10 unexpected foods to eat on the Caribbean island of Curacao
From rainbow-hued liqueur to chicken-stuffed cheese
By Rachel Vigoda, USA Today 10Best
Daydreams of island vacations usually include sunny visions of pina coladas and freshly caught seafood enjoyed beachside. While Curacao has plenty of both, the country’s blend of influences – African, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Jewish and more – create an eclectic cuisine you might not expect to find on an island in the Caribbean.
So go ahead and order that fruity frozen cocktail, but make sure to sample some of these 10 dishes and drinks, too.
This quintessential Dutch snack is as common on Curacao as blue skies and beach chairs. The Netherlands colonized Curacao in the 1600s and it remained under Dutch rule until 2010. Today it’s still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands but as an autonomous country.
Four-hundred-plus years of Dutch in Curacao means that Dutch fried favorites, especially bitterballen, are easy to find at any bar or sidewalk cafe.
The beer-friendly bite-sized snack is a breaded, deep-fried ball of gooey beef and gravy and it’s typically served with mustard for dipping. Take a mid-afternoon break for a cold Polar pilsner and a plate of bitterballen – or frikandel (deep-fried sausage) – at Cafe Old Dutch, a laid-back European-styled pub with sports memorabilia on the walls in Willemstad, Curacao’s capital.
Curacao’s tangled history includes its role as a center of the transatlantic slave trade. The country’s unofficial national dish is based around Dutch cheeses, but it likely has origins among enslaved Africans. They would turn leftover Edam or Gouda rinds into a meal by stuffing them with spiced chicken, and odds and ends like raisins, then bake the whole thing until the flavors fused.
"You can make it different ways, but the best-known way is with chicken and vegetables. They used to wrap it all in a banana leaf and put it in the oven," says Adrian Lake, chef at the upscale Pen restaurant at Willemstad’s Avila Beach Hotel, the longest-running hotel on the island.
Lake serves keshi yena – the shredded chicken studded with raisins and olives and wrapped in melted Gouda – with sides of rice, fried plantain, string beans and a krioyo (creole) sauce of onions, paprika, tomato puree, and tomato sauce.
When asked about local foods, chef Lake brings up another African-Caribbean dish, giambo. He stops slightly short of ...Continue here