Among these European dishes and foods that were brought to
Suriname, most came from the United
Kingdom and the Netherlands, although the later
importation of slaves from Africa gave the region a significant
African flavor. The country also gained a great Caribbean influence (although not
sitting directly on the Caribbean), as the British controlled much of the Caribbean
as well as Suriname so foods and people were often exchanged between the two regions.
After slavery was outlawed the British encouraged workers from India
to settle the lands and today there is a large Indian minority, who maintains a
diet much more similar to that of India than to the rest of
South America or the Caribbean. The Indonesians,
Chinese, and other groups who have immigrated to the region
have also substantially altered the diet or added to it in the form of new foods
and cooking styles.
Due to the immigration of various people and the small indigenous population, the
diet in Suriname today reflects that of India,
the Caribbean, and other foreign lands more than it reflects the historic diet.
There are definite influences and staples from the region that remain popular, but
the foods in Suriname are vastly different from that of much of
South America and this is primarily due to their history and large immigration
numbers in the past.
While the dishes imported to Suriname by the immigrants
are important, what may be even more important is that these people also brought
with them foods from their homelands in order to prepare these dishes. Although
hundreds of plants and animals were introduced to the region by these foreigners,
a few of the most important were wheat, rice, pigs, chicken, and cattle. Others
were also introduced and are now common, although they differ in terms of popularity
and in terms of who eats them. For example the ethnic Indian population grows and
heavily consumes many spices such as black pepper, cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon,
while other ethnic groups rarely use these foods. Among the many foods introduced
to the region from outside the Americas are onions, cilantro, garlic, lemons, limes,
broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, olives, grapes, bananas, apples, and oranges
In the late 1800s and continuing to today, the food in Suriname
has changed in a number of ways, but most importantly in terms of production, transportation,
and availability. Due to advances in technology, better transportation and storage
techniques have allowed for the importation (and exportation) of foreign foods and
better preservation methods have increased the shelf life of foods as the people
of Suriname now have access to foods that are not in season. Despite the technological
changes, the people have not truly altered what they eat so much as they have changed
how they eat as fast food and street side vendors are now common in many neighborhoods.
When & Where to Eat
Most people in Suriname begin the day with breakfast, but
this can be as simple as a cup of coffee or more filling as breads, cheeses, cereals,
and yogurt are all common breakfast foods. In the morning many people also take
a coffee break, then lunch usually takes place at about noon to about 1:30 pm. Lunch
varies greatly in what is eaten and can include sandwiches, soups, salads, Indian
foods, and any number of other foods. The afternoon is again broken up by many people
with tea, especially if working. After the work day many people eat dinner at home
sometime between 5:30 and 7:00 pm; dinner tends to be the largest meal of the day
in Suriname. This meal usually consists of a meat, vegetables or beans, and a starch,
most commonly potatoes, rice, or cassava. However, for the ethnic Indian population
curries, masalas, and other Indian foods are more common.
Beans: usually served as a side or mixed with rice
Cassava: a common food found in dishes or used as a side dish or
Rice: often served as a side or mixed with beans
Roti: a thin Indian bread that is not leavened; similar
Sweet Potatoes: the most common type of potato found in Guyana
and used extensively
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Moksi-alesi: meat or seafood mixed with rice and vegetables
If you're lucky enough to be invited to a local's home in
Suriname, be sure to bring a gift like wine, chocolates, or a cake. Dress
nicely if you're meeting locals in their home or are meeting business acquaintances.
If you are simply eating at a restaurant with friends the dress is a bit more casual,
but should still be nice clothing.
When meeting locals for a meal be sure to arrive about 15 minutes late, although
for business meals you may want to get there on time or just a few minutes late.
As you begin socializing avoid sensitive subjects like religion, politics, money,
and even business; if you are meeting local business associates let them be the
first to bring up the subject of business.
When you are directed to the table, let your host seat you as they may have a place
for you and stand beside your chair until everyone else sits. In a restaurant you
may be seated at the same table as other people; politely ignore them, although
some people may engage you in conversation if they realize you're foreign.
Dinner may begin with a drink and a toast. The meal itself should begin as the drink,
on your host's indication. Before eating or drinking, place your napkin in your
lap, keep your hands above the table by resting your wrists on the table, and never
place your elbows on the table. Eating is done in the continental style, meaning
the knife should remain in your right hand and the fork in your left; get used to
this style as everything but bread and sandwiches are eaten with utensils, including
fruits among others. The bread should be placed on your plate or on the table itself
as bread plates are rare. You should try everything offered to you and if you enjoy
something compliment the host and you will be quickly offered more; if you are offered
additional food, initially turn it down then accept it after your host insists.
When you're done eating place your fork and knife together with the tines down,
handles pointing to the right, and facing to about the 10:00 position. Once everyone
is done eating you may be offered dessert or a drink, like coffee, as the conversation
will likely continue.
If you're eating at a restaurant, the host, or you if with other foreigners,
should call the server over by making eye contact; if you need the bill you must
specifically ask for it. The host is expected to pay for everyone present, but guests
should offer to assist, something that will likely be turned down. If you're
the host, look for a service charge on the bill, which is generally included in
the amount of 10-15%; no additional tip is required or expected. If no service charge
is included a tip is not expected, but you may tip at your discretion.
Suriname has all the world's most popular non-alcoholic
drinks, such as tea, coffee, soft drinks, and juices. These also tend to be the
favorite drinks in the country as tea and coffee are commonly drunk throughout the
day and juices are common, especially with breakfast. Perhaps the most authentic
local drink is mauby, which is made from the bark of a local tree then
sweetened, boiled, and strained.
Suriname isn't known for producing great alcoholic
beverages so much of what is available is imported, including internationally popular
beers, liquors, and wines, most particularly South American
wines. However, there are local drinks, including the local rums: "Borgoe"
and "Black Cat." The most popular local beer is "Parbo-beer."
Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in Suriname,
but check with locals for any particular regional differences. Also, many people
may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water as it will most certainly be
different from what your system is used to.