Keshi Yena from Curacao

In Season, Recipes, Summer
on August 1, 2010
Keshi Yena from Curacao

Bon Bini! That's welcome in Papiamento, the official language of Curacao, one of the Netherlands Antilles islands. Like Papiamento (a mixture of Spanish, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Arawack Indian and other languages), the architecture, people and food of Curacao exemplify a melting pot of cultures.

The island's Dutch and African influences are seen in the native dish called Keshi Yena, which literally means "stuffed cheese." Legend has it that the Dutch rulers of the island would throw away their hollowed out cheese rinds. The African slaves would take rinds, fill them with fish or meat, and boil them. Today the dish is made in ramekins lined with cheese (edam or gouda) and filled with a meat mixture. The most common is chicken. It's easy and tasty. Give it a try.

Curacao lies just miles north of Venezuela, and the Latin American influences are obvious. Fried plantains, plantain soup, curacao chicken, pumpkin pancakes (arepas) and salsa are abundant.

But no food is as ubiquitious as the fish caught right off Curacao's shores- grouper (mero), wahoo, red snapper and conch are fried to perfection and served alongside funchi (a form of polenta) and fried plantains. Tow-headed Dutch families eat side-by-side with dark-skinned islanders in a celebration of cultural diversity.

—By Jill Melton, Relish Editor-in-Chief