Good food is what tourists always put in their top five ‘items’ they deem important to enjoy a good holiday. On Aruba there is certainly no shortage of that. The Aruban kitchen is a real hodgepodge of products, spices and flavours that were brought along with the many nationalities and (culinary) traditions that have come to the island throughout the centuries.
Local, typically Aruban restaurants offer a wide array of choices in fish dishes like whitefish wahoo, mahi-mahi and barracuda. The fish is prepared in different ways and is served with a traditionally Creole sauce, containing tomatoes, paprika, onions and herbs. Also worth a try are the stews and dishes like beef stew (carni di baca stoba), the somewhat sweet goat’s meat (cabrito stoba) or chicken (galina stoba). They are served with white rice and beans (arroz moro) or cornflour biscuits (funchi). A popular everyday Aruban snack is pastechi (a fried dough envelope filled with cheese, chicken, meat or a different filling). The spicy Madame Janette pepper is something you also encounter everywhere and the ‘hot sauce’ that the pepper is processed into is a much wanted souvenir.
As I reread this piece of text, it seems like it was taken from a tourist guide. I can tell you: it is. In the short period that we’ve lived and worked on Aruba, we haven’t yet tasted the many typically Aruban dishes. Still hungry at night? You can go to food trucks (truk’di pan) that are open from 9 pm until 4 am.
Due to the dry climate, the Aruban cuisine has few vegetables and fruits. The only ones that grow on Aruba are kalula (a wild species of spinach), the Aruban cucumber, coconuts, lemons and durian (a large fruit with milky juice). There is a project to breed tomatoes and cucumbers on the island. The rest of the vegetables and fruits are imported from Venezuela or the surrounding countries.
What is extraordinary is that Aruban tap water is safe to drink. You don’t have to go to the supermarket for it. The drinking water is the product of seawater that has been desalinated. The island has one of the largest desalination facilities in the world. The drinking water has a nice taste and is quite soft. During the day, tap water is ‘hot’, simply because the waterpipes are above ground. Therefore boiling water doesn’t take too long. That serves the Arubans quite well, since they eat their main warm meal (mostly hearty soup with meat, fish or fruits) at midday. If you always want fresh, cold water at your disposal, keep some water stocked in your fridge.
If you’re going to Aruba, the sun, sea and beaches await you, as well as the tasty and versatile Aruban cuisine. Bon apetit (in Papiamento)!