What do you serve to a queen? If you’re Belizean, the answer is gibnut, or at least that was the answer back in 1985 when Queen Elizabeth II visited the newly independent nation.
It was an unusual choice. The gibnut is a large rodent and, under normal circumstances, it would never show up on the plate of someone from the upper classes. Gibnut is considered a “bush” meat, one of the few native animals regularly hunted in the rainforests of Belize. Historically, farming communities have hunted the rodent, along with other wild game, to supplement their agriculture-based diet.
Because of its history with the queen, Belizeans refer to the gibnut as the “royal rat.” The rodent can grow up to 30 inches in length and weigh as much as 31 pounds. Its coat is similar to a chipmunk’s, chestnut brown with light stripes and spots. A nocturnal feeder that hides in a den during the day, a gibnut is easy to hunt (especially with dogs who can sniff out its unique scent) but, because much of its habitat outside of protected areas has been destroyed due to expanding human populations, it has become a relatively rare delicacy.
Like other Belizean meats, gibnut is typically served stewed or grilled. The taste resembles a gamey ham or a greasy rabbit. Like pig, a gibnut has a layer of fat beneath the skin but, like rabbit, the meat is lean and fairly dry. Gibnuts live throughout Belize and are eaten by most ethnic groups when available (including the Maya and Garifuna communities). Occasionally, the rodent even shows up as a special in eateries such as Wendy’s Creole Restaurant in Placencia.
Where to Try It
Wendy's Creole Restaurant and BarPlacencia Rd, Placencia, Belize
This eatery often features local specials, including cheesy Creole shrimp, cow foot soup, and stewed gibnut.