Sunday, March 15, 2009

The food of the Garifuna... (new foods 9-10)

So this weekend my homegirl Tania invited me to a wonderful Garifuna cultural affair in the Bronx. Tania is Garifuna and she was born in Honduras. Just a little history on the Garifuna, the Garifuna are mixed race people who are descendants of Carib, Arawak and African peoples. The Garifuna generally live in Central America along the Caribbean Coast of Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua. I kind of thought that the Garifuna were like Black Hondurans.... I'm not sure that's 100% accurate, but the folks at the festival were definitely of African descent and the food was delicious and had definite African inspirations.

Given that it was Tania and I at this affair, obviously the first thing that we did was take a shot. Guifiti is a traditional Garifuna spirit made from rum infused with herbs, nuts and berries. Apparently alcohol was not allowed at this function because after we paid for our shots (actually a scary drunk man paid for them.... but that's another story) we were covertly handed 2 little cups and a half empty bottle of rum and had to pour the shots ourselves under the table while trying to disentangle ourselves (physically and socially) from the scary drunk guy... Anywhoo I have no idea what the rum was infused with, but it was strong and it was tasty. It had a bit of an anise taste to me... a little licorice-y. The guifiti went down fairly smooth, but I think I would like to mix it with something or at least have a chaser next time.

Machuca- The next thing we ate was this DELICIOUS coconut based seafood soup that you eat with a mash of green plantains called Machuca. We actually got to the Machuca right when they ran out, but Tania told her friend, who was making the food, that she wanted to introduce me to the Garifuna culture and I NEEDED to taste the Machuca so she scraped a bit more soup and plantain out for me. And I'm glad she did because it was tasty... coconutty, but not in a heavy way and had notes of cilantro and lime in it. There was only a bit of seafood in my portion, but the broth was nicely infused with seafood flavor. The plantain mash was actually pretty tasty. I'm not usually a fan of starchy mashes (fufu, etc), but the mash actually had a flavor of it's own...

Next on the list was also one of my favorites, Baleada. Baleada is popular street food in Honduras... it's basically a thick, homemade tortilla filled with refried beans and a slightly sweet cream. It sounds like it would be a bit odd, but it was really tasty. The cream tasted a bit like cream cheese or sour cream but it was a bit sweet. The refried beans were just refried beans, but together it worked. Yummm...

After the Baleada we got a couple cups of hot Atole. Atole is porridge like drink made with corn, coconut (or Carnation evaporated milk I was told... Do any people of African descent NOT love the Carnation?!?), hominy, and spices... i think i tasted nutmeg and maybe cinnamon. It was VERY sweet and heavy. I initially though that it was a soup because, despite the fact it was served in a cup, they gave us spoons, but apparently Atole is actually a drink. It was tasty, but it was so rich I could only have a couple spoonfulls.

Next on our gastronomic tour of Honduras we had some Tamales... They were very much like traditional Mexican tamales... chick wrapped in cornmeal and steamed in leaves. They were tasty, but not my fav.

Tania and I took a few sweets to go. One was a sweet called semitas that looks like a very large, puffy sugar cookie with a braided ring of dough surrounding it. The Semitas (I'm not sure if that's singular or plural :-/) were tasty... They pretty much tasted like sugar cookies... with some nutmeg. Blacks all over the diaspora love them some nutmeg... almost as much as they love the Carnation...

The last thing i tasted was the Garifuna Yucca Bread. It is pretty much what it sounds, like... "bread" made of mashed yucca. It was quite interesting... They cut it off of a big tray, and when I saw it on the tray, I kind of thought it was flan, or something similar... The inside of the bread had that kind of flan-like firm mush look. Upon tasting it, the texture was a little like flan, but much denser and chewier... i can't think of much to compare it with, but it kind of had the consistency of fufu... if you for some reason decided to chew your fufu. It was chewy, firm and kind of elastic. The texture was interesting, but definitely not unappealing. The bread tasted pretty good... it was very sweet and moist and tasted of.... you guessed it! Brown sugar and nutmeg... heh heh... yum..

All in all I really enjoyed my taste of Garifuna! I am going to count it as 2 new foods given the Machuca, Guifiti, Tamales and Semitas were not totally foreign to me. I think I am going to try and make machuca this month... it was really tasty. So look out for that :-p



  1. Girlfriend you nailed the experienced the descriptions are superb, by the way the sugary cakes are called semitas


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