The ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao have a lot more in common than just their location in the far south of the Caribbean, off the coast of Venezuela. As part of the Netherlands Antilles, they all have dry desert atmospheres and a strong Dutch influence. When you visit, you’ll notice right off the bat a proliferation of goats, both feral and domestic, grazing among the local produce, so it’s not surprising that you’ll also find these animals, locally called cabrito, on menus across the ABC islands.
The heart and soul of local food in this region is a rich stew called cabrito stoba that offers the perfect introduction to the ABC islands’ unique mixture of flavors. It’s a hearty, meaty, stick-to-your-ribs sort of dish made from goat meat, simmered low and slow until it falls off the bone and melts in your mouth.
The diverse populations of the ABC islands includes elements from the Netherlands, South America, the West Indies, China, and India, which means there’s no shortage of big flavors and exotic spices in the regional cuisine. Cabrito stoba, and the many other variations made with beef, shrimp, or papaya, is packed with garlic, onions, potatoes, peppers (and many other local produce) and hits of fiery Madame Janette pepper, then spiked with nutmeg and annatto.
Throughout the ABC islands, adventurous eaters looking for a plate of stoba can get it at lunch counters called “snacks” where you’ll find everything from frekedel (curry and fried fish balls) to BBQ ribs and pastechi, a local-style empanada filled with cheese or meat. The stews are served alongside dense slabs of funchi, another local staple made from corn meal, similar to polenta.
But cabrito stoba isn’t just a lunch counter treat. In cosmopolitan Aruba, you can even find these local dishes in a number of restaurants. One popular spot with a casual sit-down atmosphere is Gasparito, in Noord, which specializes in Aruban dishes and doubles as a gallery for local artists. Another hot spot for local dishes can be found in the capital, Oranjestad. Gostoso Restaurante is just a 15-minute walk from the Seaport Village Marina, where it serves a blend of Aruban and Portuguese cuisine, including a variety of local stews and seafood.