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Savoring the Flavors of Aruba: Exploring Traditional Cuisine

Savoring the Flavors of Aruba: Exploring Traditional Cuisine

Aruba is not only a paradise for sun-seekers but also a culinary delight for food enthusiasts. Beyond its natural beauty, Aruba offers a rich tapestry of traditional food that reflects its diverse cultural heritage and history.

Aruba’s history is a story of cultural convergence, with influences from indigenous Arawak people, Spanish, Dutch, African, and Latin American cultures. This melting pot of influences has shaped Aruban cuisine into a unique fusion of flavors and ingredients.

Let’s take a flavorful journey through Aruba’s traditional cuisine, exploring some of the most delicious must-try traditional dishes that have been passed down through generations.

Keshi Yena

This dish is a testament to Aruba’s history and is revered as Aruba’s national dish. It consists of a hollowed-out wheel of Edam or Gouda cheese filled with a flavorful stew of meat or seafood. keshi yena is typically baked until the cheese melts and becomes slightly crispy. Want to try this national dish? Gasparito Restaurant in Noord has keshi yena on their menu!

Stoba

Stews, locally known as “stobas” are typically made with beef or goat meat as its base, but calco stoba (conch stew) is also highly favored by locals. It’s often served with banana hasa, funchi, rice, or pan bati. You can indulge in this delightful local dish at the Aruba Experience Café in Oranjestad.

Pisca Hasa

Fresh seafood and shellfish is always readily available in Aruba. Pisca hasa (fried fish) is a local favorite. Pisca hasa is typically served alongside creole sauce, onions, white rice, funchi and pan pati. For a real local experience to savor fresh pisca hasa, visit Zeerovers Aruba in Savaneta.

Sopi

A must-try culinary delight in Aruba is sopi (soup). Arubans have a deep appreciation for hearty soups, with a special highlight being the “sopi di mondongo” (tripe soup). This hearty soup is prepared using ingredients that may not commonly appear on everyday dinner plates. Another favorite is “sopi di pisca” (fish soup), yambo (Antillean style gumbo) or the traditional Dutch pea soup known as “erwtensoep”, which stands out for its substantial thickness. It features a blend of split peas, smoked sausage, and ham hocks. Looking to try traditional Aruban sopi’s? Café Maryli in Ponton is the place you’re looking for.

Pan Bati

Pan bati, a common side dish in Aruba, is literally translated to beaten bread. It’s a type of sweet cornflour pancake that’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, making it a perfect accompaniment to stews, soups or grilled meats. It’s also delicious when served deep fried and covered in melted cheese. In the mood for pan bati? For the best fried pan bati covered in melted cheese, try Fisherman’s Hut Restaurant in Noord.

Funchi

Funchi is a traditional Aruban dish made from cornmeal. It is a starchy side dish that is somewhat similar to polenta but has its own unique texture and flavor. Funchi is prepared by boiling water and then gradually adding cornmeal while stirring continuously to prevent lumps from forming. The mixture thickens as it cooks and is typically shaped into a smooth, dense consistency. Once prepared, funchi can be sliced into squares or wedges and served as a side dish alongside various Aruban main courses, such as stews, soup, fish dishes, or grilled meats. It can also be fried to achieve a crispy outer layer. For an added layer of deliciousness, it can be savored with a generous topping of gouda cheese. You can find delicious funchi as a side dish at Cocoplum Restaurant at Caya Betico Croes in downtown Oranjestad.

Pastechi

These are savory fried pastries (looking similar to empanadas) filled with various fillings like cheese, chicken, beef, tuna or even chop suey. Pastechis are one of the most popular local snacks, served at many local gatherings. They are also highly favored for breakfast. You can easily find them all around, but it’s essential to savor the ones served at The Pastechi House located in downtown Oranjestad.

Ayaca

Ayacas made their way to Aruba from South America, and they’ve become a cherished tradition with each family holding its unique recipe for this traditional Christmas dish. The process involves coating plantains or banana leaves with a cornmeal dough and adding a mixture of chicken or pork, along with spices, olives, raisins, prunes, and cashews onto the leaf. They carefully fold the leaf around the mixture and secure it with a string to ensure the filling stays intact while boiling in water. Until recently, locating ayacas in Aruban restaurants was a challenge, unless you happened to be on the island during the Christmas season. Traditionally, ayacas were made within the confines of homes, with each family guarding their secret recipe. Nowaydays, establishments like Taste My Aruba offer single portions of ayacas, allowing visitors the chance to savor this local holiday delicacy year-round.

Cocada

Of course, Arubans also have a sweet tooth! Cocada is a traditional sweet treat in Aruba, often enjoyed as a dessert or snack. It is a coconut-based confection that is popular in various Caribbean and Latin American countries. Aruban cocada typically consists of grated coconut, sugar, and sometimes additional ingredients like vanilla or spices for flavor. The mixture is cooked and stirred until it reaches a thick, fudge-like consistency. Cocada is a delightful treat to savor while exploring the flavors of Aruban cuisine and is often found in local markets, bakeries, and dessert shops.

Aruba’s traditional cuisine is a testament to its rich cultural history and the island’s natural abundance. When you visit this Caribbean gem, make sure to savor the flavors of keshi yena, pastechi, carni stoba, and other delicious dishes. As you dine on the island’s traditional food, you’ll not only satisfy your taste buds but also gain a deeper appreciation for Aruba’s vibrant culture and heritage.

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