It takes many hands to make Belizean Tamales.
Belizean tamales are a traditional Maya and Mestizo food. There are many regional differences in tamales even within a small country like Belize! Corozal and Orange Walk districts have two varieties, Collado and Torteado. Western Belize has a variety called Bollos (Source: Endevora Jorgenson). A fourth variety, called a Tamalito, is very similar to a Mexican tamale, and is typically sold as street food. I still hear the tamelito man’s bicycle horn and hawking: “Tamalitos! Tamalitos! Aqui estan los Tamalitos!”. This recipe is for traditional Belizean Toredado tamales from Corozal.
Unlike the Mexican tamale, Belizean tamales are not wrapped in corn husks but are instead wrapped in plantain leaves. This recipe might be a little difficult to make properly in the states or Canada, but it has been done. The accompanying images were made in Michigan in the dead of winter. It can be done!
Belizeans pride themselves with their individual take on the tamale. Some like lots of sauce (called cull), some like it tear-inducingly spicy, others like lots of bone-in chicken. Tamales vary in Belize by maker. My aunt makes them for sale, and she prides herself with the quality of her sauce and the large portions of chicken in each tamale. We’ll leave those choices up to you!
For Belizeans, making tamales is often a community effort.Making Belizean tamales is labor intensive, and often a community effort. Often Belizean women will gather together to make dozens of tamales at once for a large event, wedding, funeral, birthday party, or just to sell. With a little of the extra masa (often freshly ground) they will make atole, a warm and simple cinnamon-spiced drink to share as they work.
A Short Lesson on Belizean (Mayan) Names for Tamale Ingredients
Cull: Cull is the sauce in the tamale. Sometimes it’s spelled “col”; it’s a Mayan word (Ibid). Cull is a thick red gravy and is a chicken stock and recado seasoning based sauce.
Masa: Where “masa” is not available, Belizean tamales are wrapped in corn dough made with maseca brand corn flour, water, salt, oil or fat ie. lard.
Recado Rojo: Red Recado is essentially a Belizean (Mayan) curry of spices. There is also a black recado, commonly used in soups like chimole and relleno. Recado a combination of several dry spices, fresh annato seeds, garlic and onion. These ingredients are blended into a paste and rolled into a ball. Recado is often sold in Belize as a slightly moist ball about the size of a quarter or shilling. Belizean recado is nearly impossible to find State side. If you contact us we can special order Belizean recado.
All in all there are 4 major components to Belizean Tamales:
Filling: Chicken or other meat
Filling: Assortment of vegetables