Last Updated on May 2, 2018 by Chef Mireille
Suriname Travel – Suriname Food Culture – Learn about the multicultural cuisine and culture of Suriname
Have you heard of Suriname? Do you know where it is?
Many people don’t, so you’re not alone. I have been uniquely cognizant of the existence of the only Dutch speaking country in South America from my earliest days. My grandfather was born in Suriname and I have a large extended family that still lives there. My fondest memories of these visiting relatives are the unique foods like Pom and Bakabana that they would cook for us, in gratitude for staying with us sometimes for weeks at a time. The whole family would head to Chinatown en masse to shop for ingredients like amsoy, sweet kecap manis and bitter sopropro (bitter melon). Every once in a while, we would hear a Chinese looking person speaking Dutch and we knew it was a fellow Surinamese.
Suriname is one of the most diverse countries in the world, especially considering its small size on the northeastern coast of South America. It may be geographically located in South America, but it is culturally Caribbean including its participation in CARICOM (organization of Caribbean states promoting trade and commerce). Walking through the capital of Paramaribo, it is not unusal to hear soca, calypso, opera and Bollywood music in Dutch, Behasa, Chinese and Hindi. The smells of Dim Sum, Satay, Curry and Bruine Bonen fill the air.
In Suriname, there are large populations of Dutch, Indonesian, Chinese, Indian, African and Brazilian descendantts. There is no better way to experience the diversity of this unique country that to experiment with the different cuisines. If you ask Surinamese what the national dish it, their answer will vary depending what community they come from. Indian will say Duck Curry, Africans will say Bruine Bonen and Indonesians will say Nasi Goreng. However, each of these dishes are uniquely Surinamese due to the influences of other nationalaities’ cooking methods and ingredients. For example, when making a Duck Curry, the duck is first roasted a la Peking Duck, prior to being curried. Tomato paste, commonly used in African cuisine, is also added to the curry. This makes for a multi-layered culturally rich curry you will not get anywhere else in the world.
Appetizers/Street Food can include anything from Dutch krokets filled with egg and potato to Dim Sum and Indonesian Bakabana (ripe battered fried plantain). Pom, a layered casserole of chicken and taro root, is popular on holidays and at special occasions. No matter what race, Pom is made in every household at Christmas. Standard meal accompaniments usually include sambal, pepper sauce and pickled cucumber salad. You may get curry and roti in a Chinese household and dim sum in an Indian household. They do not differentiate among each other. They are all Surinamese and whatever food made in the country comes from them as a community. Dim Sum in Suriname is not a Chinese meal, but a Surinamese meal.
You can go to Suriname to trek the Amazon, see the leatherback turtles at Galibi National Reserve and visit the Jewish settlement at Jodensavanne, but don’t forget to eat and appreciate the uniquely Surinamese versions of Chinese, Indian, Indonesian and African cuisine.