Dotting the southern Caribbean Sea 35 miles due north of Venezuela, and an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curaçao is home to 150,000 residents representing around 50 ethnicities. With an active 500-year history that saw island rule shift many times before returning to the Dutch in the early 1800s, it’s little wonder Curaçao boasts such a diverse melting pot of culinary influences, including Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, French, English, Indonesian, African Creole and Dutch.
From funchi (polenta) and stobá (stew) to homemade jams made with appeldam fruit, there are a wide variety of krioyo, or local treats, to discover in Curaçao—including these must-tries.
Despite Curaçao’s soaring daytime temperatures, soup is a popular lunchtime choice, and a local favourite is kadushi, a slippery, almost jelly-like soup made with kadushi cactus, fish, vegetables and herbs. Delicate in flavour and immensely satisfying, kadushi is definitely an adventure to eat for the texturally challenged. You can sample it at Yvonne di Plaza, one of many vendors located at Old Market in Willemstad, Curaçao’s capital city.
One of the island’s most-loved specialties, keshi yena (or “stuffed cheese”) is basically a ball of gooey cheese packed with meat or fish, vegetables, raisins and seasonings. Sound delicious? It is. Originally created by the island’s early plantation workers (who made it using the rinds of Gouda or Edam cheese) this dish is now served in restaurants throughout Curaçao. Try it at Restaurant & Café Gouverneur de Rouville in Willemstad.
Whether fried, stewed (as yuana stoba) or simmered in soup, local and free-run iguana carries a rich, notable flavour somewhat akin to milder game meats. Head to Jaanchie’s, a not-to-be-missed restaurant in scenic Westpunt on the northwestern tip of the island, where iguana is served with the ubiquitous Curaçaoan side dish of banana hasa (fried plantain) and accompanied by pika—a vinegar-based onion and hot pepper relish.
A truki pan meal
When the sun goes down, truki pans, or bread trucks, appear in parking lots and on side streets throughout the island to dish out hearty, well-priced food to late-night revellers. Originally known for serving only sandwiches (hence the name), many of these eateries-on-wheels now offer chicken, pork chops, spareribs and lomito (tenderloin), marinated and grilled to order. Look out for Naoki’s Place, Nancy’s and BBQ Express, three of the most popular truki pans on the island.
Curaçao of Curaçao Liqueur
Renowned as a bar-rail staple, genuine Curaçao of Curaçao Liqueur has been distilled and bottled at Mansion Chobolobo on the outskirts of Willemstad for more than a century. Take Chobolobo’s self-guided tour and learn how the Senior family perfected their recipe, then enjoy a free tasting.