Your Aruban Basket

Aruba’s melting pot of cultures has created a host of delicious and exotic treats not always available elsewhere. Many of these specialty foods can be brought home as unusual gifts, souvenirs, and fond reminders of your tropical vacation. Shopping for these items also mean meeting locals and exploring island life.

Meeting the locals and sampling their food are often the most memorable experiences of traveling. Aruba is no exception. A trip to the market is a gateway to the island’s unique culture, an opportunity to try exotic delicacies and a great way to buy souvenirs your family and foodie friends will love.

Aruba is a harmonious melting pot of more than 70 nationalities and ethnic groups, so the local markets do their utmost to cater to all tastes. In addition to Caribbean goodies, you’ll find authentic ingredients and snacks from around the world to satisfy the large Philippine, Chinese, and East Indian populations on the island. Favorite Dutch treats are in high demand, along with Indonesian cuisine, an Aruban favorite that’s crossed the oceans from Holland’s former colony.

If your vacation residence includes a kitchen, visiting markets and preparing your own meals is an ideal way to save more of your holiday budget for exciting activities. Shopping at the market is also an opportunity to try something new and show the kids how the rest of the world eats. Latin American or Dutch cereals and soft drinks, among other basics, are often far less expensive on Aruba than more familiar US brands. In addition, the quality and flavor of products such as Dutch butter and tea are widely considered equal, if not superior, to their American counterparts.

Conveniently located near major resorts, Ling & Sons Super Center carry an outstanding diversity of familiar and exotic products from the Caribbean and around the world. The steady flow of customers through these modern, environmentally friendly markets ensures the food is always good and fresh.

Easily packed products to take home as gifts include attractively packaged spice kits and relishes for dishes such as Indonesian bami or nasi goreng, staples of the Dutch and local diet. If the chefs you know have a penchant for the piquant, pick-up jars of Indonesian sambal and some locally produced relishes such as Papaya pica and Madame Janette relish. (Caution: these products are hot and a little goes a long way.) Add them to noodles or rice with any leftover poultry, cold cuts, and veggies from the fridge, toss it all into the pot and voila! You have a delectable tropical dinner.

When savoring an Aruban sunset on your balcony, what could be a better accompaniment than a platter of Dutch cheeses and some fine European wines? Look no further than Aruba’s markets for a wide selection of cheeses and well-priced, quality wines from around the world.

For a gourmet gift, look for smooth, creamy Dutch Gouda cheese and its sharper cousin, Edam, sold in attractive, wax-encased balls or wheels of all sizes. (The US and other countries allow the import of uncut cheeses in their original wrapping, but check before leaving.)

Discover the sweet joys of typical island desserts and Dutch cookies. Pan bolo, a local recipe for bread pudding and freshly made quesillo, a very rich version of flan, are both sold at local markets. For refreshing snacks to please all ages, visit the markets’ freezer sections. Dutch popsicles flavored with the distinctive bos fruit (wild berry) are a good standby that’s unfamiliar to many visitors. The fresh, authentic fruity flavor is not overly sweet or artificial. The popsicles are ideal for Aruba’s tropical climate, but don’t pack them in your suitcase to bring home.

Cookie lovers will find a new addiction in the unique and buttery kletsmajoors, as well as the standard Dutch stroopwafels (honey layered between wafers) and speculaas (spice cookies). You can take these delights home easily as gifts – if you haven’t devoured them all before you leave. Be sure to sample Dutch tea with your cookies. For a strong brew, try Englese Mélange.

Delicious Aruba chocolates are another gift for the sweet-toothed. Gorgeously wrapped and covered in stunning photos of the island, these taste-tempters are almost too beautiful to unwrap. Almost.

So, tear yourself away briefly from Aruba’s sea, sun, and sand. Visit the island’s markets for a culinary adventure you can share with the folks back home!

By Rosalie Klein