Cassava Bread: A Garifuna Staple in Belize

by McNab Editorial Team

We all know the adage, “Bread is the Staff of Life”. In Garifuna culture, this bread is called “ereba” and is made from a tuber, the cassava root. Its preparation is time-consuming and laborious. Usually, women work in small groups, sharing equipment and singing to relieve the monotony. Despite the hard work, ereba is prepared with good humor and playfulness.  

An Ancient Process 

Beginning before dawn, one or more women and children would go to the farm to dig up the bitter cassava roots and take them back to a house yard in head baskets, sacks, or more rarely gadouri (tump-line backpacks.) The roots are peeled, washed, and grated on hip-high rectangular wooden graters fitted with stone teeth. After grating, the wet meal, “sibiba” is packed into a seven-foot-long cylindrical basketry squeezer called a “reguma”. 

Hung from a tree and weighted at the bottom, this utensil squeezes out poisonous cyanate compounds into a liquid collected in drip pans.  At the bottom of this liquid, a white starch settles and is kept for cooking and laundry use. The sibiba is left to dry overnight and sifted through round, flat baskets (hibisi.)  Unsiftable coarse gratings are put aside to be baked later into a brown biscuit used to make hiu or cassava wine.

 

A hot fire is prepared under a large iron griddle, and with the aid of several wooden implements and whisks, cassava flour is evenly sprinkled over the griddle.  As it bakes, it forms one large pancake, which is then flipped over with a wooden spatula in mid-air.  The ereba is cut by knife with characteristic double-cross, marking six equal triangular pieces.  They are dried by the sun and stored in waterproof containers where they can be preserved for a year or more.  

A Recipe for Sahou (a Sweet Cassava Drink): 

At least one dozen different recipes, including a variety of porridges, jellies, and sauces based on cassava and its products, are known in contemporary Garifuna cuisine. Ereba is one of them. Another is the sweet cassava drink known as sahou. Learn how to make this delicious refreshment at home with this recipe:

Sahou. Image by Dion Vansen

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb sweet cassava
  • 1 grated coconut with 2 cups water OR 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • water

Directions:

  1. Grate sweet cassava and add about 2-3 cups of water then strain into a pot. (The strained liquid is what will be used to make the sahou).
  2. Add nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon to the pot with the cassava/coconut milk mixture. Cook over low heat while stirring constantly
  3. Grate coconut and add about 2-3 cups of water and strain (if you’re making your own coconut milk). Add coconut milk to the pot and continue to stir until it reaches your desired consistency.
  4. Add sugar to your liking (can be substituted for honey or any other sweetener).
  5. Serve sahou hot or cold as a drink or as a porridge.  

Sahou (Garifuna Sweet Cassava Drink)

We all know the adage, “Bread is the Staff of Life”. In Garifuna culture,…
Belize Cuisine Cassava Bread: A Garifuna Staple in Belize European Print This
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat
Rating: 5.0/5
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb sweet cassava
  • 1 grated coconut with 2 cups water OR 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • water

Instructions

  1. Grate sweet cassava and add about 2-3 cups of water then strain into a pot. (The strained liquid is what will be used to make the sahou).
  2. Add nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon to the pot with the cassava/coconut milk mixture. Cook over low heat while stirring constantly
  3. Grate coconut and add about 2-3 cups of water and strain (if you're making your own coconut milk). Add coconut milk to the pot and continue to stir until it reaches your desired consistency.
  4. Add sugar to your liking (can be substituted for honey or any other sweetener).
  5. Serve sahou hot or cold as a drink or as a porridge.  

Notes

Original recipe by Warasa Drumming School

Older Garifuna take pride in telling the young that they would be stronger and healthier if they would adhere to the diet of their forebearers. Perhaps they are right since today the trend is turning toward a plant-based diet. 

If you are in Stann Creek, your tour guide can take you to see the fascinating process of making cassava bread.  

Written by Nelita Castillo. Featured Photo by Hopkins Uncut. This article was published in December 2019 and has been slightly modified since its original publishing date.

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