If there is anything in the world I love more than my family, it’s food. As a Haitian American, food has always been an integral part of my daily life. In America, we are exposed to hundreds of different cuisines, from Italian to Ethiopian food, we have it all. But I always find myself going back to Haitian food. Many people are unaware of Haiti and the rich culture that floods the small island. When people think of Caribbean food they automatically think of Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban food. But nothing can compare to the taste and quality of Haitian food.
When I was younger I would watch my mother cook and wonder how she made everything taste good. But one of the secrets to good Haitian cooking is the meticulous preparation of their food. For other’s it only takes a few hours to cook a meal, but Haitians can take several days to prepare just one dish. There is just no other food like it.
But in order to truly understand Haitian food in all it’s glory, I asked several Haitian Americans what they thought about their favorite Haitian dishes.
Legume is a Haitian dish composed of mixed vegetables, meat or seafood and served with rice. When I was younger I hated legume, but now it’s actually become a favorite of mine. But it’s best enjoyed with crab.
“Brown rice, legume with crab and a tall glass of water will make you feel like a Haitian Prince.” – Kenny
“The mixture of the vegetables makes it very healthy. It’s just full of so many nutrients.” – Yasmine
2. Diri Djon Djon (Black Rice)
It’s not a real Haitian party unless black rice is served. I love brown rice, but this comes to a close second. This recipe calls for black mushrooms which are grown in the northern part of Haiti. They are considered a delicacy. They can be cooked with shrimp and cashews as well.
“Haitian food just has so much flavor, taste, and soul.” – Ansy
3. Lambi (Conch)
Personally, I haven’t eaten this many times in my life, but when I did it was easily one of the best things I’ve ever had. Conch is not only difficult to acquire but also requires a long cooking time. It’s a considered a delicacy.
“You know what makes Haitian food the best? It’s the seasoning. No one can season food better than Haitians.” – Anonymous
4. Makawoni au Graten (Baked Mac and Cheese)
It’s a popular dish you’ll find in any Haitian household or party. Haitians love carbs and it’s not a meal if you don’t have macaroni next to your rice. I love macaroni and cheese, so this is obviously one of my favorite dishes. Just a side note: always make more than one plate of this when coming to a party.
“Haitian food is very flavorful and hearty. It just connects me to my Haitian background.” – Calvin
5. Bannann Peze, Griot/Griyo and Pikliz (fried and pressed plantains, fried pork and spicy cabbage)
It is one of most popular dishes in Haitian culture. Griot and Plantains are a wonderful combination. The pikliz on top adds extra spice to your meal. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve craved griot. If possible, I’d eat this on a weekly basis.
“The secret to Haitian cooking? Epis (seasoning).” – Charlene
“Before you eat, make sure your food was made by an angry Haitian woman. The angrier the woman, the better the food tastes. Face it, all Haitian food tastes like a revolution.” – Creunis
6. Soup Joumou (Pumpkin Soup)
Pumpkin soup is commonly eaten on January first, which is the New Year for many Americans, but to Haitians, it is our Independence day. It’s filled with pumpkin, meat, potatoes, noodles and an array of vegetables. We eat it on independence day because Haitian slaves were not allowed to have this soup as it was a favorite of the French slave masters. It’s my favorite dish to eat during the colder months because all the spices warm you up. It taste’s even better with a side of bread.
“It is the first Haitian dish I ever tried. It’s just so rich, there’s nothing like it.” – Jessica
7. Sos Pwa (Bean Puree):
One of the most popular dishes is sos pwa which is a bean puree. It can be made with any type of beans and it usually served with diri blan (white rice) and a type of meat. My favorite is sos pwa france, which is cooked with green peas. It is a meal I request my mom cook for me way too often.
“It’s delicious AND nutritious.” – Marjoline
Now one of the things about Haitian cuisine isn’t just how unique it is, but the way it brings family together. If you don’t believe me, bring one of these dishes to your family event and I guarantee that you’ll become the new family favorite.