Top 15 Most Popular Foods in Curaçao
If you are planning to visit the beautiful island of Curaçao in the Caribbean, this is a guide of bites and sips that are definitely worth trying.
On the world map, this Afro-Caribbean island is a tiny dot above the Venezuelan coast. Curaçao is the C of the ABC islands in the Dutch Kingdom, the sister islands being Aruba and Bonaire. With approximately 151,000 inhabitants, Curaçao is the largest island in the Kingdom.
Due to the dry tropical savanna climate, the people here need to be creative to make the most of what nature provides. These dishes have unique tastes that will remind you of Curaçao wherever you are in the world.
Papiamentu (for Aruba Papiamento) is the native language on the ABC islands. It is a mix of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English. And just like the language, Curaçao’s food is heavily influenced by its rich history, with flavors from Africa, the Netherlands and Latin America. A special combination to make you wiggle your toes with everybite.
This unique taste is partly created by the way the dishes are prepared. In the past, you would find a konfó in almost every garden. A konfó is a kind of homemade iron stove fires with charcoal, on top of which the stew pan was placed. Nowadays they are harder to find, but some houses in the western part of the island and a few restaurants still use a konfó.
The stew pan fits perfectly on the konfó, allowing the hearty Curaçao soups and stews to simmer for a while, blending the special herbs.
The weekend in Curaçao starts in the early afternoon on Fridays with a happy hour at various snack bars and restaurants. Local parties and get-togethers serve good food, hearty snacks, and delicious drinks that make your hips sway before you have even noticed. There is even a saying in Papiamentu, “barika yen, kurason kontentu”, or “Belly full, happy heart”.
This is why it is a challenge to select only 15 for our list, because Curaçaoan cuisine is so diverse and simply delicious. So let’s dive right into the top 15 most popular foods in Curaçao we have selected for you.
Delicious Soups in Curaçao
Soup is a simple but important detail in Curaçaoan culture. On Sundays, it serves as an important bonding moment for families. Soup can always be found at family occasions such as birthdays and funerals. The main ones are beef, fish and creole chicken soup.
These soups are made from beef or chicken bones or a fish head and are cooked for hours. Vegetables that are easy to grow on the island are put in the stock. Depending on the soup, veggies such as corn on the cob, pumpkin, potatoes or sweet potatoes are added.
Soups are served at any time of the day, early in the morning but also after a night out. It is very normal to see soup on the menu of a food truck.
1. Yambo (Okra Soup)
An important and authentic Curaçao dish is a soup called yambo or for some guiambo. The base of the soup is made with okra, making it look a little slimy. It sounds scarier than it tastes though, because the combination of seafood, salt-cured meat and some fresh basil create a unique taste.
In addition, the green okra seed pods have an impressive nutrition profile with vitamins C, A, and B6. It is beneficial for your blood sugar and bone structure, among other things. Some also throw pig’s tail into the soup, which gives it more flavor.
2. Sopi di Bonchi Korá (Red Kidney Bean Soup)
On Mondays, this dish can be found on the menu of various eateries. On the first day of the New Year, it is a tradition to eat beans as they are said to bring prosperity and happiness.
The dish is well known and much sought after by the locals, as well as on the sister islands, Aruba and Bonaire. Everyone makes the soup slightly differently, but it almost always contains salt-cured meat and pig’s tail.
This soup can have a sweetness to is as locals often add some sugar. It really is a ‘family soup’, because one stockpot will fill up a whole group of people. It is not eaten as a starter, though. It is more of a meal and is often served with rice on the side. Well worth a try.
3. Sòpi di Karni (Creole Beef Soup)
A soup found almost everywhere in Curaçao is the very well-known and tasty beef soup. At almost every occasion that brings people together you will find creole beef soup, because it is easy to make, rich in vitamins, and simply delicious.
In a well-filled sòpi di karni you will find beef, potatoes, pumpkin, corn, celery, and carrot. It’s the perfect soup for when you’ve had a few drinks.
Sopi di karni can be found on most menus of restaurants and snack bars in Curaçao.
The most delicious stews in Curaçao
Stewed dishes are well known in Curaçao cuisine. With a pot of stewed food, you can make a number of people happy for a few days. You will find different types of stewed dishes, too many to mention, but they are all definitely worth a try.
Here are the two most popular, but on Curaçao you will also come across creole plantain stew and papaya stew.
4. Stoba di Baka or Karni Stobá (Beef Stew)
Some call it stobá di baka, others karni stobá, but both names refer to the same delicious dish. The secret of this dish is patience, because the longer you leave the beef to simmer on a low heat, the more tender and flavorful it becomes.
A stobá di baka that has simmered for a few hours, together with various vegetables and herbs, will not only have a special taste, but the meat will be so tender that it almost melts in your mouth. Really tasty and a must-try when in Curaçao.
5. Kabritu Stobá (Goat Stew)
The main difference between karni stobá and kabritu stobá is the type of meat. Goat meat has a special taste but is less readily available and therefore somewhat more expensive. You will not find this stew in restaurants, as the meat has to be cleaned and prepared in a special way.
Not everyone has the patience, and not everyone knows how to prepare goat meat properly. Goat stew is a delicacy and is often served during festive occasions such as weddings or Holy Communions.
You can also make a delicious soup from goat meat, much like the creole beef soup described earlier. If you like lamb, you will love kabritu stobá.
Popular Seafood in Curaçao
If seafood is your thing, then you have a wide choice in Curaçao. Fishermen go out early in the morning to catch the many types of fresh fish in the Caribbean waters. Some fishermen have agreements with restaurants where they deliver their catch.
You can also find fishermen selling their freshly caught fish on the side of the road. there is a vast variety of fish and other seafood to feast on, too many to mention them all so we’ve selected a few for you.
6. Piska Korá (Red Snapper)
One of the most popular fishes on the menu in most restaurants in Curaçao is red snapper. Red snapper is rich in flavor and the flesh is deliciously juicy. So you don’t have to do much with the fish to create something delicious.
A whole red snapper seasoned with just salt and pepper and thrown on the BBQ provides a delicious platter in just a few minutes. Red snapper is often eaten with funchi and fried plantain (more about funchi later).
The combination of fish and funchi is unique and unforgettable. You cannot leave the island without trying this.
7. Karko (Queen Conch or Strombus Gigas Linnaeus)
Karko is scarce but delicious. It is a shellfish that can be prepared in different ways. You can find a stewed karko, but the queen conch meat can also be fried or grilled. The best way to eat it is at special seafood restaurants or from food trucks.
Most food trucks don’t open until the evening, around 8pm, and stay open until after midnight. Here you can easily find karko with fries on the menu. It tastes very good.
Fun fact: the shell of the queen conch used to be used as an instrument. The loud noise can be heard from miles away, which meant it could be used to announce important news, and it was used during cultural events.
Lionfish is not actually a local. It is native to the Indo-Pacific region and was introduced off the coast of Florida in the 1980s and made their way into the Caribbean Sea. In recent years, it has become increasingly available in restaurants as the lionfish population has exploded.
This dangerous looking, though very tasty, fish is actually a threat to the local native reef systems. Locals often joke: we have got to eat the enemy. So not only will you enjoy a tasty meal by eating lionfish, but you’ll also help the local environment.
This enemy can be eaten plain or with some funchi fries on the side.
Authentic side dishes from Curaçao
9. Funchi (Polenta)
Funchi is made of coarsely ground yellow cornmeal and it is similar to the Italian polenta. During the time of slavery, there were several corn fields on the island. Corn was available in abundance and more affordable than imported produce like rice and potatoes.
Adding cornmeal to boiled water creates a thick batter that stiffens when it cools slightly. Then you can cut it like a pie and place it next to your fish or stobá.
If you have any leftover funchi, you can cut it into thin strips, just like French fries, and bake it. Then you have funchi fries, a tasty, simple, and filling snack that produces instant smiles.
The base of tutu is funchi, mixed with beans, a little coconut milk, and some sugar. It is a new world of flavor combinations that goes perfectly with fish. Tutu is also a delicious side dish for a stew.
Tutu used to be made from the leftovers of sopi di bonchi, mixed into the funchi batter.
The best sweet treats of Curaçao
Your meal is not complete without a delicious dessert, and you will find the most delicious in Curaçao. Whether you like cake or cookies, your sweet tooth cravings will be satisfied. Many Curaçaoan cakes are made with a little liqueur, giving them a unique and tasty finishing touch.
11. Arepa di Pampuna (Pumpkin Pancakes)
These pumpkin pancakes from Curaçao are very simple and incredibly tasty. History links Curaçao to the Netherlands, where you will find the very best pancakes. In Curaçao we simply added some extras to the recipe.
These creole pumpkin pancakes are slightly thicker than the Dutch pancakes. The perfect combination of pumpkin, cinnamon, and raisins provides a special taste that every sweet tooth will appreciate.
12. Bolo di Pruimu (Prune Cake)
This tasty and quite heavy cake is the subject of dispute in Curaçao as locals argue about the best way to make it. But they all agree that the best Curaçaoan prune cake takes time.
The trick is in how the prunes are prepared before adding them to the pie filling. The cake is often cut into small pieces and wrapped in aluminum foil for adding to goody bags. It is so tasty and so potent that it’s best to bite off small pieces from time to time.
Bolo di pruimu can’t be found everywhere, so if you get the chance to taste a delicious piece of this traditional cake, you should definitely go for it!
13. Bolo di Kashupete (Cashew Cake)
This is a favorite with locals! Bolo di kashupete can be found at almost all festive occasions. The base of the cake is made like a vanilla cake, and the magic happens with the ground cashews used to fill and decorate the cake.
You will recognize bolo di kashupete by the colored cherries that decorate it. Have you bought too much bolo, and you can’t eat it all at once?
No problem! You can freeze these cakes for a few weeks and let them thaw at room temperature. The cake will taste fresh. Do try it if you get the chance.
Must try Curaçao drinks
Alcohol is never missing at a good Curaçaoan party. In addition to the well-known drinks such as wine, beer, and whiskey, we have some special alcoholic drinks that you have to taste.
14. Ròm Bèrdè (Green Rum)
The bright green of this delicious rum is very distinctive. The recipe is a secret, but contains anise and lime. This rum is available in various places, but if you want to experience the real Curaçao green rum, you have to go to a well-known snack bar in the Otrobanda district. You can drink ròm bèrde plain or mix it in a cocktail.
15. Blue Curaçao
Even if you had not heard of Curaçao the Caribbean island, you will be familiar with Curaçao the liqueur. Blue Curaçao is the pride of Curaçao, now known the world over. Surprisingly, though, the liqueur was discovered by accident.
In the 16th century, Spaniards brought with them Valencia oranges to grow. However, the island’s climate was too dry for these oranges, causing the fruit to dry out and creating a bitter taste. These oranges were given the name laraha.
The dry conditions created a particularly nice-smelling oil in the laraha husks. To make the most of the fruit, they began to improvise with recipes and the well-known Blue Curaçao liqueur was born. It is said that Curaçao has the only distillery in the world making this liqueur with dried laraha peel.
Blue Curaçao is not only tasty, it is also an eye-catcher. The beautiful blue color creates a special moment whenever a glass is served.
Cheers! or, as they say in Papiamentu, Salù!
Are you in Curaçao or going in that direction any time soon? Then we definitely recommend trying at least some of these dishes and drinks. The island has so many flavors that it is impossible to put them all in one article.
And despite there being no vegetarian options on this list, vegetarians can definitely enjoy themselves here. Chefs have adapted the various traditional stews for non-meat eaters, so you will find stewed plantain and stewed papaya. The most important thing is simply to crave good food.
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