Curaçao’s ethnic diversity is evident not only through its people, but its cuisine. Due to arid conditions and rocky soil, the island remains heavily dependent on imports resulting in its international cuisine, prepared with local flair. More than 200 restaurants showcase the island’s eclectic and diverse flavors.
FUN FOODIE FACTS:
• The Floating Market in Punda, is not to be missed. Venezuelan vendors sell their fresh produce along the waterfront, directly off their small fishermen’s boats, which double as living quarters between trips to and from the island. The color and variety of fruits and vegetables is a delicious photo opp.
• Marshe Bieuw in downtown Willemstad offers the most authentic local meal around. Individually operated stands each offer a range of local favorites prepared on-site, including stoba (stew), funchi (similar to polenta), kabritu (stewed goat), fresh fish like Red Snapper and a favorite, pumpkin pancakes. Politicians, shop owners, area residents and tourists all gather at rows of tables and benches and enjoy their afternoon meal side by side.
• Keshi Yená, Curaçao’s traditional dish, translates to ‘stuffed cheese’ and is exactly that. A dish steeped in the island’s slave history from when kitchen workers would stuff the scooped out cheese rinds with bits of discarded meats and scraps, steam it, and turn it soft again. It’s now prepared in all types of gourmet ways and a signature island dish.
• Iguana is an exotic meat offered in a handful of restaurants, but Jaanchie’s Restaurant on Curaçao’s West End is a favorite. Locals attribute iguana to healing qualities, serving the meat stewed or in soup to cure various discomforts. (It’s also said to be an aphrodisiac!) It tastes just like chicken.
• Kos Dushi are Curaçaoan sweets such as Sunchi – Meringue “kisses,” made of sugar, egg whites, and food coloring; Panseiku – a kind of praline: toasted peanuts and almond essence, in a brittle glaze of dark brown sugar; and Kokada – freshly grated coconut patties, held together in a sugar syrup.
• Kadushi cactus is among the most abundant resources on the island. Locals have harnessed the organic and energetic properties of the plant for a hearty soup. The preparation process of removing the spiny needles is a skill best left to the pros.
• Batido stands offer a custom blend of fresh fruits and juices for a sweet and healthy frozen smoothie-style treat.
• Rijstaffel was integrated into Dutch traditions after the colonization of Indonesia by the Dutch in 1782. Literally meaning “rice table,” the Indonesian favorite was cross-pollinated with Dutch-Caribbean influences in Curaçao to create the current flavors now found in the island’s version of the cuisine.
• Truk’i Pan are the original food trucks. Small trucks found throughout the island serving late night eats from 9 pm to 4 am to satisfy the post-party craving. A few popular
ones include: Nancy’s, The Griller, El Pinguino de Oro, Makamba’s Grill and Naoki’s.