Discover Haiti with your taste buds
Haitian cuisine is the result of a unique mixture of cooking traditions of Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Lunching and snacking on the go
It is easy to enjoy the many flavors of Haiti's cuisine through the multiple restaurants and street food vendors who cook typical Haitian dishes and snacks. If you only want a quick bite, you can get twice-fried plantains with “pikliz”. The “pikliz” is a hot and spicy shredded cabbage pickle with carrots, hot peppers and other condiments. Pork “griot” (pronounced gree-oh) or other fried meats can also be bought to accompany your fried plantains. Almost everywhere you go, you will find an assortment of fried foods. Fried breadfruit, “malanga” fritters and other patties can be enjoyed anytime and on a modest budget. There is a wide variety of Haitian patties to savor with a diverse choice of stuffing. Fried patties come with all kinds of meats inside, some contain eggs and others smoked fish. Baked patties can be stuffed with ground beef, chicken, salted fish or vegetables.
Since a meal is not complete without a drink, street vendors carry all sorts of cold beverages such as bottled water, energy drinks and sodas in all kinds of flavors. For a more tropical fare, try locally made fruit juices or coconut water right out of the coconut. To calm down the heat during the day, buy a “fresco” which is a cup of shaved ice flavored with fruit syrup.
A Haitian dinner can be a real event
Preparing a typical Haitian dinner is an involved process that takes hours. The result is rice with beans cooked with coconut milk, or the crowd-pleasing white rice with a bean purée, or the special rice with “djon-djon” made with locally grown black mushrooms. Meat is often served in a creole sauce or with mashed vegetables as a side dish. Fried and barbequed meat are also very popular. Seafood is a much appreciated part of the Haitian diet especially in coastal cities. In fact, if you are staying at a beach hotel or residence, you can enjoy freshly caught seafood grilled to your liking. Meat and fish are always marinated in a spice base made with garlic and leeks, with added peppers and other desired herbs depending on the cook's preference. A variety of salads may be served like lettuce and tomatoes, or carrots with beets. A fancy dinner may also include baked cheesy dishes of macaroni, mashed breadfruit or patatoes with béchamel sauce.
Sweet but with a kick
After a good dinner you might be served a dish of sweet potato pudding called “pain patate”. It is made with local varieties of sweet potatoes which are usually white-fleshed or redish. Other ingredients include bananas, milk, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla extract, nutmeg, sugar and raisins. Another classic Haitian desert is the gelatinous “blan manje” made with cow's milk and coconut milk. Sweet smoothies are also popular in Haiti, like the milk papaya blend perfumed with vanilla extract. Other ways to indulge your sweet tooth is by eating “tablets” which are handmade confections with either peanuts, cashews, coconut, sesame seeds or pineapple.
Traditional cuisine is a big part of life in Haiti. Dishes, either savory or sweet, are usually spicy. Sharing a meal with a Haitian family or indulging in the widely available street food are great ways to discover the many flavors of Haitian cuisine.