Join twowildtides on the country challenge. Each week, we’re going to be heading to a new country (in spirit). Primarily, we’ll be cooking a meal from each country; but we’ll also be watching travel documentaries, reading travel blogs, and listening to music. During the global pandemic, travel is largely inaccessible. We want to reignite our wanderlust, satisfy our travel bug as much as we can, and learn some new things along the way. I have a feeling our bucket list will have a number of items added to it through this experience as well. We created a simple alphabetical spreadsheet with all the countries of the world, and each week we will draw a random number that corresponds with a country on the spreadsheet.
This week we are in the Central American and Caribbean country of Belize. The strongest cultural influence in Belize is from its Mayan heritage, but Belize is known as a very diverse country, especially linguistically. Belize is a scuba diver’s or snorkeller’s paradise, as it is known for having the world’s second-largest barrier reef (behind Australia’s Great Barrier Reef) which features the mind-blowing Great Blue Hole.
I had to do quite a bit of research and reasoning to decide on the dish to represent Belize in our country challenge. The national dish is rice and beans, which I’m sure is excellent in Belize, but not that exciting to attempt to make at home. ‘Black Dinner’ a.k.a. ‘Chimole’ also caught my eye, but I was not able to find the necessary ingredients. That led me to Cochinita Pibil, which is slow-roasted pork served on a tortilla with delightful fresh toppings.
Cochinita Pibil is featured on this list of ‘top ten things to taste in Belize’ by Belize.com, this list of traditional Belizean foods by Flavorverse, this list of ten Belizean dishes you have to taste by Roam Wild Travel Co., this list of ten exotic dishes from around Belize by Chabil Mar Villas, this list of popular Belizean foods for adventure travellers by Caves Branch Adventure Co., this list of must-try foods in Belize by Untame Belize, and this list of must-eat foods in Belize by Hummingbird Estate. It’s no trouble to tell this meal is widely cherished in Belize. We followed this recipe by BelizeNewsPost.com, which sounds like a source for local news, but is actually a blog for recipes that “are inspired by our mothers and grandmothers, sometimes with a twist, always authentically Belizean!”
I was excited to get to deal with a new spice for this recipe. Achiote annatto is commonly used in Central American and Mexican cuisine and gives food a bright red colour. I found this packet on Amazon for a good price. The final spice blend was so aromatic and the richest brick red colour. I marinated our pork the night before and slow-roasted it in a heavy roasting pot.
While the pork roasted, I prepared pickled red onions, as recommended by the recipe and pictured in almost all the snaps I’ve seen of this dish; as well as other topping such as cilantro, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.
I used aluminum foil instead of banana leaves to wrap the pork for roasting, only due to banana leaves not being available in my area. It was so hard to wait for the pork to cook once the smell started drifting throughout the house. It was simply mouthwatering. When we finally took it out of the oven, we didn’t even have to shred it. It just fell apart on the fork. It was perfectly tender and could not have been cooked better.
This meal was spectacular. A huge upgrade from our classic taco night. I would absolutely make this recipe again as it was no more difficult than frying out chicken or ground beef for tacos or fajitas, and the flavour payoff is way more exciting and authentic. I can’t wait for tomorrow to dig into the leftovers!