Aruba is very close to Venezuela. In the past before Venezuela’s current economic problems, my cousins would fly to Caracas just for the day to go shopping. As such, there is a lot of South American influence on our cuisine. That’s where we get our Pastechi and Empana from. The difference is that empana are made with a cornmeal crust and pastechi is made with a plain short crusty pastry shell. However, the fillings are very different in our Aruba version. Aruba is one of the most diverse islands due to our Dutch history. Any Dutch colonized country has Indonesian influences as they were also colonized by the Dutch. Our pastechi fillings represent the cultural diversity on the island with influences from Africa, Indonesia and the Netherlands. Try our Pastechi – Aruba Style Empanadas and you will fall in love with our cuisine. Ok I am a little biased as my Mom is from Aruba so for me any Aruban cuisine is comfort food to me.
March 18 we celebrate Aruba Day. There are several islands that make up the Netherland Antilles, but Aruba is the only one that is autonomous, which was achieved in 1986. This was a long time in coming in that a petition was presented back in 1947 with over 2000 signatures requesting autonomy and it took 40 years for Arubans to achieve. On Aruba Day, we celebrate our autonomy, the origins of our own flag and National Anthem, Aruba Dushi Tera, which means Aruba Sweet Land in our native language of papiamento. On this day, there are lots of cultural festivities throughout the island. At all of the events, there are lots of great foods sold like Keri Keri (Minced Shark), Panlevi (Sweet Cookie), Cocada (Coconut Fudge), Keshi Yena (Stuffed Cheese), Cabrito Stoba (Goat Stew) and Pastechi.
True to our multi cultural population, it can be served with a variety of condiments from mustard to sambal olek (Indonesian chili paste). Here I served it with ketchup, mustard and chili paste.