Unlike the Mexican tamales most residents of the U.S. are familiar with, Belizean tamales usually much bigger, wrapped in a banana leaf instead of a corn husk, and almost always contain chicken with the bone in. Every household makes their tamales a bit differently, and we had the privilege of watching Doña Lilia, a lifelong resident of Progresso, make hers.
The chicken is well-seasoned with red recado, a typical Belizean spice blend, and enveloped in a yellow masa dough made from ground corn. The process is slow, but worth it. A whole chicken leg (or wing, or foot) is rolled into dough with sauce and wrapped up with the banana leaf into a tight square.
Doña Lilia placed the tamales into a large pot with more banana leaves and a little water to steam-cook them.
To the surprise of no one, Lilia’s tamales were amazing. We’re so grateful she shared her recipe with us!