East Indian Food and Traditions in Belize
Much like its former colonial sibling the United States of America, Belize is a cultural melting pot. Touring the country over a single day can bring you into a multitude of cultures including Mennonites, Maya, expatriate Americans and Canadians and even East Indians. This article is intended to highlight how the East Indians of Belize have managed to preserve and further the cuisine and observances of their ancestral culture.
Although East Indians are more than okay with preparing and feasting upon the sort of foods that are perfectly at home on any Belizean Creole table, they have not lost touch with the ingredients and recipes that their ancestors knew.
- Tacari is a type of spiced meat that has been hit with a blast of either curry, known as “masala,” or yellow ginger, known as “gerdy.” While tacari is used for many types of meat, the East Indians who practice Hinduism will never serve beef tacari.
- Roti is an unleavened flatbread that is traditionally made out of wheat. In essence, they are flour tortillas.
- Dahl is a split pea soup whose name comes from the Hindi word for its chief ingredient, legumes.
- Sano is a Hindi phrase that means “eat with fingers” and is a general term for any sort of finger food.
- Rice is a crop long associated with Belizean East Indians due to the strong association East Indians had with being farmers of rice and sugar during plantation era Belize.
- Cabbage, specifically the Cohune variety, is a common component of festival meals.
While most of the ancestral languages of the East Indian Belizeans has been lost out of a desire to fit in, they still hold fast to many of the traditions and customs practiced in India. Despite retaining much of this cultural knowledge, the younger generations of East Indian Belizeans also abide by some cultural traditions specific to their homeland.
One particular observance would be Ninth Night. Also known as the “Dead Yard,” this is a funeral observance where friends and loved ones of the deceased come together to commemorate the dead with songs and food nine days before the funeral service. While events happen on each of the nine days and nights, the ninth night is the most important.