Discover Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Curacao Cuisine
Learn more about our Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Curaçao Cuisine. Eating on Curacao can easily be a doorway to its unique and fascinating culture. One that has no financial barriers to entry, nor “off the tourist trail” challenges to locate. Just a hundred feet from the cruise pier, you can find everything. From island-style cheap eats to Dutch Colonial throwback restaurants to fresh seafood.
Curacao’s diverse, richly flavored culinary landscape encompasses many cultures. This includes traditional Dutch food, African heritage and Caribbean staples. It also has East Indian influences, French gastronomy and even Chinese. It also has its own ethnic sub-category called Kuminda Krioyo. The latter is often the least expensive and served with the least fanfare. You can find it at the Old Market food stalls or the so-called “bread trucks”. Also known as food trucks often serving a couple items.
This is a general menu description for “stew”. It has many similarities to island curry, including that you can use about any sort of meat and veggie to make. Popular variations include beef stew (often made with papaya) and goat stew. This version is fresher than beef since locals use island-raised goats to produce it. Everything from cucumber to cactus to pigtails might go into the pot. The old market of Plasa Bieu is a prominent place to look for all sorts of stobas. This includes a couple options you won’t be able to identify.
This falls under the category of adventurous eats: the ubiquitous island lizard. It is something that bold diners will order once and never again. Why? Because the ubiquitous critters have more tiny bones than even the boniest fish. This makes for slow, cautious eating. You can nibble your way around the bones in a stew, a bowl of soup or fried. But no matter what, the texture of this dish is more memorable than the flavor. For this dish as well, the most natural place to find it is one of the old market food stalls.
Garlic Butter Conch
Curacao does this specialty of many Caribbean islands to tender, brown butter perfection. You can often find the seafood paired with French fries instead of the Caribbean’s typical rice and peas. This is thanks to the strong European influence. Komedor Krioyo Restaurant does an excellent job with this dish. You will be able to try this and many other island specialties here. Located in Landhuis Dokterstuin, you’ll enjoy your meal in a pleasant courtyard atmosphere.
Grilled Piska Kora
This translates to “red snapper,” one of a few locally caught fish. It often appears on restaurants’ daily specials as a fresh catch. It is small enough to serve whole. The typical local snapper comes fried atop rice and peppers or tomatoes. Sea Side Terrace is a simple market-style setup facing the beach next to the Sunscape hotel. It serves up perfect pan-fried snapper. It also serves Curacao’s other seafood specialties in a simple yet memorable setting.
Thanks to the ostrich farm on the island, it’s quite easy to find menus offering this lean, protein-packed, meaty-tasting bird. The most common way to serve it is as a burger patty. But ostrich steak is more of a specialty and worth a splurge. Especially if you love meat and needs to steer clear of beef. The taste of ostrich is nothing like chicken, but closer to a cross between lean beef and dark meat turkey.
Restaurant Zambezi on the Curacao Ostrich Farm grounds is the obvious destination for an ostrich feast. Although think carefully whether you want to tour the ostriches’ living quarters beforehand. They might be a bit jarring—though perhaps no different than any other working ranch visit.
People familiar with Curacao’s delicacies will skip meals and do a double workout. This is so they can enjoy a full portion of the island’s official dish, which translates to “stuffed cheese.” This dish is usually made with Edam or Gouda, (both semi-soft Dutch cheeses). The recipe is a feast that evolved from a dark chapter in island history. During Curacao’s slave days, slaves would feed on scraps stuffed into a cheese rind and cooked. These days, locals scoop an entire cheese out. Only to stuff with some combination of spiced meat, chicken, olives, and fruit.
Gouverneur de Rouville does an excellent version of this dish in an appropriately historic setting overlooking the harbor. The restaurant’s other traditional specialties include curried goat and beef stoba.
The name means “rice table,” and it’s more of an event than a meal. Known as an Indonesian signature meal, made famous in Europe by way of Amsterdam. A heap of Indonesian fried rice comes with little scoops of various other delicacies. This ranges from curried meats to composed salads. There are also tiny dried silver shrimp that few Westerners can munch on. Mind you, it doesn’t matter if you skip a treat or two. Ririjsttafel generally comes with six to 18 taster portions, depending on the tier.
Batik Asli is off the beaten path but still in Willemstad, and foodie travelers may find it a worthwhile afternoon outing. The chef/owner has been providing authentic cheap Indo food to the island for decades, in various spaces.
Is it a tamale? Is it an empanada? Is it a pastel? Yes to all of these. But it’s also different and unique. The meat stuffing is not similar to traditional Mexican tamales as they’re known. Every recipe is different, but it might include raisins, nuts, olives or boiled eggs. The cornmeal pocket and plantain leaf wrapping is almost identical to tamales. The closest culinary cousin is the Hallaca of Venezuela (same word—different spelling).
A seasonal dish found in many restaurants and in markets around the winter holidays.
Kadushi cactus is one of the few things that can flourish all over the island. This is in spite of arid conditions and nutrient-lacking soil. Thus, the locals learned how to make food–specifically soup–out of it a long time ago. Traditional cactus soup is slimy-textured and often features pigtails. Note bien, it’s an acquired taste, but some people swear it has beneficial properties. Look for this super-local dish among the Plasa Bieu food vendors. An essential item to try in this Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Curaçao Cuisine.
Blue Curacao Liqueur
Far more people in the United States are familiar with Curaçao the spirit than Curaçao the island. This is because almost everyone has an encounter with it during some first raid of a liquor cupboard. But here’s a twist: True blue “Curaçao of Curaçao” was, for a very long time, not distributed in the United States.
The sweet brilliant blue drink that everyone grew up with is an inferior version. Made with artificial orange flavors instead of citrus peels as it is here on the island. There’s also a debate about who invented Curaçao liquor. Was it the Senior Curaçao on the island or another liquor distiller in Holland? But it’s in Curaçao that the liqueur gets respect and not like some cheesy Eighties-style gimmick. The distillery flavors its blue and orange Curaçao with laraha citrus peel. The fruit is grown on-island. It is quality enough to be sipped, although it has undoubtedly powered many an umbrella cocktail.
The factory in Willemstad offers guided tours four times a day, starting at 10 AM. Reservations are strongly recommended. Self-guided tours are also available. Open Monday-Friday 8AM-5PM.
Looking for more delicious food? Check out our Caribbean Cruise Food Guide: Jamaica Cuisine