Ever since Eating in Translation's early summer report from Linden Park, I have had Labor Day on my calendar as the Sunday to go for a wide range of selections from the park's resident Sunday vendors, most of whom hail from Belize. Since this cuisine is not available in restaurant form here in New York City, this summer Sunday event should be on everyone's list who is interested in the Caribbean country's cuisine. You will also find at least a tent run by a woman from Guyana, and further exploration could turn up others, but for my first time here, I focused on Belize.
Upon arrival, it was very apparent that a clear favorite had formed, and the 45-minute slow-moving line was extended from one tent (above and below), which was preparing a wide range of items. The women below were a small assembly line to prepare the thick corn tortillas that either hold or wrap the ingredients for salbutes and panades, respectively.
When we made our orders and settled down at a nearby table, it was time to enjoy our bounty. The prettiest items I noticed everyone eating were the salbutes ($1 each, below), which use a lightly fried corn tortilla that is puffed during frying. This puffy disc is used as a plate for shredded chicken, lettuce, tomato, onion, cilantro, and a spicy sauce which you will be asked if desired. The jalapeño on top gives a sense of the kick about to enter your mouth. This dish originated in the nearby Yucatán state of Mexico, and in Belize you can find them made with refried beans. Here all the ingredients are fresh and light.
Our chef's fryer seemed to be in a constant state of catching up with large orders of panades (50 cents each, below). Fish is the meat of choice here (I do not think it's shark, but could be wrong?), and the not so greasy half moons are served with a deliciously spicy sauce of onion, pepper, cabbage and cilantro. Totally worth the wait, which includes a good opportunity to watch the cooking and preparing, as well as the festive mood of everyone in and around the tents.
At another vendor, we went for a garnache (below, top), a tostada-like corn tortilla disc covered in those refried beans as well as grated cheese, onions, pickled cabbage, and an egg. The whole thing is again doused with lime juice and presented in all its colorful beauty. Also on the plate below is a rolled item that creates another way to make the corn tortilla deliver your goodies, of which I did not catch the name. This came slathered in a red tomato sauce and was covered in the usual suspects.
Full dinners that resemble other Caribbean country's cuisines were also available, like the bbq chicken below ($8), served with rice and beans, plantain, and potato salad. The rice is prepared with coconut milk to give it the sweet quality, while the spices in the chicken marinade really steal the show.
This is only a summer season event, taking place while football games are being contested on Sundays in the park. Make sure to get there before the warm weather ends.