Funchi: Polenta the (Easier) Aruban Way

20 Jun

You may know that my dad is from Aruba, One Happy Island.

If you are not familiar with Aruba, it is part of the Netherlands Antilles, about 13 nautical miles off the coast of Venezuela (18 or so regular miles), south of the Caribbean hurricane zone, and notable for its absence of rainfall and its white sand beaches and crystalline waters. With sunshine guaranteed year-round, it is extremely popular with honeymooners and northern folks from wet places who want to know their vacation dollars won’t be wasted on a week in a monsoon.

It’s a gorgeous little place – and I mean little – Aruba is about 30 km (19 miles) long and about 8 km (5 miles) wide. You can drive around the island and dispatch with most of your touristic cultural obligations in about half a day, and return in good conscience to your beach towel for the duration of your stay.

Mind you, the natives, while welcoming, may make you wonder what your own educational system is doing wrong. Virtually everyone in Aruba speaks English well, in addition to Papiamento – the local language-, Dutch – which they study in school, and Spanish – which most people speak and understand tolerably well. Yeah, four languages per person is par for the course. Just putting it out there.

Pedro’s always made Aruban dishes here at home, and one of my favorite sides in the world is funchi – a corn meal mush that gourmands will recognize it as a close cousin of polenta. Lazy – I mean pragmatic – cooks like myself will recognize it as a lot less work than said continental cousin. Rather than spending a sweaty half hour or more over a steaming copper pot busting your biceps turning it with a wooden spoon, this takes about ten minutes and the results are very satisfactory.

Grilled in slabs…yum!

Then you can pile any number of savory dishes on the top – fish with onion and pepper sauce (mojo isleno) is one of the most popular. I love slabs of it grilled; it makes the inside creamier and the outside crunchier, like  surullitos or corn fritters, without the grease.

Since Pedro decided to abandon his crazy-ass diet for lunch on Father’s Day (and then promptly wrote me out of the food prep), I decided to make him some heritage food. You can check out the original VisitAruba recipe I adapted this from by clicking the link (and troll around the page to learn more about this tiny paradise). Be it known that Pedro provided critical advice for this, so while it is made by a second-generation Aruban (me), it was supervised by an real-live authentic native. And it was a terrific success — dear old Padushi started speaking Papiamento right away. Dushi! Masha bon, danki……

Topped with grilled salmon – not quite an Aruban traditional dish, but delicious just the same…Funchi is as adaptable as any Caribbean Islander

Funchi (Aruban Polenta)

1 ¼ Cups cold water

1 ½ Cups coarse/stone ground corn meal

½ tsp salt

1.5 Cups boiling water

1 Tbs olive oil (plus a little bit for greasing a mold or bowl to turn the funchi into)

In a heavy saucepan, mix cold water, corn meal, and salt. When relatively smooth, with no big lumps, stir in the boiling water and oil and bring to a rapid boil. Lower heat to medium low and continue to cook, stirring continuously, for another five minutes, or until the mixture is stiff and pulling away from the sides. Turn the funchi into a greased mold or bowl and cover with a plate. Turn it over onto the plate and allow to cool slightly before scooping out and serving. Or allow to cool completely, cut into one inch slices, brush with oil and grill until crisp on both sides.

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21 Responses to “Funchi: Polenta the (Easier) Aruban Way”

  1. kathryningrid January 20, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

    Okay, I’m one of the many who have been scared off from making polenta because of the labor-intensive process, so I *will* want to try this version! Love it.

  2. Eha January 15, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

    [warm laughter] One of my favourite sides or main with ‘something’. Make it about the same way withot the cold water/hot water scenario!! Shall try!! Languages ~ the smaller country one comes from, the more need for multilingiunism from an early childhood. Being born in Estonia in NE Europe, everyone spoke Estonian, Russian, German and oft Finnish – ‘the four local languages’ – these during the past decades have obviously had English added [when I was born, ‘English’ was a ‘trade language’ not really necessary for ‘elegance’ in speech’!!!!] . . . don’t think anyone just had the one language . . .

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy January 18, 2014 at 8:20 am #

      Interesting! Corn is actually a New World plant that didn’t exist in Europe or Asia until after Columbus did his “discovery” thing. So for us, polenta has roots in the very earliest native people!

  3. Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy January 15, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    Reblogged this on Hot, Cheap & Easy and commented:

    NOTE ON REBLOG: For some reason loads of people have been visiting the site, looking for this recipe. So it seemed like a good time to remind regular readers of these MUCH easier version of polenta. Bon apetit, dushi!

  4. Allison June 21, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

    This sounds fabulous! I may have to try it this weekend when I attempt to grill (again!).

  5. sybaritica June 21, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    I’ve only ever done Polenta once. I must try it again. It is so versatile, isn’t it?

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy June 21, 2012 at 10:08 am #

      I love it…great for piling things up on…try it with sauteed leafy greens!

      • sybaritica June 21, 2012 at 10:09 am #

        In about two months we will have plenty of those 🙂

  6. Conor Bofin June 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    My kind of recipe. Really simple and fantastic looking. Nice post.
    Best,
    Conor

  7. Karen June 20, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    I thought I would mention another language that you might hear while visiting but not spoken by the natives. English with a New England accent. I think half of the people I know go to Aruba to get out of the snow each and every winter.

  8. Mad Dog June 20, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    Amazing – I had no idea that Aruba was part of the Netherlands!
    Great recipe and sounds fantastic with Mojo Isleño 😉

  9. Ashley June 20, 2012 at 5:29 am #

    It seems like just as each country has a variation of fried dough, many countries have this kind of cornmeal mixture (even the Kenyans have Ugali). Delicious!

  10. Ashley June 20, 2012 at 5:28 am #

    Happy Father’s Day to Padushi!

    • Ricky March 10, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      My Grandmother on Aruba, Oma Mosa! always made funchi and fresh fish sometimes my dad caught … if there was funchi left next day , she would fry in oil … very nice and healthy

      • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy March 10, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

        Oh that brings back memories….Thanks for your visit and your comment! Masha danki…

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