Guyana is a country located on the northern mainland of South America. The name ‘Guyana’ means Land of Many Waters owing to the country’s many rivers and streams. Guyana is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname.
Guyana is perhaps best known for its natural resources, particularly its rainforests, sugarcane plantations, rice fields and bauxite and gold reserves.
The country’s population is composed of five main ethnic groups: Indians, Africans, Amerindians, Europeans (mainly Portuguese) and Chinese. The cuisine of Guyana mirrors the ethnic makeup of the country and its colonial past.
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Most Popular Guyanese Dishes
Guyanese cuisine has much in common with that of the rest of the Anglo Caribbean, particularly Trinidad, where the ethnic combination is relatively similar. Guyanese food is also widely influenced by traditional dishes and cooking methods from ethnic groups such as African, Creole, East Indian, Portuguese, Amerindian, Chinese and British.
Guyanese staple ingredients include root vegetables like cassava and sweet potatoes. Seafood and fresh fruits also play a major role. And green seasoning (a mixture of herbs, onions, hot peppers and garlic) is added to many of Guyana’s most popular dishes.
So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of Guyana along with recipes to try for yourself.
Pepperpot is a meat stew dish whose characteristic ingredient is cassareep (a black sauce prepared using cassava root) that helps in providing the dish with a strong, aromatic flavor. The sauce is further flavored with ingredients such as cinnamon, pepper and several other spices.
Typically eaten with bread, rice or roti, pepperpot is also considered to be the national dish of Guyana. It is also often served on special occasions such as Christmas day and at weddings.
Guyanese Cook-Up Rice
Guyanese cook-up rice is a traditional one-pot dish that combines rice cooked in coconut milk with peas, meats and beans. It has traditionally been considered a peasant dish. It was originally created to be consumed at the weekends as, by this point, people would have exhausted all of their rations and this dish could be made with the small amount of ingredients left over at the end of the week.
Cook-up rice is an essential dish prepared on Old Year’s Night (New Year’s Eve) when people prepare huge pots of cook-up rice and add pieces of ham, tripe, peas or beans, salted pork and beef to it.
Guyanese Chicken Curry
Chicken curry is a popular Caribbean comfort food prepared using chicken in a thick, savoury curry sauce. The key ingredient is yellow curry powder, while other ingredients include turmeric, coriander, cumin, garam masala, paprika and bay leaf.
Enjoyed by many Guyanese and Caribbean citizens, chicken curry is generally served with roti to soak up the sauce.
Metemgee is a traditional Guyanese vegetarian dish prepared using yam, cassava, sweet potato, plantain and many other hearty starches. The ingredients are prepared in a coconut milk broth, converting them into a sweet soup.
Other ingredients added to the soup include garlic, thyme, chillies and habanero. These help to give the dish its kick. Metemgee was introduced to Guyana by enslaved Africans and later inherited by the following generations.
Peas and Rice
Peas and rice is not just a simple combination of peas and rice, as it may sound. There are many other ingredients that go into the preparation, such as toasted cardamom, thyme, onions, garlic, celery, pepper, butter and coconut milk.
Peas and rice is most often served as a side dish but it can be eaten as a main.
Provisions is a Guyanese staple dish that consists of root vegetables including yuca (cassava), sweet potatoes, yams, green plantains and eddoes.
The dish is also often known as a boil and fry because the vegetables are boiled while other ingredients like onions, peppers, scallions and garlic are stir-fried in a pan. Once done, all the ingredients are then mixed together to create the final dish.
Provisions can be consumed just as it is, or it can be accompanied with fish or meat.
Guyanese Chow Mein
Guyanese Chow mein is a noodle dish prepared using noodles, vegetables and meat coated in a sauce. The key ingredient in Guyanese chow mein is cassareep, which gives the dish its distinctive Guyanese flavor. Other ingredients include oyster sauce, bora bora, five spice, sesame oil and soy sauce.
Chow mein was introduced to the country by Guyanese people of Chinese descent. With time, the locals managed to modify the flavors of the dish and began to use local ingredients to prepare their own unique take.
Tennis rolls are Guyanese sweet baked bread rolls, consumed mostly as a snack or for breakfast or lunch. Generally accompanied by a thick slice of extra sharp, aged cheddar cheese, it is a staple of Guyanese cuisine.
Tennis rolls are quite similar to Hawaiian rolls, and have a sweet flavor with touch of vanilla and citrus.
Gojas are the Guyanese version of the famous Indian pastry, gujiya. They consist of a flaky dough that acts as the crust, with sweetened milk solids stuffed inside. These are basically fried turnovers prepared using spiced coconut, brown sugar and ginger as their filling. Other ingredients include cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg.
Gojas are generally prepared during festivals and can be consumed as a snack, dessert or breakfast pastry. Although Guyanese goja resemble Indian gujiya in terms of their shape and identity, the stuffing and taste are what make them uniquely Guyanese.
Guyanese Black Cake
Guyanese black cake is a rich and moist cake prepared using rum-soaked fruits and nuts. The dark sugar caramel provides the dessert with its unique black color.
Black cake is traditionally served during Christmas and on important occasions such as weddings. It is considered to be a staple dish at Christmas, not just in Guyana but also in many other countries in the Caribbean.
As the cake is soaked in rum weekly, it can be preserved it for up to a month providing you continue adding alcohol. This process not only helps in storing the cake for a long time, but also keeps it moist.