Rice and Beans

I had a taxi ride from the bus station in Chetumal, Mexico, across the border into Corozal, Belize. And, just like I usually do, I asked my taxi driver about food. What dish does his mother, wife, sister, auntie or significant other make that he thinks I should enjoy in Belize? No hesitation, rice and beans. The secret ingredient in Belize was coconut milk. So, I was a man on a mission. This was the "must find" recipe while in the country.

It wasn't hard to find. It's a local favorite. And, I had a local chef at my fingertips. Dommie cooked for my sister whenever she had guests. She was more than happy to give me the dish on this dish.

It takes a little preparation. Dommie prepares the beans a day in advance. Actually she cooks more beans than needed for the meal because they will most certainly be used throughout the week's cooking.

Rice and Beans
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
xxxx 1 pound of beans xxxx 1 medium onion, chopped
  1 or 2 garlic cloves finely minced   1 bell pepper, chopped

At Dommie's home, the beans are cooked over a wooden fire. I'm assured it tastes better that way. If you aren't at Dommie's and you cook like my sister, add all the ingredients into a crock pot. Simmer the beans about five hours until they are soft. Then, you'll be ready to add them to the rice whenever the need arises.

  1 fresh coconut   2 pounds or rice
  1 machete   salt to taste

The rice dish starts with a Valentine. No, it's not a card or a holiday; it's Dommie's husband. You need to send him out with a machete to harvest a fresh coconut. If you don't have a Valentine at your service, there is another option in San Pedro. It's Coconut Leo. He's one of the many men in the Caribbean, somewhere between 50 and 70 years old, who adds all kinds of local color to the environment. As for Coconut Leo, his age is estimated somewhere between 53 to 65. He shows up where tourists roam, with dreadlocks and an affinity for Bob Marley music. For tips, and this is how he makes a living, Coconut Leo will climb coconut trees to harvest the crop for anyone interested. He is a local celebrity. You can even buy Coconut Leo T-shirts. I, however, have never seen the guy. He makes the rounds at all the popular bars in San Pedro. I don't.

So, if you don't have access to Valentine or Coconut Leo, you might need to purchase your own coconut or, like me, a can of coconut milk.

Dommie has a tool that scrapes the coconut meat from the nut. When the nut has been thoroughly scraped, add a cup of warm water to the grated coconut. Squeeze the coconut in the warm water to get out all the juices possible. Then, repeat the process. The whole purpose is to get every ounce of flavor out of the coconut meat that you can. Keep the water mixture and toss out all the coconut pulp to feed your chickens.

Wash your rice and place it in a pot with the coconut milk. Add in a pound of the cooked beans and about a teaspoon of salt. Place the heat on high until the rice begins to boil. Then, turn the heat down and cook for another 45 minutes.

I personally love serving the dish with individual seashells on a plate atop a palm branch, but that's just me. Serve it however you like and enjoy a taste from the Caribbean.

Copyright 2017 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.