That one time I ate rat in Belize, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gibnut


It was 1985, and Queen Elizabeth II was on one of her whirlwind tours of the commonwealth. During a ceremonial dinner in Belize — or, at the time, British Honduras — she was served a stew of the national dish, gibnut. “Tastes like rabbit,” she remarked.

The gibnut, alas, is a rat.

During our visit to Belize, I, too, had the pleasure of trying the dish. One might think finding any rat-based dish would be easy, but alas. The gibnut is only sporadically available in traditional Belizean restaurants, and you’ll have more luck finding it in an outlying non-beach town. We got lucky in San Ignacio, right on the border to Guatemala.

Illustrative image

How does a gibnut taste? Was it an insult to the queen? Should it be the foie gras of our time?

Pretty good; nah; no.

Describing the flavors is hard. So often we want to compare unfamiliar meats to chicken, but that is because white meat is largely flavorless. Prepare chicken or pork properly, and you need sauces and spices to cause any impact. Gibnut is not chicken, nor is it pork, white as the meat might be. Served, it is reminiscent of fatty, stewed pork, similar in profile to the Scandinavian dish, ribbe — ribs.

I liked it. I might not run around proclaiming it the new chateaubriand, but it’s worth a taste if you’re OK with a bit of fat and a porky flavor.

As for the Queen? I could not pick up on any rabbit, and she never complained, so why should we?