The food of Guyana is as diverse as its population. The heritage of our people is woven together from our African, Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, English and Indigenous roots. Added to that, our ancestors came from very specific parts of these countries and continents. For example, the Portuguese influence is predominantly from Madeira, the Indian influence, chiefly south Indian, the African influence, mainly west African, the Chinese influence, mostly Cantonese and Sichuan. Thus, when you eat in Guyana you experience the worldwide influence and a truly multicultural cuisine.Additionally, Guyana’s landscape and seascape also affects our food. Guyana has mountains, savannahs, tropical rainforests, creeks and an ocean coastline. All of this means that Guyana boasts an abundance and wide variety of seafood, meats, poultry, fruits and vegetables. Eating in Guyana is never boring, there is much to experience and enjoy. Plus our culture has a long and vibrant tradition of small family farmers and fisher-folk. Thus our food is always fresh, directly from the farm and sea to the table. There are large outdoor and open-air markets all over Guyana and these are a pleasure to visit just to see the rich abundance the country offers.
So what might you look forward to when you sit to down to breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner in Guyana?
In a country like Guyana breakfast is way beyond toast, bacon, eggs, ham and pancakes. A variety of roti (Indian-styled flatbreads) can be had with a plethora of sautéed vegetables. Bakes (small fried breads) with local salt fish and other locally produced types of preserved fish are a national favourite. A plate full of seasonal fruits such as paw-paw (papaya), pineapple, star-apple, sapodilla and mangoes is always close at hand. Porridge is another breakfast staple – cornmeal, oats, sago, barley – spiced with real cinnamon and sweetened with our world renowned Demerara sugar and creamy milk is a breakfast of champions. Hot beverages served with breakfast – tea (green and black), coffee and herbal teas such a lemongrass and bay leaf.A mid-morning snack of cassava ball, egg-ball, phulourie, channa or potato ball with lashings of sour or hot pepper sauce, chased down with a local fruit juice or ice-cold glass of mauby keeps you filled and sustained until lunch.
Bowls of hot flavourful curries, spiced stews and slow-cooked seasoned vegetables adorn our lunch time table, accompanied by locally grown rice or ground provisions. Hearty soups – beef, cowheel or chicken – made with ground provisions, fluffy dumplings and split peas or black eye beans are all-time favourites. Want a taste of the exotic? Guyana’s wild meat (game meat, bush meat) is among the best and is available at select times during the year and in particular locations. Platters of Fried Rice, Chowmein and Cook-up Rice are always available for lunch too.
At teatime we show off our British heritage with our own Guyanese twist. So one might have a steaming cup of tea or enjoy a fresh tropical fruit juice such as guava, golden apple or West Indian cherry juice plus an assortment of sweet and savoury pastries. Cakes, tarts, pies and biscuits complete the tea offerings.
This is the light meal of the day and generally consists of yeasted breads and rolls served with butter and cheese. Roti would also be made fresh for dinner and be served with butter or vegetables or curry left over from lunch. Dinner beverages are generally tea (green or black), cocoa, Milo, Ovaltine.When you visit Guyana, bring your appetite; you’ll be sure to fall in love with the food!
Cynthia Nelson and she was born and raised in Guyana. Working as a journalist, Cynthia has traveled all over the Caribbean experiencing the food, first hand. She now lives in Barbados and teaches Broadcast Journalism. Check out here blog here