Dishes on Curacao
The shelves of Curaçao's major supermarkets and specialty stores are well stocked with items from all parts of the world. Because of its prosperity and role as a major Caribbean transit center, virtually all of Curaçao's food is imported. Step into any supermarket and you will find products from the United States, Europe, and South America.
Kuminda Krioyo (Creole Dishes)
The local food is heavy and hearty. Main courses, such as fried fish, stew of goat meat (kabritu), chicken and beef are served with peas and rice (aros moro), potatoes or funchi, a boiled corn mash similar to Italian polenta. Funchi mixed with beans and sugar becomes tutu. For the truly adventurous, there is a stew of iguana (yuana), which tastes remarkably like chicken.
Vegetables usually play a secondary role in traditional Curaçao cuisine, but there are some notable exceptions. Green papaya, local lumpy cucumber (konkomber) or cabbage are braised with corned beef. Slimy soups are made from okra (yambó) and cactus (kadushi), which must be learned to appreciate. Fried bananas are a popular side dish; a sweet soup, spiced with chilies and cinnamon, is also made from plantain and vegetables. Small hot peppers (promèntè) and onions pickled in acid add flavor to local dishes.
To taste krioyo food at its best, have lunch during the week at the former covered food market ("Marshe") in Punda. The rustic seaside restaurants at Piscadera and Playa Kanoa (weekends only) offer delicious fresh seafood, including karkó (crowned snail). (Playa Kanoa is also open on Thursdays).
Eating at Christmas
Curaçaoans take Christmas very seriously: this is the time to eat with the whole family. Also a christening, a first communion or any other traditional event, is a suitable occasion to prepare a veritable plethora of culinary delights. If you are lucky enough to be invited to such an occasion, you should definitely not turn it down.
Christmas in Curaçao is not complete without ayakas, tightly folded banana peels with a savory meat filling. Although the dish originated in Venezuela, many families are proud of their own recipe. Another Christmas dish is keshi yená - stuffed cheese. This is probably the most famous dish from Curaçao.
Pickled fish is a main dish at New Year. Salty, dried herring (pékele), salmon (salmou) or mackerel (mackerel), are marinated with onions, hot peppers and spices. A local variant is sult, pig's ear and feet in acid, cut into small slices, soaked in brine and flavored with onion and hot peppers.
Large celebrations are not complete without bolo pretu (black cake) - probably the most delicious fruit cake in the world. More modest festivities are marked by lèter ("letter"), cookies in an s-shape, made with fresh groundnuts and nutmeg.
Kos Dushi (Sweets)
Sugar, coconut and peanuts are most commonly found in traditional sweets, which can be purchased on street corners in Punda, at bakeries and at tokos. Most can be kept unrefrigerated for a week or more and make a nice - but temporary - souvenir. Why not give your friends at home a taste of a real piece of Curaçao?
Some Curaçao sweets are local variations of sweets that are in demand internationally. Sunchi are negro kisses made from sugar, egg white and dye. They are brittle and have a very limited shelf life. Panseiku is a kind of praline: roasted peanuts and almond extract, cooked in a brittle glaze of dark brown sugar. The local toffee, kakiña, is still diligently prepared by hand, using a metal toffee hook. Other sweets are definitely typical of the island. The djente kachó ("dog tooth") consists of thick, irregularly shaped lumps of coconut boiled in sugar syrup.
Freshly roasted coconut patties, kokada, are also held together in sugar syrup (see recipe) and infused with coloring to add a festive touch. Ko'i lechi ("milk things") are flavored with vanilla or almond extract and shaped into neat squares or circles. If you crave nuts, try tentalaria: groundnuts or cashews in sugar cream, or zjozjolí, sticky sesame seed bars. Young and older children will love chupabèbè ("suck and drink"); these are homemade lollipops of sugar syrup made into graceful animal shapes.