Guyana is home to the river wolf, the world’s largest species of river otter. Nearly 2 metres in length and weighing over 34kg, this social creature is highly playful – you’ll often find groups sliding down river banks just for the fun if it! And in Guyana, there are plenty of muddy banks to go around…
Several vast lakes, numerous large rivers, and the Kaieteur Falls all make this a watery sort of place. And this South American nation also relies on its watercourses and Atlantic shoreline for transportation, fishing, irrigation, and – where possible – tourism.
There’s also some pretty good eating around; the flavoursome fare a reflection of the country’s diverse cultural heritage that incorporates elements of Indian, African, Chinese and indigenous Amerindian cuisine…
Pepperpot is the country’s national dish, a spicy stew made with meat (often beef), cassareep (a thick, dark syrup made from cassava), and spices. Before the Dutch arrived in the 17th century, pepperpot was a staple food of the indigenous Amerindian people. In colonial times, the dish was adopted and adapted by African slaves who added their own ingredients and flavours to the recipe. And today, pepperpot is the dish of choice at celebrations; an iconic Guyanese dish.
Metemgee is another traditional Amerindian dish, valued for its rich and complex flavour: boiled cassava, plantains, yams, dumplings, salted meat or fish, garlic, onions and coconut milk all make this a hearty, healthy stew. So, too, is cassava bread, a flatbread made from the most staple of Guyanese ingredients.
Other cuisines have also had a strong influence on the nation’s fare. From the substantial Chinese community (between 1850 and 1917, roughly 13,500 Chinese labourers were brought to Guyana by the British), come chow mein, fried rice, egg tarts and sesame balls – all popular street foods.
During the same colonial era, hundreds of Indian workers were also shipped to Guyana to work on sugar plantations. Indo-Guyanese curries, rotis, and chutneys play a large part in the country’s culinary offerings.
However, if you’re looking for the ultimate tourist dish, you’ll probably want to plump for pudding and souse (a mix of pickled pork and a grated cassava that has its roots in the cuisine of Barbados), and a shot or two of Guyana’s famed El Dorado rum.