Nomming Around in San Pedro

Since my last trip to San Pedro, I’ve dreamt about the salbutes and cucumber mojitos from El Fogon. No one was more surprised than myself, as I hate cucumbers. The first time we were here, it was a vacation. A get away. I had a stable, well paying, job. I was here to experience everything about Belize. To absorb it and just immerse myself in another culture, mainly through their food.

And, yes. I still cooked. Cooking is a way to ground myself. I enjoy the ritual of it. I enjoy creating food for others to eat. I enjoy watching others enjoy my food. Food is nourishment, but it is also so much more. To say I like food is an understatement. I love food. A lot.

When travelling, I always make sure we have a usable kitchen. I may go out for lunch or dinner. But I need a way to provide food between those meals. Also, it is good for my soul to have the ritual of cooking to come back to. A routine. And I get to play with local ingredients that I discover to add to my culinary repertoire.

Butterflies are pretty! This one seems to be nomming on a flower.

What is that and can I put it in my mouth?

As much as I enjoy going to local restaurants at least once every single day of vacation, I realize now that I need to re-evaluate. I’m no longer on vacation. I need to readjust to “slow travel”. And, while I will continue to drink in the local culture, I need to learn to sip rather than gulp. At “home”, in Seattle, we ate out at restaurants maybe a dozen times a year. We cooked (or had leftovers) almost every meal that we ate. Now, I fully intend to go out more often than that, but we do need to take it slow if we want to ensure our finances will hold. I also need to adjust to the ingredients that are available to me.

We go out to fruit stands or Sunday Markets and I’ll ask, “what is that?”. Not because I’m looking for something necessarily familiar, or I’m scared of new things, but because I need to look it up to find complimentary flavors.  But, let’s be completely honest, sometimes I’ll just buy something unfamiliar, taste it, and start combining flavors in my mind to figure out what would taste good with it. Sometimes I adapt local flavors to a recipe I already know, or go completely off script and hope for the best!

Do you really need that?

Usually when I travel, I travel pretty light. I bring a bit of my essential cooking gear, but leave most of it at home. I’ve been known to complain about the knives and cutting boards. Lack of suitable prep bowls. Crappy pans and cutlery. But it was always a minor inconvenience. I was only cooking a handful of times a week, and then I’d be going home to my well stocked kitchen.

This time, I’m cooking the vast majority of our meals. Those minor annoyances would become major inconveniences. But I still can’t pack everything. We’re not relocating, yet.

The pans were out, they’re just too heavy. I brought a few silicone spatulas, whisks, forceps (for getting out fish bones), and a couple microplanes. I also brought a full compliment of spices, which I intend to replenish as needed when I’m able. My big packing splurge was a full set of quality knives, chef’s scissors, a knife steel, and cutting boards.

I can deal with shitty knives for a little while, but I will literally go crazy if I have to use those knives for more than a couple weeks. It’s a bit much, but it’s what I have to do. I’m going to have to bribe my mother to come out to visit once or twice a year to bring by sharpening stones so I can put a new edge on my knives.

Recommendations in San Pedro Town

So far we’ve enjoyed a number of local food options. I’m absolutely in love with El Fogon. I would go there every day if I could afford to. They have a large coal burning furnace/stove, “el fogon”, which they will start up early in the morning to cook most of the food. As the days get very hot in the afternoon, they do almost all of their cooking in the morning and wind down as the day progresses. My absolute favorite is the salbutes. It’s a fried corn tortilla, topped with slaw, protein (chicken/fish/pork), a slice of tomato, and a sliver of jalapeño.

Each ingredient individually is amazing, but they are an absolute symphony in the mouth. Every ingredient elevating all of the others. It’s served, upon request, with a house salsa and hot sauce. I slather it on. I could drink it, I’m addicted to spice. And Belize is well known for their habanero peppers. They also have an amazing pigtail with split-peas. Absolute heaven.

Birthday Salbutes with Mrs. Itchyfeet!

We also discovered a nearby jerk chicken place called Robin’s Kitchen. If you like jerk chicken, get some. It’s also incredibly affordable. US$7 plate. They don’t serve drinks or anything, so bring your own. We’re incredibly tempted to get takeaway, but just can’t justify the styrofoam and plastic waste. We’re already planning a lunch trip there tomorrow!

Playing with my food

As I mentioned, I do enjoy playing with flavors a bit. My first meal here, other than the standard breakfast of rice and beans topped with an egg, was a fairly easy blackened chicken breast with a side of rice/beans and sautéed carrots and bell peppers. We’re really looking for some fish to cook with. But, I’m not sure if it’s because of a lack of tourism or what, we’re having some trouble finding fresh seafood.

Blackened Chicken. Boring, but delicious!

After the blackened chicken, I got a bit more creative. We hunted down some rice noodles, the wrong kind (but workable), and I tossed together a Pad Thai. It was a little interesting without having access to fish sauce, but I was able to add in a bit of umami flavor with some minced fermented black beans. We found a sort of tamarind syrup that we’ve been using for drinks. I thought it could be a workable replacement for tamarind paste, and then excluding the usual added sugar since it was already in the syrup.

Due to the absolutely crappy pans, we decided to try slicing some jammy eggs over the top rather than scrambling them. Peanuts were pretty expensive, so we were going to skip them, but we found a promotional 6-pack of beer that had a free bag of peanuts attached. Sold! It was definitely Pad Thai “inspired”, but it was still delicious.

Pad Thai…?

After the Pad Thai, I realized the rice noodles we got really looked like spaghetti so… what about making some gluten free spaghetti (Celiac decease definitely makes things more interesting, but it also drives me to make good food to eat without having to worry about cross-contamination like when we go to restaurants). We had to visit a couple different stores; fruit stand for veggies, grocery store for tomatoes, and finally the meat store for some ground beef. It turned out pretty well, but we probably won’t be making it again due to the expense of the, mostly imported, ingredients.

Really playing with my food

Finally, we went completely off script. I had some leftover habanero-vinegar sauce from the Pad Thai (that was being stored in a coffee cup, which we definitely wanted to put back into rotation due to a poorly stocked kitchen), some frozen chicken, and some dried red beans… sounds like a good base for some enchiladas. But I’m not feeling enchiladas, and we have access to delicious corn tortillas made locally on the island for only US$1.50 for a package of 20. I ended up making a Blackened-Chicken with a Habanero-Vinegar and Creme of Coconut Glaze Taco-Lasagna.

Blackened-Chicken with a Habanero-Vinegar and Creme of Coconut Glaze Taco-Lasagna

I turned the beans into handmade frijoles refritos, which turned out to be the best refried beans I’ve ever had (unfortunately, I forgot all about them until the lasagna was already in the oven, so I just piled them on top). I caramelized a diced onion. Got some “local” green salsa and some, unlabeled, spicy cotija cheese. I put a jerk seasoning on the chicken and pan fried until it got nice and dark, then added the habanero-vinegar and creme of coconut and simmered until it was done. Mrs. ItchyFeet shredded the chicken, and then we added in the pan sauce. Then we just layered, using the tortillas as lasagna noodles. Absolutely amazing. The crispness of the tortillas was perfect. We will be making this again. Soon.

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  1. Josh – the Blackened Chicken w/ Habanero-Vinegar and Creme of Coconut Glaze Taco-Lasagne sounds divine!!! Please send me the recipe!

    1. Mr. ItchyFeet

      Taco Lasagna


        * 1/4 C Vinegar
        * 1 Habanero (or other available hot pepper such as Serrano or Jalapeño), seeded and sliced thin
        * 2 Tbs. Crème of Coconut (or sugar)
        * 1 lb. Chicken Breast
        * Blackened chicken rub (salt, red pepper, paprika, chili powder, garlic/onion powder). Made to taste
        * 1/2 Onion, finely diced
        * Green salsa
        * Corn tortillas
        * Refried beans
        * Cotija cheese


        1. Combine habanero, vinegar, and crème of coconut (or sugar).
        2. Sprinkle one side of chicken generously with rub.
        3. Over medium heat add chicken, rub side down, to an oiled pan. Sprinkle rub on other side.
        4. When chicken has a good sear and rub has blackened, flip. Blacken other side.
        5. Add habanero/vinegar sauce and cover. Simmer until chicken is done – internal temperature of 165°F (75°C)
        6. Remove chicken. Let rest for 5 minutes and then shred using forks.
        7. While shredding, add onions to pan sauce. If you made your own refried beans, add in the excess bean water as well. Simmer until starts to thicken. Add to shredded chicken.
        8. In an oven-safe baking pan, put down thin layer of salsa, then a layer of tortillas. Then start to layer refried beans, chicken, cheese, and salsa. Add a layer of tortillas and continue until ingredients run out or pan fills.
        9. Bake at 375°F (190°C) for 30-45 minutes.
  2. Enjoyed reading about the lasagna. I’ll have to try that at home with similar ingredients.

  3. It’s fun hearing about your new lives. Thanks for creating this blog.

  4. […] fell in love with the street tacos in Belize that we had for every breakfast, so I attempted to make my own. My first couple of attempts […]

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