Monday, October 29, 2007

Indonesian food and other delicacies I miss

Today I met my friend Aimee for lunch. It was her treat and she picked the restaurant: Indonesian food!!! For both of us, it was a no-brainer.... it's one of our island's favorites. As the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean, Indonesia was once part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. While England was in India, France in Vietnam...Holland was in the thousand islands of the Indonesian Archipelago. The country's cuisine is an important part of Holland's culinary history......and of Curaçao's too! If you have never tried it, make an effort; you'll be hooked

Anyway, we savored delicious dishes, familiar tastes and got absolutely in the right mood for reminiscing. She is returning to the island, albeit part-time, and I so envy her. Once again, she'll be able to sample all that the island has to offer, and food will be amongst the nicest.

When we moved to the island, one of our favorite things was discovering the variety of food you are offered. Every immigrant group brought its traditions and....its food. The Spanish, the first to arrive, stayed for 135 years. They left goats and oranges. The former ares still a delicacy prepare in so many ways: from stews, to barbecues. The latter is used to make the famous Curaçao liquor. Oh yes, this is where that great drink comes from! The original an authentic Curaçao liquor, in any shade or flavor, is made on the island with a small bitter orange. Believe it or not, this is a variation of the sweet Valencia orange brought by the Spaniards, but turned bitter by the dry climate.. how about that? On the island we use it for many things, like topping for vanilla ice cream, in drinks and desserts.

Someone had brought corn, maybe the pre-Colombian inhabitants, and funchi was born. What is that you're asking.... it's a dish similar to polenta and made of cornmeal. It can be served as soft mush or cut in pieces and fried. It makes the most wonderful side dish for fish, goat or beef stew, any dish you serve or alone. It is addictive! I have learned to eat it with anything and still make it at home.

The Dutch brought cheese and it didn't take long for whoever was there to make keshi yena (literally stuffed cheese). It has to be the greatest way to stuff an Edam cheese. Seriously!! They also brought bitterballen... croquettes to all of you, but so much better! Speculaas, a thin and crisp spiced cookie pressed with tableau images of old-time Holland, delicious with your tea or coffee or with your curaçao-liquor covered ice cream! I already mentioned Indonesian food, but I have to point out pinda saus (peanut sauce). Not the watery kind in Thai cuisine, but thick and rich and so smooth. In your French fries is heaven!

Chinese immigrants made their contribution, but this is a whole new kind: with a hint of Indian and Indonesian food. Fantastic! and could it get better? Of course! Latin immigrants from South America brought cheese fritters: tequeños and arepas, both a most in any island celebration. And what about ayacas? A dish of cornmeal, beef or chicken and other goodies wrapped in banana leaves. Superb!

If you have a sweet tooth, you have come to the right place. Again every nationality is represented, every dessert known to man can be found on the island. Anything with chocolate being the favorite, of course! At any given celebration, there is at least one table of desserts. I have never seen such selection; I don't eat sweets but have been so tempted throughout the years. You are not allowed to leave without tasting a bit of something or of everything.

Now you would ask, who makes all those desserts?.... your friends, of course! They know the dessert table is the most important in the celebration and they want to make you look good..... well there is also another reason. Recipes are not shared! they will make the dishes for you, but recipes are family secrets. Someone missed an opportunity. The secret service could have learned a thing or two from these ladies.

Of course, all this is more than culinary commentary. This is the area in which the island is truly blind to race, religion and nationality. Food is the mortar that holds us together. So in any street you can find a place to sample a taste of the local cuisine. I discovered to my delight that it is safe to eat almost anywhere, and everyone does! There are great restaurants offering anything from fast food to gourmet cuisine from every country. Everywhere you go and whoever you visit will offer you food!!! You can't ignore that, trust me. On our island paradise, food brings us together!!!

1 comment:

Rowland said...

Mercedes,
Felicitaciones por tu blog. Lo disfruto mucho. Tienes alguna receta para la pinda sauce? La probe en Curacao y me encanto.

Saludos a toda la familia.

Rowland