OMG, I LOVE this! I think every destination should have this- what a wonderful way to experience a place… through its food! This tour is awesome for so many reasons and I would fully recommend it be one of the FIRST things you do when you arrive in Placencia. Not only will it introduce you to some of our best ‘hidden gems’ (think backyard BBQs or roadside taco stands that may not even have a name, let alone a review of TripAdvisor!) and unfamiliar dishes you wouldn’t otherwise know to order, but it will also orient you to the village if you are new to the area. The walking food tour will give you a lay-of-the-land and the confidence to let your palate explore further. Here’s what to expect from a Taste Belize Placencia Village Food Tour.
Like I said above, I would recommend booking this tour for one of your first days in Placencia so you can become acquainted with the village and it’s authentic food scene (not that there’s anything wrong with the meals at the resorts but this tour takes you to places that aren’t in any guide book– where the locals eat). It isn’t available on Sundays because that is traditionally a very quiet day in the village; Belize’s unofficial family BBQ day so most smaller vendors are closed. You can choose between a lunch or dinner time tour, both last about three hours and take you meandering through the village to sample about a dozen different things. The lunch tour (starts at 11am) is $70us pp and the dinner tour (starts at 4pm) is $80us pp making them both awesome tours to take for under $100.
Taste Belize Tours
You’ll begin your tour at the Taste Belize shop on the main road, center of the village. I’ve written about the shop here before; it is one of my favorites and the 100% Belizean-made (mostly consumables) products they carry are always so wonderful and unique. Taste Belize founder, top tour guide, organic farmer, cultural cuisine crusader, and all around bad a$$, Lyra Spang started our tour off with dessert first: chocolate! Lyra is spellbinding. She’s an encyclopedia of knowledge and I could listen to her talk for hours because she really knows her stuff, especially about chocolate. Lyra grew up on (and currently maintains) an organic cacao farm, totally off the grid in the jungles of Southern Belize. If that wasn’t cool enough, she also has a PhD in the anthropology of food (dude, I told you she was bad a$$). Chocolate can be a full day tour in its self: cacao’s cultivation, history, significance, and the chocolate making process is a fascinating topic you could delve deep into. For this tour we simply scratched the surface and nibbed some wonderful samples but I’ll share some INSANE cacao facts with you. Did you know cacao nibs have more protein by weight than beef?! Or 40 times more antioxidants than blueberries?! Really is a “super food!”
Walking the Village
Each tour could be just a little bit different depending on the route and what’s on the stove that day. For the lunch tour we took we sampled Bollos from Ms. Cecilia, a Ketchi Maya woman who comes to Placencia most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and sells from coolers near the bus stop. Her offerings include tamales with or without meat, dukunu, and the bollos we tried with chicken- similar to a tamale but with a smoother texture that Lyra aptly described as akin to al dente pasta. We ate more “corn foods” at Carmen’s Kitchen, a cozy little roadside stand in the heart of the village. I love all of Carmen’s food but the garnaches are especially wonderful- those fried masa bases seasoned with red recado and topped with tender chicken and a cabbage slaw. Perfection! Next we popped in to Barefoot Beach Bar for some Belizean Bittas (oh my, I’ve never had those before… ::wink wink::), smoked fish dip and breadfruit chips. Whenever I am checking in new visitors at my guesthouse and they ask for restaurant recommendations I send them to Barefoot first; you won’t really find a bad meal anywhere in the village but you’ll return to Barefoot again and again because of their extensive menu, phenomenal cocktails, and great vibe.
We were already fairly full but we went to Driftwood Cafe next for a bowl of Black Dinna, a chicken soup that looks like its going through an emo phase. The broth gets it deep flavor and dark color from black recado (basically they’ve just charred the heck out of the peppers before drying and grinding them to the paste of powder) and in addition to the stewed chicken in the soup, there’s also always a hard boiled egg. It looks a bit unapproachable but this dish has mass appeal and is much beloved across the country. Lastly we wrapped up the tour at The Shak near Placencia’s municipal pier for sweet and refreshing seaweed shakes. We have a local co-operative of seaweed farmers blazing a trail of commercial aquaculture for this superfood: Eucheuma Isoforme. Historically this type of seaweed has been sourced in small batch increments for personal use as an emulsifying agent for drinks, sauces, and soups but Eucheuma is a nutritional power house with ever-increasing global demand. The new farming initiatives are exciting because Belize has an opportunity to bring this wonderful product to a larger audience by exporting but it is a environmentally friendly and sustainable model of production.
The entire time you’re eating and walking, Lyra is giving you a riveting history lesson on why Belize’s cuisine is what it is today. She’ll identify points of interest within the village, make recommendations on where else to eat, drink, and shop, and even identify exotic flora (I can’t name much beyond ‘purple flower’ ‘short tree’ ‘spiky bush with the yellow berries’ so I’m always really impressed when someone knows actual names of things). This tour is good fun, filling and informative, and doesn’t require a whole day commitment or lengthy travel time. RLR reviewed and endorsed- highly recommend!
Want to read more about Placencia’s Food Scene? Check out these other posts: