Dining Delights in Aruba
Located at the ‘crossroads of the Caribbean, Aruba’s local cuisine (cuminda local) embraces the influence of more than 90 nationalities and cultures: explorers, traders, colonists, expats, and perhaps even the pirates who were just passing through. Let’s explore some dining delights in Aruba.
Savor the best traditional foods from a culinary mix of all that has found a home on the island. You can choose from a cornucopia of high-end restaurants, bistros, cafes and even mobile food vans.
For an appetizer, try funchi, a popular snack made from white or yellow cornmeal. Commonly eaten as a substitute for potatoes or rice, funchi is prepared by boiling water and salt in a pan and then adding the cornmeal while stirring. Funchi fries are topped with sea salt, black pepper, and melted cheese.
Arubans are big on hearty soups such as Sopi di Mondongo, a traditional Antillean dish. Consisting of beef tripe, carrot, bell pepper and spices, the soup is often eaten with a slice of lime, a crusty roll or a piece of funchi.
Pastechis are a warm and flaky breakfast food popular with locals before work. The moonshaped, fried pastries are traditionally stuffed with fillings such as spiced meat, seafood, chicken, and cheese. Sometimes you’ll find a chop suey filling, thanks to the Asian influence on Aruba.
Another local favorite is stoba – an Antillean stew and a comfort food enjoyed by Arubans, despite the tropical climate. Traditional stobas are made with a variety of stewed meats, including chicken (Galiña Stoba), beef (Carni Stoba), or goat (Cabrito Stoba). Calco stoba (conch stew) is also popular.
As an island, Aruba is naturally surrounded by the freshest of seafood, which makes a great Pisca Hasa – a hot and tasty fried fish seasoned with Creole spices.
“Aruba’s local cuisine (cuminda local)”
Aruba Heat Products
Devilishly hot foods have always been an important part of Aruba’s dining delights.
“No self-respecting local diner would have a bottle of pica out of arm’s reach,” says Michel Frank, chef and owner of Aruba Heat Products. “Aruba’s fiery sauce is doused on everything, except dessert!”
“I make my sauce from the island’s killer-hot Madame Janette peppers from Suriname, along with green papayas and spices. It has a sweetness that makes it especially delicious.”
Michel has created a range of sauces with different flavors and heat levels, suitable for all tastes “from mild to wild.” For example, BBQ Heat blends fresh peppers, smoke, and spices to turn up the heat, just a touch, to grilled steaks, chops, ribs, chicken or burgers.
His Tropical Heat recipe uses mango, pineapple and different spices to add a delicious fruity flavor to chicken and seafood dishes, for those with medium-temperature taste buds.
“For the more-seasoned lovers of hot peppers, a bit of Habanero adds a punch to your plate with its habanero peppers, roasted red peppers and fresh garlic, says Michel.
By popular demand, he offers the ‘saucilynamed’ Assplosive to what he calls “real pepperheads.” “This sauce is not for the faint of heart. Loaded with habanero peppers and a touch of sweet chili, use it at your own risk!”
Thanks to the Dutch, top quality cheese is available everywhere on Aruba in various styles. Keshi Yena (stuffed cheese) is an authentic Aruban dish traditionally served as a hollowedout Gouda cheese-rind, stuffed with savory meat, vegetables, spices and sauces. Pan bati (smashed bread) is a thin corn-flour pancake designed to soak up sauces or dip in soups. It’s also served deep fried with a covering of melted Dutch cheese. (You shouldn’t count calories on vacation!)
For those who prefer their cheese straight, slices of Gouda, Edam, Maasdam and other Dutch varieties are popular snacks. Let’s also hear it for traditional Dutch pancakes! These thin and flat crepes are served both sweet and savory, stuffed with goodies, or topped with fruit.
Leave room for dessert, if Pan Bollo is on the menu. Served with ice cream, this traditional bread pudding with a rum-based Ponche Crema is irresistible. Pan Dushi is another traditional temptation. Dushi means sweet and this dish lives up to its name, with raisins, vanilla and almond flavoring, folded into small buns, baked golden brown and brushed with a brown sugar caramel. For even more sweetness try Aruba’s bolos or high-layer cakes, often baked with pistachios or cashew nuts.
Many of these delights appear on the menu of Rich’s Arubian Dish Restaurant, on the Palm Beach hotel strip.
“We use traditional recipes, but give them our own unique taste,” says Julisa Kruydenhof. “Our funchis are very popular, along with the Carni Stoba (Beef Stew Arubian Style) and the Jamaican Jerk Chicken. However, my personal favourite is our shimp specialty: Camarones a la Diabla.”
Article written by Richard Andrews
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