Caribbean Cooking

August 19 - Pineapple Curry and Other Recipes

As a reminder of the code I use for quick reference on the recipes

There is a nice little restaurant on the pier here called Karel's Beach Bar that introduced us to a fun meal. I would be doing the restaurant a disservice if I did not mention that the waiter who attended to us was great. He was very funny and engaging, and was able to read our personalities at the table very well to know who to joke with the most.

Anyway- Michele ordered the Pineapple Curry and when the dish came out - it was a pineapple on a plate... with the curry neatly tucked away inside. Of course the waiter had plenty of fun SpongeBob jokes ready to go, and had a lot of fun with us. Although the recipie I am listing here IS NOT the one from Karel's, we are going to go back next week when another of our friends join us here on the island. I wonder if they will divulge their recipie for me (I may have to promise not to post it). As an attempt to see how it worked out, by request attached is my Curry Recipe with the added Pineapple Flair.

Another tasty treat from the island is the Fried Plantains. Instead of making a plate of nachos (because chips go stale in the island air pretty quickly) plantains are a good snack or side dish on a meal.

We have given up seafood since our time here on the island, not because of any health reasons (although Ciguatera Fish Poisoning is common in island communities). According to eMedicine Health, "Ciguatera toxin is harmless to fish, but poisonous to humans. The toxin is odorless and tasteless, and cooking does not destroy the toxin. Eating ciguatera-contaminated tropical or subtropical fish is the main way that humans are exposed to the toxin. The toxin activates voltage-dependent sodium channels causing symptoms in human (and other mammals) gastrointestinal, cardiac, and nerve tissues. There are about 50,000 reported poisonings worldwide per year, but rarely cause death; children have more severe symptoms".

We have stopped eating seafood because as diver, we do not want to eat the things that we want to see underwater. Lionfish are our exception - eat all of those that you can get your hands on... I think of it as I do not want to eat what I have formed an emotional bond with. I have no bond to cows, chickens and pigs.... or Lionfish.

Here is what I will be making today. These are great carry away food items and super tasty:

Anyway - time for me to go make lunch.... enjoy
July 21 - Grocery Shopping
As it was time to make my way to the store for grocery shopping I thought I would take my phone and record some sample pricing as I went. First there is a mindset needed before heading into the grocery stores here on Bonaire: Expect the store will not have what you want but you will likely find what you need. 

That being said, there are 3 main grocery store locations near our part of the island, and they are all on the same street; in fact 2 of them share a parking lot. The reason for this is really quite simple in that each store carries a different selection of items. Certainly there is crossover between items but in general if you cannot find what you are looking for at one of them, then try the others. Also they all accept Maestro, Visa, and Mastercard logo cards as well as U.S. dollars. Oh yeah -- and tax is already factored into the pricing as marked on the shelf.

In addition there are a number of smaller "Markets" which are usually not for full grocery trips, but rather drop in and buy a beer or a few small items. Back home we called them "Corner Liqueur Stores". My focus for this post is for actual groceries to make food and for family meal shopping.

I have been starting with Supermarket Warehouse Bonaire. This seems to be the common person grocery store where many of the day-to-day people frequent. Compared to the prices back home in St. Louis Missouri (United States) they are reasonable, but like anywhere - caution must be used.

$16.33 for Cereal
If someone grabs an item off the shelf and does not look at pricing they may get quite a surprise at the register. Granted the cereal shown to the right has 2 bags in it, it was still surprising to me. There is also a difference in where a product comes from.

This is an island in the Dutch Antilles, so there is a lean toward Dutch products. It is also close to Venezuela so when the ships come in from there they are carrying
cargo that leans toward a Venezuelan market. Just paying attention will save a lot of confusion.  Even common products that look the same in labeling and branding have a price variation based on where they ship in from. Venezuela is closer, so of course there is better pricing on those products.

Much of the mentality is to not expect the same brands as you might have back home. Rather than go for the Peter Pan Peanut Butter for $10.50 per jar, going for the Jumbo Pindakass at $2.52 per jar might save a little money if that is something that matters to you.

Many of the items in each store are similarly priced, as they stay competitive with each other. Of course there is a bit of variation as each store does control their own pricing.

Meat can get pricey here on the island. The average number of cows here is 0.

We have driven all over this island, and the animals we see out grazing are wild donkey, flamingo, goats, iguana, people have chickens wandering around, we have seen 1 horse and 0 cows or pigs. Considering that as we walk the grocery stores with an interest in meat it is not surprising to find that it too is imported. Again being wary will pay off. It is possible to get meat here if you are reasonable and watch what you grab. Do you want that big pack of ground beef really? For my friends that do not do kilograms to pounds conversion: 1kg is 2.2lbs. This means that the ground beef shown here at $12.43/kg breaks out to roughly $6.22 per pound.

Milk $3.95/half gallon
Likewise, that gallon of milk people will sometimes buy comes in at a higher price as well.

Many of the staples for actual cooking, such as flour, corn meal, olive oil, and other base materials are very reasonable. What surprised me was to cost of canned vegetables. Since produce will go bad very quickly in the island heat, shelf stable products tend to do better for us. A can of black beans runs $1.59, and a can of tomatoes will run $1.15. This is not oppressive, just higher than back home.

One of the recipes that has become a favorite of ours is a Black Bean Chorizo soup. For the cost of a Chorizo ($4.25) a can of beans ($1.59), a can of tomatoes ($1.15), $1 for green onions, some cumin ($1.20 if you have to buy new), and a small jalapeno or habenero (which we got a small bag of for $1.15) it is a very tasty meal. Make some Arepa to go with it using cornmeal ($1.89 for a full bag), but instead of just using water, use Chicken Stock ($2 for the big container of powdered mix). This version has served 3 well, and could go to 4 is there is a light eater in the group for a total of $14.23. Simply double up the count to serve more.

As I said earlier, if you cannot find what you are looking for at one of the stores, then head to another. The Famoso which shares a parking lot with Warehouse is more of a catch all store and kind of like a small mom and pop store. They have a lot of non-food related items as well, truly being a catch all- but will sometimes surprise and have the thing the other two stores did not.

Then when you are ready for cheese, do not hesitate - run directly to Van Den Tweel.

I am not kidding. Did I mention that this is the Dutch Antilles?

This is a large grocery store that is very well lit, nicely air conditioned, and easily the largest grocery store on the island. Even with as big as they are they still do not have everything. Also, the pricing is a little bit more here, but often it is worth it to make the trip.

Come prepared if you do not speak Dutch, because that is the way most products are labeled.  In addition to the Cheese Counter (which is capitalized for the respect if deserves) there is also a nicer produce section, and area for freshly squeezed drinks and even a Smoothie Bar near the front of the store.

In all I have found the prices to be on par with the Midwest of the United States- as long as you pay attention and are willing to try a brand that you are unfamiliar with.
Cooking Island Style Finally :) 

SO I finally started cooking some of the recipes from the island. My first foray into the world of legitimate cooking here was about to begin. For sanity purposes I will post the recipes with some notes. I was lucky enough to have a conversation with a local food-truck owner who exchanged some cooking tips and ideas with me. I stopped to talk to him anyway since he was selling Lionfish Filet sandwiches. Buying those was not only a tasty stop for lunch but helps support eradication of the invasive species.

We worked through the local dive shop here "Dive Friends" to arrange to get our very own lion-fish fillets. Normally I would hunt them myself but as Bonaire is a huge marine park, only the full time residents are allowed to be licensed for them. Anyway ... on to the recipes. 

Vegetarian Option
I use a code for quick reference for those who want some food awareness flexibility. A lot of people here just eat whatever, but I have many friends and family that are vegetarians. Some folks just want the options to go vegetarian with their food. I am not one of those people. I like meat so look for the icons to guide your selection and eat what works for you. 




Night 1...
After getting our truck we will be using for the duration of our stay we headed to the house. Looking at the meager little stove showed that cooking might prove to be a bit of a challenge. It is an old 4 burner that runs off the propane tanks located outside, with a glass top. Little did I know this was an evil and foul device that wanted to kill me.

Hannah and I headed off to the grocery store while Michele sat back and got some much deserved rest after our challenging trip to get here. First stop was Van Den Tweel Supermarket. They were out of a lot of things I was specifically looking for. However if I wanted a huge wheel of cheese- this is the place. We headed just across the street to Warehouse Supermarket and although not as big, they had some more of the items we were looking for- but still I didn't have a full item list for anything.

Our goal was some basic ingredients, some quick lunch items and a reasonable diner for two nights maybe. Before I left home I put together a small cookbook of recipes that I would be able to find on the island.
When the nice lady from Sun Rentals was in the house I could not help but check and see how I did on the recipe book. She glance through it and with a few conversation and approvals I knew I had a good list to start with.

Not knowing what was in the grocery stores at the time I took the booklet with me as an ingredient guide and began hunting the isles. I have my intent on a Caribbean Mango and Avocado Salad for one night and maybe the bean soup with chorizo for another night.

We are planning to eat what we preach on this trip so Lion Fish is on the menu and substituting in for every single dish that calls for seafood. At the very least we wanted to get to the fish market where local fishermen come in and sell off their catches of the day. Alas --- we came up short here too... we were too late. Spaghetti for diner it was - something quick and easy so we could discuss and plan out tomorrow for our next day of diving.

I figured out how to turn on the propane, and I lit the stove. Grabbed my pot of water for the glass top and grabbed a Polar to sip on while I waited for boiling water. After a few sips, I set my beer down and turned to grab something off the counter when BOOM and glass pieces flying through the house... an explosion of glass rocked the house.  The noise was akin to a small caliber pistol going off in the house- right next to me.

Who knew --- glass top cooking surface--- not so much I suppose.

We cleaned up the glass, left a message for the house rental people and picked a few pieces of embedded glass out of my hand, top of my foot and the side of my face. Once it was cleaned up - I put the pot back on the burner directly now (sans glass top as it is obliterated) -- and we finished the evening with an old standby classic simple pasta.


  1. I'm happy that your injuries aren't worse and that Hannah wasn't in the kitchen! Did you just heat it up too fast or any idea why that happened?

    1. Not really sure what happened. The current thinking s that the glass got too hot and couldn't take it. This is not one of the newer high temp stove tops so maybe age? Dunno.

  2. You'll never starve with a big wheel of cheese.

    Glad to hear everyone's ok. Now that you're all safe, it can go on your list of interesting stories.