When we were in Belize, we got up early one morning to go on a river jungle tour, which meant we needed to find something quick and filling to grab on our way to the marina to meet our guide, Percy Gordon. There was really no telling what would happen that day, so we wanted to fuel our bodies and be prepared for anything. We stopped at a "fast food" restaurant where they were selling burritos and fry jacks. There was a line and they were clearly in no real hurry to prepare the food (Belizean time is slower than US time...I miss that) so a few people were waiting at the picnic table out front under a big red and white Coca Cola umbrella that looked as if it would blow away at the slightest sign of a storm. The air was hot and heavy, even at 7:30am, but the women behind the counter were diligently doing their work, creating delicious, simple breakfasts for a $2.50 per person. I started sweating just watching them in that small space, frying tortillas filled with beans and cheese and eggs.
When our order was ready, we took the foil-wrapped "fast food" to the marina and climbed aboard Percy Gordon's boat, where we were promised a day filled with howler monkey sightings, jungle medicine tidbits of knowledge, and perhaps a manatee sighting. In our early morning daze, we nodded our heads and mentally prepared for what was sure to be an exciting few hours. Once the boat began moving, we tore open the foil and bit into our fry jack, still hot off the griddle. The tortillas, which are soft and fluffier than the tortillas we are used to, are filled with a layer of beans, scrambled eggs, and cheese. Then, the whole thing is fried, creating a crispy coating on the tortilla that becomes pleasantly soft after sitting inside the foil. It's essentially a fried breakfast quesadilla. Can't go wrong. Am I right?
I didn't have anyone teach me how to make Fry Jacks, but I did watch them being made several times. So, I did my best to put together a recipe with the knowledge I had and that's how my version of Belizean Fry Jacks was born. Unfortunately, we don't have a jungle tour to prepare for, but these are great as weekday morning breakfasts, or an easy, portable breakfast before going on a mountain hike. But let's be real: I usually eat this from the comfort of my own home. It's fine.
This is a very basic recipe, if you can even call it that, and you can add whatever you like to make it your own. I like to keep it simple by using refried beans (I use the salsa style beans from Trader Joe's), scrambled eggs, and shredded cheddar cheese. They also had options that replaced the eggs with chicken or beef. I think chorizo would be quite nice as well. If you really want to give these a Belizean flavor, you can find the ubiquitous Marie Sharp's hot sauce at some grocery stores in the U.S. Otherwise, you can order it here.
If you can't get a jungle tour lined up after breakfast when you make these, you can at least read about our 7 Days in Belize here. It was a magical trip.
Belizean fry jacks
makes 4 fry jacks
- 4 flour tortillas
- 1 can salsa style refried beans (if you can't find salsa style, just stir in a spoonful or two of salsa into a can of refried beans)
- 8 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- canola oil
- Melt the butter in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Pour the beaten eggs into the pan and let sit for about 15 seconds before gently pushing them around the pan with a spatula. Continue to move them around the pan until the are cooked to your liking. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Spread half of each of the tortillas with 1/4 of the refried beans. Top the bean layer with 1/4 of the scrambled eggs, then sprinkle with 1/4 of the shredded cheese. Repeat with each tortilla.
- In a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add two of the tortillas at a time and fry on each side for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. (Tip: when flipping them, it helps to use a very large spatula)
- Transfer to a cutting board and cut each tortilla in half. Serve with sliced avocado and hot sauce. Alternatively, you can wrap the fry jack, without cutting in half, in foil to take with you!