Wish you could afford to eat organic everything? Tired of a limited selection of locally grown and sourced foods? Think meat prices are out of control? Move to Guyana. The vegetables are crazy cheap (like some of the fruit is like $1 US per lb)- unless you are trying to buy one of the very few that aren’t grown here. I went to the butcher, got two lbs of sirloin for the equivalent less than $5 US. (And that was the expensive butcher because he has the reputation of healthy animals)
The food in Guyana definitely more closely resembles the Caribbean than any other South American food I have tried. It is heavily influenced by Indian food (curry, curry everywhere and everything) and by what is available here. I am super fortunate because my training host mom is a fantastic cook – so I am slowly learning the basics of Guyanese food.
Let’s talk about Carbs
Guyana has a food group referred to as “Staples” this includes Edo (more caloric but more vitamin-rich root vegetable, similar to a potato), Cassava (another root vegetable that they make into EVERYTHING – bread, mash, alcohol, etc), breads (including sandwich bread, roti – clap and sada, fry bake, etc), any other root vegetable or starch, crackers, rice etc. This is what makes up a little more than half of the Guyanese diet — each meal these are the foundation.Watch out – the local bread items, like the roti and fry bake, are addicting – so simple – everything made from scratch – but HUGE portions.
Guyanese Food Groups
Speaking of food groups, the official Guyanese food groups include: staples, vegetables, fruits, legumes, food from animals, and fats. All of which are delicious. There is a similar spice pallet across most dishes. The vegetables are almost solely “stewed” in oil. The exception to this thus far has been a wonderful cucumber and carrot salad. Fruits in any portion are encouraged – and they have a lot of fruits I have never experienced but are delicious – I mean it’s a rainforest so fruit is abundant. The most common legumes I have seen so far are nuts, red beans, and black eyed peas. The majority of food from animals are chicken and eggs, but other meat is available. Milk and cheese are found in some areas – both Guyanese cheese and American. Powered milk is very common. Oil (usually vegetable) is used for cooking almost everything I’ve seen, some of the other volunteers said they have seen some butter use in place of the oil. And I feel like sugar should be the final food group — it is used to cook in most things to – a lot of juice (even the one they are making at home) has added sugar.
Oh the wonderful things you’ll eat
Cookup (rice, meat, beans, coconut milk), curry, roti, ground provision (a sort of stew/soup with dumplings, vegis, chicken, etc), pepperpot (a traditional Guyanese Christmas time stew), balangee (stewed eggplant), choka (this is basically hot potato salad, but it can be potato choka or can be eggplant choka, ockra choka, etc), fry bake, iguana, salt fish, dahl (which is basically blended up peas) sometimes added to a roti type bread – then referred to as dahl puri, and this list goes on and on. Most things that are eaten here are totally different than at home — even if the name is the same — eating is an adventure in itself.
Most of the food is not cooked too spicy (at least what I have eaten thus far) but they use a pepper sauce that makes our hot sauce look like water — its delicious — but a drop will do.
There is so much more I could say but talking about it has made me hungry so I am off to get some lunch. 🙂