I wish I could eat in each one of the countries we visited on the cruise!
In reality, I knew it would be difficult to get my hands on local foods for one reason or another.
In the Bahamas, we were dropped off at a secluded part of an island basically ran by the staff of the cruise ship – no local food.
In Aruba, everything near the strip off the port was touristy.
There were quite a few eateries but they were serving sandwiches, pizza and pasta.
Colombia and Costa Rica were challenging because we only have enough time to tour but not enough to eat locally.
We got off at Colon in Panama for a very short stop. To my surprise, on a Tuesday, most stores were closed around 4pm. There were once again, eateries with pizza, Lebanese and Greek food on the main street – no luck again.
My one and only food adventure was at Curacao, Dutch Antilles — and it was wonderful!
We found a market where locals went to eat – a what a fantastic food journey!
First, must try the famous iguana soup.
Chunks of iguana meat were served in the soup with bones.
I was really out of vocabulary to describe the taste of iguana meat.
It was sweet and tender, not anything like any other meat that I had (DH and I joked that alligator meat tasted like chicken, and certainly not the case for iguana).
Our tour guide in Aruba once said that the iguana meat was healthy because iguanas were vegetarians.
I would assume that the vegetation on the Caribbean was so vastly different from ours that the meat of the animal would certainly tasted different too.
The bones were small and sharp, and looked more like fish bone (I believe I had the tail part) rather than mammals’.
When saw these little balls at the bottom of the soup and started chewing them.
I thought it was some kind of starch or herb, as it was very firm like a perfectly cooked whole ginko.
Turned out they were iguana eggs! Super interesting!
They did not taste like any of the fowl eggs, and it had no yolk or whites to speak off.
My dad loved it so much that we had the shop keeper scooped us more from their soup pot.
The soup was a light broth and very spicy, with some carrots and onions’’’’’’’’ in it.
The soup was extremely addictive and tasty, and tasted like a light chicken broth
Then, we had goat stew, called carni stoba, with funchi.
The goat stew was delicious and the goat was very tender.
The funchi was even better.
It was basically locals’ polenta, and best polenta I had ever had!
It was creamy both in texture (not gritty) and in flavor (probably had milk or cream in the mix).
No corn mill cardboard taste to it but just hint of corn flavor.
Our first out of country polenta experience was in Romania, and DH and I both did not like it as it was bland and had the corn mill cardboard taste.
If all polenta was prepared this way in the Dutch Antilles, I would have this every meal!
My parents loved it too and I told my parents about this being the best and they would likely not enjoy other polenta.
Incidentally, that same night during dinner at cruise ship, they were serving polenta.
I gave my parents a bite of it and they both shook their heads…..
Lastly, must try the kadushi, cactus soup.
It was cooked with meat and was very slimy.
It was very difficult to eat with the spoon as the spoonful of soup would slip away from the spoon before it hit the mouth.
The flavor of the soup reminded of this Shanghainese soup that my grandmother used to make at home, we called it “yellow fish soup” — which was made with shredded fish meat, eggs and vegetable similar to spinach.
I was really surprise the cactus+meat reminded me of a fish soup!
The quite enjoyed the slimy texture but my travel companions were passing on the soup.
The fun part was what the soup did to my stomach.
I wasn’t full when I had the soup, and after I had the bowl, it felt like my stomach was about to burst!
It felt like the slimy starchiness just expanded exponentially in my stomach.
After no more than an hour, I was back to being hungry again!
The cactus starch did not last.
We continued to enjoy the colors of the local markets with its abundance of fresh fruit, fish and meats on our way back to the cruise ship.