Last week I tried Surinamese cuisine for the first time. I had already eaten take-away surinaamse broodjes for lunch (and learned about the Dutch colonial history in Suriname in the process), but this time we went to a proper Surinamese restaurant.
The food was unsual but tasty. It felt like a cross between Caribbean, Indian, and Indonesian food. Which makes sense, because while Suriname is geographically Caribbean, culturally it is a true melting pot – the population of indigenous Amerindians was complemented by immigrants from India, Java (Indonesia), China, the Netherlands, and West Africa (creole descendants of the slave trade).
So Surinamese food ends up like a mix of all of the above. My dish (“Roti Chicken Curry”) came with Indian-style roti bread, but the chicken that accompanied it reminded me more of food I’d eaten in London’s Carribean communities. And the pindasoep (peanut soup) that I had as an appetizer made me think of the various ground-nut sauces I’ve eaten in Africa.
Meanwhile, the dish my partner ordered looked very much like the Indonesian food we had eaten a few days before – mixed rice (also called nasi rames as in Indonesian), grilled meat on skewers seasoned with a sweet soy sauce, and prawn crackers. It seems that Surinamese food, like the country, has a mixed identity, and it’s a good mix.