If you’ve ever had a Caribbean dish, then think of Haitian food as Caribbean with a kick.
While dishes vary by region, there are some staples that you can expect to find in almost any South Florida restaurant offering Haitian cuisine.
In honor of Haitian Heritage Month and the subsequent Caribbean-American Heritage Month, we decided to check out some favorite dishes — and a favorite condiment, pikliz — at Kasa Champet Restaurant and Lounge, 7920 Pines Blvd. So it’s not technically in Miami, but that’s part of the beauty of Haitian cuisine. Aficionados are willing to drive the distance for their favorite flavorful dishes like griyo (fried pork) with banan peze (twice-fried plantains), and seafood legume (stewed vegetables). Of course, few dishes remind Haitians of home like diri kolé ak pwa (rice and beans) also known as the national rice in Haiti.
Yes, it may look like something you’ve had in New Orleans or at your favorite Cuban restaurant. But one tasty bite, and you quickly realize that when it comes to Haiti’s creole-fused cuisine, it’s all about the seasoning and the art of the cooking.
Griyo or Griot
Griot (pronounced Gree-YO) are chunks of pork shoulder fried to a crisp after marinating in in sour orange juice and Scotch bonnet peppers. Other seasonings also include thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Cooking griot is an art form, and it’s usually served with banan peze.
Don’t call it a tostone. Sure it’s fried green plantain or “pressed” plantain. But in Haitian cuisine bannann paze (ban-NAN pay-ZAY) is often dipped into seasoning or just in salt and water after an initial frying and before re-frying it.
Diri kolé ak pwa wouj (Red Beans and Rice or National Rice)
Few dishes remind Haitians of home like diri kolé ak pwa (dee-REE-ko-LAY-act-pwa-WOOJ). The difference between this rice-and-beans recipe is the taste of the maggi (bouillon cubes), thyme, hot pepper and garlic clove that all work to provide a distinct, flavorful dish. The rice is long grain and pillowy, more like Indian-style Basmati rice.
These Haitian fritters may look like mozzarella or fish sticks but they’re actually made from malanga. Think of akra (Ak-KRA) as grated malanga seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic and fried to a crisp. You must have it with pikliz (see below).
No Haitian kitchen is complete without this condiment (pronounced pea-KLEEZ). It’s a spicy coleslaw of shredded cabbage, carrots, Scotch bonnet peppers, vinegar that is a staple on foods like griot or akra (malanga fritters). It basically makes everything it touches more delicious.