Every country has their Christmas food traditions. My family is from Guyana, and they brought the food traditions with them to Canada. Over the years, Christmas became more of a blend of Guyanese and North American foods, so by the time my sister and I were born, we got the best of both worlds!
Two main traditional Guyanese Christmas dishes are Pepperpot and garlic pork or chicken. I can’t stress enough how much I love Pepperpot. It may not look like much, but the taste is a fantastic blend of sweet and hot. You will never taste anything like this dish!
Pepperpot is an Indigenous Amerindian dish made with beef and cassareep. Cassareep is a sauce made from the juice from cassava root, one of Guyana’s oldest traditional foods. The juice is boiled down to a molasses-dark syrup, which has powerful antiseptic properties that are used in medicine as well. It has a unique taste and preserves the meat from spoiling. It originally took days to prepare, and today still tastes better if it’s had time to settle for at least a day.
Garlic meat is a Portuguese dish and like Pepperpot, in Guyana was prepared over days with vinegar to preserve it from spoiling. Traditionally it’s made with pork or chicken, but can also be done with beef or lamb.
One of the beauties of Guyanese food is that it doesn’t cost a fortune to pull together a complex and delicious tasting meal.
Here are three traditional Guyanese recipes, plus links to two I posted recently. You may find one or more of these a welcome addition to your holiday or New Year’s feast!
There is a second post with some vegan options for Guyanese foods you can add to your Christmas meal.
- Chicken chow mein
- Garlic meat of your choice
- Chicken curry (links to another post on the blog)
- Cook-up rice with beef (links to another post on the blog)
Chicken chow mein
- Makes: 4-6 servings
- Total time: 35 minutes, cook time: 20 minutes, prep time: 15 minutes
- 1 package of brown or white rice spaghetti noodles broken into small pieces (to resemble chow mein noodles) if you’re not gluten-free use regular chow mein noodles
- 1.5 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, sliced or cubed
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 2.5 tablespoons of sunflower oil
- 2 cups of mixed bell peppers, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, thinly sliced
- 1 cup green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 cup fresh sweet corn
- 1/2 head of broccoli, chopped
- 1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped
- 1/3 green cabbage, thinly shredded
- 5 heads of green onions, finely chopped
For the chicken
- 1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon cassareep or tamari sauce (gluten-free soy sauce)
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Follow the instructions on the package to cook the noodles.
- Season the chicken with ingredients above and let marinate for about 1 hour. Prepare the vegetables. Then in a skillet large enough for the noodles, warm oil on medium heat.
- Add the onions and cook until they are brown and soft. Then increase heat to high.
- Add the chicken and cook for 5-10 minutes
- Add the vegetables, except for peppers, and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the peppers and cook for 3 minutes. Peppers should be crunchy after cooking. Then add the cabbage and the noodles.
- Toss together then add chopped scallions.
- Remove from heat and serve.
Garlic meat of your choice (I use chicken)
- Makes: 8-10 servings
- Total time: 3-5 days to cure. 35-40 minutes, cook time: 15-20 minutes, prep time: 20 minutes
- 3 pounds of your choice of meat. The meat must be 1-inch thick; use tender meat
- 12 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup of fresh thyme leaves
- 8-10 scotch bonnet or wiri-wiri peppers
- 1 – 1.5 tablespoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 cups of white distilled vinegar
- 2 cups of boiled water at room temperature
- 3-4 whole cloves
- 3 additional cloves of garlic, unpeeled
- 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil
- Clean the meat.
- Using a sharp knife, make little cuts in the meat on both sides. Grind the garlic, thyme, and wiri-wiri peppers in a food processor/mortar and pestle, and then pour this marinade into a small bowl.
- Spread a generous amount of the marinade to fill the small cuts in the meat.
- Salt and pepper both sides, reserving 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- Rub any leftover marinade on the meat slices.
- Using a wide-mouthed glass jar, stack all pieces of the meat in the jar.
- Combine the vinegar and water, and pour slowly into the jar until the meat is covered by two inches.
- Close the lid and gently shake the jar to distribute meat evenly, and place thyme stems and cloves in the jar.
- Open the lid and add three cloves of unpeeled garlic, and the peppercorns.
- Slide the remaining sprigs of thyme down the sides of the jar.
- Sprinkle with1/2 teaspoon of salt, and seal the jar tightly.
- Store in a cool dark place (not the refrigerator), and let it rest for 3-5 days.
- After the curing period, drain meat on a rack, and discard liquid. Do not allow the seasoning in the cuts to fall out.
- In a large skillet, pour 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil. Cook on medium heat, until nicely browned for about 2-3 minutes per side.
- Remove and serve.
- Makes: 8-10 servings
- Total time: 3-5.5 hours cook time: 2.5-5 hours (slow cooking), prep time: 30 minutes plus one day sit time if you’re not serving immediately.
- 1.5 pound of beef prime or short rib cut it into 1 inch cubes
- 2 pounds of oxtail
- 3 pounds of cow heel
- 1 cup of cassareep, split into 1 cup portions
- 1/4 cup brown sugar, save 1/4 cup for the end
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 3 habanero, scotch bonnet or wiri wiri peppers
- 1 tablespoon of whole cloves
- 2 tablespoons of salt
- 2 teaspoons of fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
- 3-4 tablespoons of sunflower oil
- First, season the oxtail using 1/3 of the sugar and all the other ingredients, except the cinnamon, cloves, and peppers.
- Use 1/3 of 1/2 of the cassareep and reserve the other 1/2 to use later. Do not add the onion and garlic. Mix everything together and let sit for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
- Follow the same steps to marinate the rest of the beef. In a large stock pot add 1.5 tablespoons of oil to sauté 1/3 of the onion and garlic on high heat. Then add marinated beef, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper.
- Sauté the beef until all pieces are brown all over. Once the meat is nice and brown, add about 6 cups of water to the beef, bring it to boil on high heat, then reduce heat to low and let simmer.
- Warm about 1 tablespoon of oil in a pressure cooker or large pot on high heat.
- Add oxtail and 1/3 of onion and garlic. Sauté the oxtail until brown and then add 5 cups of water to the pressure cooker or pot.
- Cover and cook until the oxtail is tender. Follow the same steps to pressure cook the cow heel.
- Next, add the oxtail to the beef and mix. Then add the cow heel and mix all the meat together.
- After you have combined all the meat add enough to cover the meat, about 2-3 cups.
- Next, add the last of the cassareep. Increase the heat to high and bring the pot to boil. Let boil for 15 minutes.
- Then, reduce heat to low and simmer until all the meat is falling off the bone tender, about 2-2.5 hours in a pressure cooker or 4-5 hours in a regular pot.
- Taste the Pepperpot and added about 1/4 cup brown sugar and a pinch of salt, if needed.
- Cut open, or mash in the peppers for additional heat.
- You can either serve immediately or let it cool and then refrigerate or leave on the stove to heat up and serve the next day (remember the cassareep acts a preservative so that the meat won’t spoil). It tastes much better the next day.
- Serve it with hard bread or rice.
I hope you find some of these recipes enjoyable if you get a chance to make them sometime over the holidays!