I have been incredibly fortunate this Autumn to have been on two press trips to the Caribbean thanks to Aruba Tourism and Celebrity Cruises UK. I’m likely going to spend much of this cold, dark Shetland winter reliving the adventures I had there through a series of blog posts. I can still imagine the warmth of the sun on my skin and the feel of the warm sand between my toes while sifting through the hundreds of photographs I took.
Both press trips took me to Aruba, a tiny island just twenty miles north of Venezuela, one of the four countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands along with the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. That island will always hold a special place in my heart as it gave me my first taste of Paradise, and that’s where I learned about pan bati.
The words ‘pan bati’ literally translate as ‘smashed’ or ‘beaten’ bread because you beat the batter well. You then cook it like you do pancakes. The batter is prepared with plain flour and cornmeal with baking powder as the raising agent. It is seasoned with a little salt and some sugar, to taste. Unlike pancakes, there is no fat or egg added.
You’ll find many variations of the bread on the island, with each establishment (and home cook) giving it their own twist, but one thing’s for certain: it tastes fantastic. Think of it as a cornbread-like pancake which goes well with all manner of soups and stews (and a Balashi Chill beer!).
I made a batch of pan bati for my family recently, and my husband said it reminded him of a flatbread he’d tasted once in Abu Dhabi – it’s now his new favourite flatbread, so I expect I’ll be making it regularly from now on! The kids even requested the leftovers in their packed school lunchboxes!
Aruba boasts a wide range of restaurants and eateries, but one of my favourites is The West Deck, just a fifteen-minute walk from the cruise ship terminal. Take a right, browse through the shopping district and keep going straight until you cross over the bridge with the Anne Frank statue to your right. Make sure to watch out for the park filled with iguanas!
The West Deck, pictured below, features a wide range of authentic Aruban cuisine from coconut shrimp to conch fritters, to the stewed meat and cheese covered keeshi yena and the Aruban-brewed Balashi beers. It’s all very affordable too, and with its open-air deck plan with views over the Caribbean and its light cooling breeze off the sea, it’s a great venue for lunch where you can sip your beer and watch the pelicans dive for their dinner. You can also order a rather delicious Caribbean bread basket which features pan bati, among other breads.
You might also like my other blog posts about the area: Vist the Flamingo Beach at Renaissance Aruba and Frankie’s Abaco Avocado & Rum Cocktail. There are plenty more blog posts planned too – I’m going to be recreating the delicious keeshi yena using local lamb soon, and there will be a recipe post featuring the delicious deep-fried pastries popular with locals: pastechi. Oh, and I’m also compiling a Foodie’s Guide to Aruba. Watch this space!
Have you ever visited Aruba? Where did you eat when you were there? Do you have any special memories of the place? Let me know in the comments!
Aruban Pan Bati Recipe
- Stir the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and skimmed milk powder together in a large bowl and add the water.
- Beat well, for about 15 minutes, until the batter is very smooth and of a thick, pancake mixture-like consistency. Stir in the salt and the sugar.
- Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium high heat and spoon out two heaped tablespoons worth of batter onto the pan. Cook until browned on both sides, like pancakes.
- Set aside to cool. Serve with butter.
With huge thanks to Aruba Tourism and Celebrity Cruises UK for the opportunities to visit this beautiful #OneHappyIsland paradise. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.