Street Food Saturday: Empanadas from Elvi’s Kitchen in San Pedro, Belize

I will never forget the first time I ever tasted an empanada. I was 18 and working with a girl from Argentina who brought them in one day for us to try.

I was immediately hooked. 

Those empanadas were definitely integral in opening my eyes to the world of culinary travel an unmentionable number of years ago.

For today’s post on the A to Z Blog Challenge, I can’t resist sharing a photo of my favorite empanadas here in Belize. They are masa based, stuffed with fish and served with a cabbage relish that is divine. They are lighter and less filling than many other empanadas I’ve had, which means I can easily scarf down an entire order on my own.

If you visit Belize, I definitely recommend giving these a try! Also, try the coconut shrimp curry – it’s one of my favorite dishes of all time! 

Empanadas Elvi's Kitchen Belize

Empanadas from Elvi’s Kitchen in San Pedro, Belize

Photo of the Week: Horse Conch Ceviche at Hurricanes in San Pedro, Belize

When I’m in Belize, I have ceviche at least once, and in some cases, like four times a week. Belize’s coastal location provides for some of the best seafood finds in restaurants throughout the country — especially on the cayes.

Shockingly, I’ve been in Belize now for nearly 10 days and I have not had ceviche once!

Thankfully, my amazing friend on the island helped me remedy that situation last night. After listening to some live music on the beach and chatting with friends (such a rough Sunday afternoon I know), we headed to Hurricane’s Ceviche Bar for dinner and drinks.

Horse conch ceviche at Hurricane's Ceviche Bar in Ambergris Caye, Belize

Hurricanes Ceviche Bar is one of the few places I’ve found that has horse conch ceviche on a regular basis. If you are up on the seasonal foods of Belize, you might be thinking this is not conch season.  If you didn’t already know, horse conch and conch are not the same thing. While it has “conch” in the name, horse conch is a mollusk that is similar to “regular” conch, but belongs to different family classification and is locally referred to as Maimula or Mymula.

I find the consistency to be a bit less tough as compared to regular conch and the flavor more mild. It’s a good mix for ceviche as it really lets the flavors of the fresh onion, cilantro, tomatoes, and lime share the spotlight.

If you want to know more about horse conch ceviche in Belize, check out this article on Ambergris Today that tipped me off about it in the first place.

 

 

Belizean Cuisine: Breakfast Style Johnny Cakes from Belize (Recipe)

The more I travel within Belize, the more I fall in love with the cuisine, and I have barely scratched the surface of what really makes up the country’s best dishes.  Breakfast in Belize is one of my favorite meals and this is easily attributed to an overindulgence of fry jacks and Johnny Cakes over the years.

Johnny Cakes are really just like hard sandwich rolls, but there is something so homey and addicting about them.  You might be familiar with them from other cultures around the Caribbean and Native American Indians.  Some people refer to them as Journey Cakes as they would stay fresh for weeks, making them the perfect travel food.

Johnny Cakes served on a mainland Belize tour last month

 

Also called Jonnycake, these are commonly eaten in places like Jamaica, the West Indies, Dominican Republic, and more — especially along the Atlantic seaboard.  You might know them in the Southern US as hoecakes.

Traditionally, Johnny Cakes were made with cornmeal, salt, hot water (or milk) and may or may not be sweetened.  However, in Belize, the Johnny Cakes you find are made with flour.

I recently became friends with Tanya, a very talented cook in Belize who recently started a food blog dedicated to Belizean cuisine.  Through the good fortune of a number of mutual friends and Facebook, I was immediately hooked in by her blog.  This week, she mentioned on Facebook that she was going to make Johnny Cakes and post a recipe.  She sent me the link and I gave it a whirl Sunday morning. Well, I have a long way to go in getting these right, but it will be fun trying in the meantime.

My problem has been baking in Taiwan with the humidity and the differing flours.  Most flours, even the general all-purpose ones, are high in gluten, which I’ve been told need extra kneading and special care when trying to use in traditional bread making.

Tanya’s recipe for Johnny Cakes on her Tizzle Sizzles blog is quite easy, although if you are hungry when you start making them, better nibble on something as these are not a quick 30 minutes in the kitchen.

I will refer you back to her blog for the actual recipe, but it is quite simple in that you only need:

  • White all-purpose flour
  • Crisco shortening
  • Baking Powder
  • Coconut Milk
  • Salt
  • Water

Personally, I think this is a good excuse to travel back down to Belize and sample more Johnny Cakes — for research sake!

My first batch of Johnny Cakes that came out pretty flat

Although mine did not rise as much as I had hoped, they were still quite tasty. Most people use them to make a breakfast sandwich with meat and cheese, and I learned a great tip from Tanya — Cheese Whiz is heaven! I added beans, eggs with onions, Cheese Whiz, and of course Marie Sharp’s hot sauce from Belize (a must try!).

I didn’t bake all the dough and let a few balls sit up overnight in the fridge. Surprisingly, these actually fluffed up a bit and were much better than yesterday’s batch (lowered the oven rack and used the convection setting today as well). Still have some work to do, but making progress!

Let's try round two of baking Johnny Cakes!

These Johnny Cakes aren't looking too bad this time!

And now, I am munching one of my fresh and fluffy Johnny Cakes today while writing this post — thanks Tanya!

Made an open-face Johnny Cake with Cheese Whiz, beans, eggs, onions, and Marie Sharp's hot sauce!

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