Funchi: the polenta of the Caribbean – Italian Cuisine


A plate of recycling that has become tradition, to be fried and sprinkled with Gouda. Polenta is also eaten on the island of Aruba, and cooked like this

The first reaction for an Italian to the idea that even in the Caribbean they eat polenta is totally astonishing. Comparable only to that shown by the inhabitants of the island of Aruba, in the Caribbean, in discovering that corn flour, one of their typical ingredients, is consumed even so far.

The corn is actually native from Central America and it is up to us to become our "typical dish" only with the conquistadores in the sixteenth century. They have always eaten it and still serve it today as bread, as a side dish, as a breakfast with eggs and bacon or as "funchi fries“, Snack for a refreshing beer.

They use corn in different forms, worked with the nixtamalization process to make it digestible and nutritious, and used to make tortillas and arepas, or cornmeal. The funchi is prepared just like a polenta, vigorously mixed during cooking and then left to cool before being cut into sticks and fried. The funchi is widespread in all the Antilles and therefore the local culinary tradition has merged over the centuries with that of the many nations that have crossed these lands. That is why today in Aruba it is also eaten sprinkled with Gouda cheese, according to the Dutch tradition.

Criolla cuisine

The criolla cuisine of this slice of the Caribbean is decidedly unexpected: the Dutch influence is still very present and cheeses like Gouda are omnipresent. Aruba is still part of the Netherlands and therefore despite the climate and the distance from old Europe, the taste for sweet mustard, bitterballen, rookworst, frikadelle and other food from Northern Europe is surprising; they even drink fresh milk, and to the Equator it sounds at least strange. And so on the bread, or rather on the pan batì, the butter is spread here.

Ingredients

6 cups of cold water
1 ½ cups of long-cooked cornmeal
1 Teaspoon. salt
1 tablespoon of butter
Gouda, to taste
butter or oil for frying

Method

Pour the flour into the cold water with the salt and bring to the boil, stirring vigorously with a whisk. As the polenta coagulates and detaches from the edges of the pot, lower the heat and continue mixing with a wooden spoon until the polenta is cooked. It will take at least 40 minutes. When ready, add the butter.

Pour on a baking sheet to cool before cutting into sticks. The funchi is roasted in butter in a pan or fried in seed oil. At the end it is served with flaked Gouda, which melts on the steaming polenta.

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