For Cultural Tidbits this week, I will finally start telling you about my Curacao travel without a plan experience. First off? Traveling through their food. And the most unique culinary experience of all? Eating iguana in Curacao!
Eating iguana in Curacao is definitely within my Top 2 culinary adventures, only behind my adventure at the Essaouira fish market and eating fresh manta ray in Morocco. Not only was eating such a reptile was unique in itself, but the amazing friendly service and surreal surroundings of Jaanchie’s Restaurant added to the whole experience.
Jaanchie’s Restaurant, located in Westpunt, was the lunch stop of the 6 hour+ All West beach-hopping tour I booked with Irie Tours. I reserved directly by using the phone number on a brochure I picked up in Punda. I must emphasize that I called the night before and offered to go with a friend, and when they told me their price, I said that was too expensive and bargained down a good $20/person when I stated we “couldn’t afford” their standard rate. Key here? Never book a tour through a hotel, but rather pick up one of many brochures at the tourist kiosk right across the bridge in Punda (by the clock!) and call the agencies directly – and always bargain! ps – no, they did not pay me to talk about them. I just had such a great experience that I had to mention them!
Inside Jaanchie’s restaurant
Upon entering the restaurant, I loved the atmosphere. Open, full of bird houses by the sides, which in turn invites many birds to sing, but still stay away from your food then, the lively owner, Jaanchie, greets you with the biggest smile and best dishes of the house. He can speak like 5-6 languages (maybe more!?). What was so nice of him is that about 3 different languages were spoken by the 6-7 people on our tour, so he sat down besides the Latinas (Spanish), the Brazilian (Portuguese) and the Dutch girls to explain the run down of his menu and daily specials. And while the great atmosphere and hospitality surpassed expectations, the highlight, of course, was eating iguana!
Personable service by the owner himself
What I loved the most about Jaanchie, the owner, is that he explained that he understood eating iguana was not for everyone and many people would fear asking for a dish and then risk not liking it. Thus, he always gives a decent plate per the table so everyone gets to experience eating iguana, but enjoy a different dish for lunch. Great Caribbean hospitality right there!
The food: Seafood and iguana for me!
To be safe, I ordered the seafood mix, which included shrimp and I believe grouper as main entrees. The iguana however, arrived swiftly! I found it interesting that I liked eating iguana more than my actual dish. Iguana tastes like chicken, in my opinion! Maybe a few extra bones, but they simply made me feel like I was eating wings. Most of the table found it downright weird or simply didn’t like eating iguana, so I got to enjoy a good 3/4 of the plate. It was deliciously seasoned, with that characteristic Caribbean kick and full flavor. Needless to say, Jaanchie was quite happy with my appetite! :p