Surinamese cuisine features dishes from different parts of the world, adapted to the Surinamese environment and products. In Suriname, there is a wide variety of fruit and vegetables that cannot be found in the Netherlands because they cannot be kept for long, or are sometimes available at high prices in tokos (Indonesian shops).
Special dishes, which are not found on restaurant menus, are prepared at home for religious or family celebrations. Peprewatra, a soup of the Surinamese natives, is prepared with the squeezed and boiled juice of bitter cassava and can be filled with pepper, fish or bus’meti (bushmeat), meat from game sourced in the jungle. The soup is eaten from a gourd or bowl with cassava bread, using your fingers. On Indigenous Peoples Day, celebrated on 9 August, you can find peprewatra at the stalls in the Palm Garden. It’s a unique opportunity! Kasiri is cassava beer which is prepared in discarded corials (dug-out canoes) at indigenous festivals in the villages and drunk in huge quantities!
In colonial times and until 1950, there were no refrigerators and freezers. Fish and meat were salted and dried, vegetables were pickled in salt or fermented, and when there was an abundance of fruit in season, it was made into syrup, chutney or pickles. Salt meat, sauerkraut, brown beans and bakkeljauw (salt fish) are still widely eaten in Suriname. These dishes are popular on the bank holiday Keti Koti (1 July), which commemorates the abolition of slavery in 1863. Gron-nyan (earth fruits) such as cassava, sweet potato and napi and boiled or fried banana are also popular.
Eating dishes from colonial times commemorates the ancestors who worked on the plantations during the slave era. They were given a ration of salt fish, salt meat and dry beans; they also planted their own bananas and groundnuts, hunted and fished. Well-known dishes include her’ heri, gron nyan with salt fish and a boiled egg, and BB with R (brown beans with rice). The brown beans are prepared with salt meat, chicken and adyuma pepper. Peanut soup is also a traditional creole dish. Ginger beer is made for family celebrations. These specialities do appear on the menu at Surinamese restaurants. Other creole dishes include pea soup with lots of chicken, salt pork, pork feet, pepper, and sauerkraut. Moksi alesi is rice with different kinds of pesi (dried beans), salt meat and chicken. In Suriname, the bones are not removed from meat and fish, so be careful when eating! Children used to be brought up with porridge made of banana flour or corn flour (maize flour) and fresh milk.
Simple javanese restaurants are called warungs. In Paramaribo, you will find them in Blauwgrond and also along Indira Gandhiweg near Lelydorp. Javanese dishes used to be served on paloeloe and banana leaves. Popular treats include Javanese fried rice and noodles, telo with trie (fried cassava with small peppered salty fish), and petjil (various blanched vegetables, such as dagu leaf, cabbage and bean sprouts) with peanut sauce. Saoto soup is chicken broth with lemongrass, Javanese spices, pieces of chicken, vegetables, bean sprouts and a boiled egg. Saoto is served with white rice, pepper and soy sauce; these are added to the soup to taste.
Satay with soy sauce or peanut sambal is sold in all warungs.
The Javanese Sunday market in Paramaribo North sells these dishes and small snacks, which are prepared with maize flour, cassava flour and sticky rice. Important ingredients in Javanese cuisine include trassie (shrimp paste), different kinds of freshly made sambal, soy sauce, fresh pepper and spice mixtures that are created, mashed and fried by the cook. Indonesian restaurants serve ‘rijsttafel’ (rice table), which is not on the menu at warungs.
Cassava chips, banana chips and coated peanuts are made by small companies and can be bought in supermarkets.
A well-known Javanese drink is dawet, a sweet pink-coloured drink made of lemongrass, coconut milk, syrup and corn starch balls.
In Javanese cuisine, food is spicy and sweet and salty.
Roti shops sell roti, a flat pancake with potato (roti alubharie) or ground chickpeas (roti dalbharie). The standard roti is stuffed with chopped chicken in massala, long beans and boiled potato. At weekends, duck or mutton may be used. Massala is an Indian curry mix that can be bought in different varieties on the upper floor of the Central Market.
Hindu stalls in the market also sell supplies for Hindu festivals, incense, dyas (pottery oil lamps) and statues of gods. Vegetarian food is eaten on Hindu holidays. At the Holi festival, Holika (a witch) is symbolically burnt on a pyre on the temple grounds, and after a cultural show with dance, poetry and music, a vegetarian meal is ready for all attendees. This consists of roti, dal (a dish made of yellow split peas), rice, long beans, pumpkin, potato, and chutney. Nowadays, it is no longer served on lotus leaves, but is still eaten with the hands. The next day is the Phagwa festival, families visit each other and shower each other with perfume and colouring. This festival is also celebrated in the Palm Garden by all Surinamese together.
Samosas (triangular deep-fried vegetarian patties) are Hindu snacks often sold in schools. Bara looks like a doughnut, but is not sweet. The deep-fried dough is mixed with tiny pieces of vegetables. Spicy chutney, made of potato, manja long birambi, pomme citere, etc., is sandwiched between 2 baras. Home-made chutneys are available in supermarkets.
Dishes believed to have been brought to Suriname by Portuguese Jews are pom and pasty. Pom is an oven dish prepared with grated pomtayer, a huge moist and fibrous tuber, sold ready-to-use in the freezer in the Netherlands. The filling consists of chicken, salt meat or, for vegetarians, tofu, and a sour element. The flavour is sweet and sour and the quality of pomtayer is very important. Pasty is an oven dish made of puff pastry filled with peas, carrots, pieces of chicken and hard-boiled egg. They are time-consuming dishes that cannot be prepared quickly in a restaurant. They are available on holidays and to order.
Chicken and fish are widely eaten in Suriname. For religious reasons, Hindus do not eat beef and Muslims do not eat pork. At parties, therefore, chicken is usually prepared. In Javanese and Chinese cuisine, all types of meat are used, usually marinated (pickled) with soy sauce, garlic, pepper and spices.
There are also various types of Chinese restaurants. Simple restaurants offer Chinese nasi, noodles or chow mein with chicken or moksi meti (different kinds of meat, such as chicken and pork) or rice chicken with stewed vegetables and a few more dishes. These are takeaways, serving food on Formica tables under the light from fluorescent tubes. Big Chinese restaurants have dozens of dishes on the menu and you eat at tables with tablecloths and often a rotating tray on which the different dishes are displayed.
Brazilian restaurants can be found in Paramaribo North, known as little Belém, where Brazilians live and where gold prospectors occasionally holiday for a week. Brazilian supermarkets sell everything you need for searching for gold in the forest, from machinery and tools to hammocks and Brazilian foodstuffs.
SPECIAL COOKING COURSES
During your stay in Suriname, Does Travel & Cadushi Tours offer various cooking courses:
- All dishes from the creole kitchen
- All dishes from the hindu cuisine
- Aall dishes from Javanese cuisine
- All dishes from the Chinese cuisine
All information on the cooking courses can be provided on request.
You can also learn to prepare various drinks such as ginger bee, tamarind syrup and