Tornabe, Triunfo de la Cruz, Punta Gorda, Miami, Chachahuate, Limon, Sambo Creek, and every other Garifuna village in Central America will be transformed from sleepy fishing villages to jam packed beach parties on April 12th. April 12th is Garifuna Day, we’ll be celebrating 216 years of Garifuna culture in Central America. We felt it was appropriate, correction – necessary, for us to share some Garifuna dishes with you.
If you think Traditional Honduran food, you have to include traditional Garifuna cuisine. Traditional Garifuna food is almost synonymous with the word seafood. Their communities lay scattered along Central America’s Caribbean coast, and even on some islands, like Roatan and Cayos Cochinos, making the ocean their most accessible source of protein. From an early age, Garifuna boys accompany their fathers on the boat, making fishing second nature by the time they hit their teens. Fish, lobster, shrimp, and crab are regulars on the daily menu. One of the most popular Garifuna dishes is Machuca or “Hudutu”. This Afro-Caribbean dish consists of three main ingredients; fish, plantains, and coconut milk.
Coconut milk is produced by draining the coconut water in a deep bowl. Then grating the meat into the coconut water. The grated meat is steeped in coconut water, and fluids are squeezed from the meat, leaving behind a white, creamy liquid; coconut milk. A traditional Garifuna grater, seen below, is made by pounding pebbles into a wooden board.
The “Machuca” or paste is made with plantains. You can use them ripe, green or mix both. I prefer a combination heavy on the ripe side, as it makes the mix sweeter. The plantains are boiled until they are soft enough to easily poke through with a fork. The boil time depends on what you are cooking on and how many plantains your are boiling. Once boiled, the plantains are mashed with a bit of salt pestle and mortar, until a chunky paste is created.
The pestle or (hanoudua), and mortar (hana) are the traditional tools used in the Garifuna kitchen. If you are going to attempt to recreate this recipe, you can use a blender.
For the fish soup, you’ll have to start by making fish stock. Boil fish heads, fish tails, shrimp peels, dark conch meat, fish bones and any other type of seafood you don’t want to make a dish out of. You’ll need two or three cloves of garlic (minced), 1 or two bell peppers (Chopped), 1/2 Lb. of cassava (cubed), salt and pepper, a few mutton peppers chopped, and any other spices or herbs you like in fish soup. Drop the cassava in the fish stock first, it will take longer to cook than the rest of the ingredients. After a couple of minutes, add the onions, bell peppers, mutton peppers, salt and pepper. Add the fish in the soup when the cassava begins to soften. If the fish is fried, do not cook further. Cook in low heat until the cassava is soft enough to poke through with a fork. If you fried the fish, place it in the middle of the bowl, with a scoop of Machuca paste next to it, and pour the soup around. If you are serving in small bowl, like you would for a party, serve the machuca paste on the side. If you are serving in a family dinner setting, place all of the Machuca paste in one big ball, on the middle of the table, for everyone to pick at as they eat.