>> Saraba Belizean Cuisine | Eat the World Los Angeles

Friday 16 September 2022

Saraba Belizean Cuisine

Stall inside Mercado La Paloma

(Inside Mercado La Paloma)
๐Ÿ…ฟ️ The market has a parking lot, street parking when that is full.
๐Ÿฅค No Alcohol

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since officially opening in the market a couple months ago, Saraba has kept a very "loose" schedule. Hours seem to have stabilized, but please call ahead to ensure they are open.

While as many Garifuna people live in the United States as Honduras, the nation with the most in native Central America, the west coast sees quite a small sample of that number. The Bronx has churches and festivals with the yellow, white, and black Garifuna flag waving everywhere, but the outward expression of this culture and people is a bit more hard to find in Los Angeles.

The only Garifuna chef around has been here and there since back in 2015, when a food truck and pop-up operation was formed, but times were very irregular and the cuisine was extremely difficult to track down at times. Thankfully a permanent location has finally been settled, and it could not be at a better spot than the wonderful Mercado La Paloma.

Belizean flag hanging at stand

Garifuna culture spans the Caribbean coasts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua but this chef's takes come from the northernmost of these in Belize. Setting up shop in the mercado gives it the perfect neighbors in Chichรฉn Itzรก and Holbox, who serve foods from neighboring Yucatรกn that have been similarly influenced by centuries of Mayan culture.

For now the menu and the vendor seems focused on introducing "standard" Belizean fare to the market, with offerings similar to that of other restaurants in this part of South Los Angeles. The one dish listed on the menu that is specifically Garifuna is hudut, but takes an hour to make and therefore will not be available to customers on their lunch break unless they have planned ahead.

Hudut with machuca

It is a shame that the word Garifuna itself has been scrubbed from the name of this business, which used to be called Gusina Saraba Garifuna Cuisine, but the hudut ($25, above and below) is definitely worth calling ahead for if you are planning to come. The softball-sized sphere of yellow it comes with is called machuca, made by mashing sweet plantains and used like the various starches in West African cuisine like fufu.

If you sat down at a Garifuna table, everyone would have a bowl of the soup in front of them and a large ball of machuca would be placed in the center for everyone to pinch off pieces while they ate, creating a very communal atmosphere. Garifuna people all live near the Caribbean coasts of their respective countries, and as such a big portion of their diet is based on fish and seafood.


The fish here was less beautiful than usual because it suffered from a brief transport home, the sweet and rich coconut milk-based sauce covering some of its top. But this is how it looks once you tear into it anyways, so some mixture ahead of of time did not hurt any of the enjoyment.

In the coconut soup there are many onions and still crunchy okra along with quite a few sprigs of thyme. Chop up some of the orange scotch bonnet pepper you can see peeking out if you would like to set the dish on fire. If you enjoy this one, it might be worth speaking to the chef about other Garifuna dishes he has in his repertoire to see if anything else can be pre-ordered.


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