Spotlight on the Cuisine of Guyana

Spotlight on the Cuisine of Guyana

Nowhere is Guyana’s diversity more apparent than in its cuisine. In fact, the country is known as the breadbasket of the Caribbean. Guyanese cuisine draws from a variety of cultures, including Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonial influences as well as Indian, Chinese, African, and Amerindian dishes. From fiery pepperpot to methai sweet snacks, there is a selection of Guyana’s most popular dishes.

1. Metemgee

Packed with seasonal vegetables and hearty starches like cassava, plantains, and yams, this coconut milk-based stew may have originated with individuals brought from to Guyana from Africa as slaves. In addition to incorporating a variety of root vegetables such as sweet potato and gourd, metemgee can be also made with okra or tomatoes. Salt fish and beef may also be added. Guyanese cooks often serve metemgee with a type of dumpling called “duff,” making the dish even more filling.

2. Cook-Up Rice

Ubiquitous throughout the Caribbean, this dish consisting of chicken, rice and peas is known as “chicken cook-up rice” in Guyana. The popular one-pot dish is often cooked on the weekends. In Guyana, it is traditional to serve this dish on New Year’s Eve.

cook-up rice

Chicken cook-up rice is popular, although it can be made with any type of meat, or even multiple types. As with metemgee, the original recipe for cook-up rice has been traced back to people who were brought from Africa as slaves. It is traditionally eaten at the end of the week to use up any meat left over from other dishes.

3. Bake and Saltfish

Bake is a popular breakfast dish served throughout Guyana today. It is essentially a type of fried bread consisting of dough balls that puff up into balloon shapes as they are fried in skillets of hot oil. Amerindians often serve bake with peanut butter.

Saltfish is popular throughout the Caribbean, where it often eaten at breakfast time. Cured Atlantic cod must be soaked before use to remove the salt. In Guyanese cuisine, saltfish is often sautéed with garlic, onions, thyme, and tomatoes before being sandwiched in between pieces of bake to make a hearty breakfast dish.

4. Methai

Methai sticks are made by mixing flour, margarine, baking powder and sugar. Traditional Guyanese methai are fried in oil, then coated in custard powder. Methai originates from the Indian subcontinent, where this sweet street food takes on a variety of different forms.

5. Chow Mein

Chow Mein was introduced to Guyana by Chinese immigrant workers following the abolition of slavery. Although many people of Chinese descent subsequently left the country, they also left an indelible mark on the nation’s cuisine.

This classic noodle dish is still regarded as a staple food throughout Guyana. Eaten as take-out or made for special occasions, this noodle dish incorporates a variety of seasonal vegetables and meats such as chicken, pork, or beef.

6. Pepperpot

The Amerindians, Guyana’s first settlers, introduced pepperpot, a Christmas-day staple and Guyana’s national dish. Featuring meat infused with hot peppers, cinnamon, and cassareep (a type of sauce made with cassava root), pepperpot is essentially a type of stew. Meats such as beef, mutton, or pork are common components. Indigenous tribes continue to prepare the dish using local sources of meat such as labba, tapir, or deer.

Guyanese families often eat the dish on special occasions, accompanied by rice, roti, or bread. The dish takes several hours to make, and is generally associated with holidays like Christmas. It is usually prepared in a large pot and consumed over several days.

7. Cassava Bread

The cassava plant is very important in Amerindian culture, particularly in Guyana. Known as the root that binds all Guyanese, the cassava holds a special place in Guyanese cookery. It is incorporated into the gastronomies of the many different peoples of Guyana.

Cassava

The cassava is a tropical, perennial plant that can grow up to 15 feet tall. The edible parts of the cassava are its root and leaves. Cassava bread is a common Guyanese food made with grated cassava root. This unleavened bread may be eaten as a snack with avocado or peanut butter, or served as an accompaniment to a main dish.

8. Chicken Foot

Though it may sound unusual to those from other parts of the world, “chicken foot” is a popular snack in Guyana. This crunchy noodle-shaped snack does not actually contain chicken. Rather, its main component is chickpea flour.

The flour is blended with turmeric, cayenne, and a variety of other spices before being fried in oil and served with mango chutney. The dish is a popular Indian snack that originated in Madhya Pradesh.

9. Fried Bora

Bora is a type of long, green, Chinese bean that is popular throughout Guyana. Much longer than beans commonly found in the United States, bora look almost like long, green hair.

Bora is commonly served as an accompaniment to the main course, either fried in salt or tossed in a garlic soy glaze. Alternatively, fried bora is often served with shrimp and potatoes for a healthy, hearty supper.