m sure you could get it in any grocer that specialises in Latino ingredients.
Serving stew chicken without rice and beans would be a crime, so I’ve knocked together a pot of it, as well. I didn’t go as far as making the traditional potato or cabbage salad that’s also served with it, but fried plantains did make the plate. Love those things!
My take was adapted from here
Rice and beans adapted from “Home Cooking in the Global Village”