Generally, the food in Guatemala reflects that of its
large northern neighbor, Mexico.
Other influences on Guatemalan food include Spanish, Indian
and French tastes. The restaurants in Guatemala
City offer the widest variety of tastes, and you can
expect to find especially exotic fare at the Guatemala
cities that attract the most visitors. These cities include Quetzaltenango, Antigua and Panajachel. If you are
a fan of fresh fruit, a trip to Guatemala will reveal
some tempting offerings. Coffee drinkers will find the
country's product ranks among the best. When perusing
the options for Guatemalan food, it is not recommended
that you try anything from suspect street vendors. Avoid
fruits and vegetables rinsed with tap water, and certainly
do not drink the tap water. When buying bottled water,
be sure to check the integrity of the bottle's seal,
as some establishments refill bottles with tap water.
You should also generally stay away from ice cubes and
be sure to boil any water you find while camping for at
least 25 minutes. It is a good idea to bring purification
tablets for water that you suspect could be tainted.
The main staple of Guatemalan food is corn, or maize. Corn is most often eaten in the form of tortillas, while tamales and corn on the cob are quite prevalent as well. Black beans are almost always on the menu, and together with corn, they generally characterize the base of the Maya diet. Eaten both whole and refried, beans are consumed at lunch and dinner and often find their way onto the breakfast plate. Guatemalan tortillas are made primarily from ground maize cooked over fire. Chicken, pork and beef tortillas are supplemented with rice, beans, cheese and guacamole. Tamales are one of the most popular snacks found in Guatemalan food, and consist of flavored cornmeal and meat which is steamed in a banana leaf wrapper. These corn-based staples of Guatemalan food can be found throughout the country.
Other popular native dishes you can find among the food in Guatemala include Chiles Rellenos and Chicken Pepian. Chiles Rellenos consist of stuffed chili peppers, which generally are filled with chicken, cheese and rice. You can also find chiles either pickled or as part of a number of salsas, though be forewarned that they can be quite hot and spicy. Chicken Pepian entails chicken that is cooked in a sauce of pumpkin and sesame seeds. These dishes are found throughout Guatemala, especially in the highlands. Other native dishes you will likely encounter are shrimp ceviche, a spicy turkey soup called Kakik, and the chicken and green tomato sauced dish known as Jocon (pronounced Ho-cone). Jocon is often enjoyed at Easter in highland villages such as Huehuetenango and Totonicapan. You may be tempted to try Subanik, which consists of chicken, beef or pork that has been vapor-cooked in a spiced sauce. Traditionally, the common breakfast in Guatemala is made up of eggs, tortillas, beans and coffee. The main meal in Guatemala is lunch, and at many Guatemala restaurants the comida del día (food of the day) is the most economical way to go. This meal of the day typically includes soup, tortillas, roast chicken, beans, rice and a drink. Dinner is usually a lighter meal than lunch tends to be.
Closer to sea, coastal locales are known to serve some
tasty seafood dishes. Guatemala restaurants along the
Pacific coastline serve up a fair amount of Red Snapper,
and snook is another popular fish you can find at seaside
eateries. On Guatemala's eastern coast near Santo
Tomás de Castilla, the Garifuna culture adds
their flavor to dishes that include shredded coconut,
coconut oil and coconut milk. Tapado is a sumptuous seafood
soup from this region that features fish, shellfish, sweet
potatoes and plantains that are cooked in coconut milk.
Stews and soups based around turkey are especially popular
Guatemalan food selections in the northern region. Throughout
the highlands, you will find people eating "mosh"
for breakfast, which is essentially oatmeal that is cooked
in milk and flavored with cinnamon. If you are feeling
a bit daring, you might try "tepezcuintle",
which a large rodent that often makes the dish in rural
areas, as does venison. Vegetarians will have trouble
finding vegetarian-inspired dishes outside of the major
North American fast-food restaurants can be found in the more populated cities of Guatemala and Guatemalan natives appear to be taking an ever-growing liking to hamburgers, pizza, pasta and Chinese food. For fine dining spots, head for the restaurants in Guatemala City that can be found in the New City. The upscale New City's Zona Viva (Zone 10) has some of the most tempting Guatemala restaurants you will find. As mentioned before, you will find a great variety of international cuisine at the main tourist destinations. The city of Panajachel reflects its foreign conglomerates through its assortment of restaurants. At Tikal, and in the nearby town of Flores, you will find some nice restaurants that offer a wonderful selection for hungry travelers.