Popular Aruba Foods

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Aruba - Dine Like a Local

Aruba, like every island, has a distinctive cuisine, which like Aruba’s population and language, comes from many different cultures.

These are some of the local foods to look for in Aruba's restaurants.

Stuffed cheese (keshi  yena): This classic dish is traditionally made by hollowing out a round of cheese and filling it with ground beef, chicken, golden raisins, prunes, olives, cashew nuts and piccalilli, a green tomato relish with onion and peppers. Keshi yena also can be served a cheese melt sandwich, served as a baked shell filled with Edam cheese and meat. Not served everywhere, Keshi yena is available daily at the Old Cunucu House restaurant located on Palm Beach. They make it as a casserole using all the traditional ingredients and topping it with gouda cheese.

Conch: Found in Aruba as well as much of the Caribbean, conch is served as fried fitters, a stew with vegetables or a ceviche pickled with onions and peppers in vinegar or lime juice (this often is called a conch salad). Conch makes terrific chowder or fried fritters.

Traditional fish soup: As it should be, this soup is made with whatever fish is freshest, usually grouper, wahoo or mahi mahi. At the Driftwood Restaurant, the soup is seasoned with a sprig of basil known locally as yerb i hole. The soup is best enjoyed with bites of buttery funchi (a type of baked polenta) or a slice of traditional cornmeal pancake known as pan bati.

Creole snapper (snapper crioyo): Another signature Aruban dish, the snapper is pan fried and topped with a tomato-based Creole sauce. At the Aqua Grill restaurant, the grilled fish is topped with a Creole sauce that’s more akin to a cold salsa made of roasted vegetables and hot peppers. This is not typical Aruban style since most of the island’s Creole sauce is not this hot.

Aruban grouper: This popular fish is prepared in a number of ways. One the best is a grouper fillet crusted with brie cheese and served with a mango-papaya vinaigrette. The high end restaurant that once served it is no more, but many others have their own creative versions. The dish is often accompanied by funchi, which is a baked polenta sometimes served in a gourmet version that’s creamy with goat cheese.

Aruban bread pudding (pan boyo): A dense cake served warm or cold and made by mixing bread, cinnamon and raisins. If you’re fond of bread pudding, you should try the pumpkin bread pudding at the AAA Four-Diamond Sunset Grille Restaurant at the Radisson Aruba Resort Casino & Spa. Not your average bread pudding.

Curried goat
or chicken is served as a stew over rice or with roti (Indian flat bread). Very popular with locals but not so much with visitors. It can be quite good as long as the goat is tender.

Meatloaf is not a mound of hamburger but more like shredded beef with rice, green beans and plantain. You won’t be hungry an hour later.

Rijstaffel: Not the easiest thing to find other han an Indonesian restaurant because of the elaborate preparation needed.  Rijstaffel   ("rice-TA-fel") is  a must-try lunch based on an Indonesian smorgasbord of tasty meats, vegetables and rice dishes.  An elaborate rijstaffel may offer a dozen or more small portions so you can sample as many dishes as possible.  And then order more of the same that’s most appealing at that sitting or at another time.

More than most islands, Aruba is filled with fast food eateries that make Americans feel like they’re in their own backyard. But eating the same old, same old is not why you came to Aruba.

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