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Haitian Food: From Pwason to Pikliz


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What was it like to eat in Haiti, the country that makes its home on the western side of the island known as Hispaniola? What was it like to eat all the Haitian food that passed our eyes on the table and in the street? We went to Haiti to find out. This Haitian Food Guide shares what we found and tasted.

Before recently traveling to Haiti, I had little concept of Haitian food. Sure, I had a sense of what it could be: island-informed, African-influenced, of Caribbean character, maybe even a hint of French.

As with the country's language, Haitian food has a sense of the Crèole, that is a blend of influences. Mixed roots and spices, basic yet zippy, simple and grounded by the reality of the tropics and the back-story of its African heritage, yet touched with a hint of French complexity.

Haitian food and markets
Black mushrooms, spices, bergamot, and more at the Marché en Fer in Port-au-Prince.

Take pikliz (spicy pickled vegetables), breadfruit, bergamot, watercress and even rum-infused power shakes. Throw in Haitian hot chocolate, grilled lobster, plenty of beans, avocados and a dash of hot pepper and you have an eclectic mix that took some sampling and digging to suss out not only the depth of Haitian table, but more importantly the underlying essence and nature of Haitian cuisine.

Now let’s dig in. Bon apeti!

Haitian Main Dishes

For us, food offers one of the most enjoyable contexts through which to understand a place. As we seek out certain types of dishes, we find ourselves in new experiences of all sorts.

During our travels in Haiti we sampled food that ranged from street food to high end restaurants, and a bit of everything in-between. What you'll find below is an overview of all that we ate and discovered culinarily while in Haiti. We hope that it may lead you to your own eating adventures.

Poulet Aux Noix (chicken and cashew nuts)

Haitian food, Chicken and Cashews
The northern Haitian specialty of chicken with cashew nuts.

A rich northern Haiti specialty of chicken cooked in a tomato-based sauce with cashew nuts that you'll most likely find in and around the town of Cap-Haïtien. Where to get it: Lakou Lakay Cultural Center in the town of Milot near Sans Souci Palace.

Mayi Moulen ak Sòs Pwa, Poul an Sòs (cornmeal with beans and stewed chicken)

Stews are common in Haiti. Served on top of either cornmeal or rice, they are hearty, too. What makes Haitian stews special is the hint of warm sweet spices like clove and star anise. Where to get it: An excellent example of Haitian stew can be had from the street food woman at the end of the alleyway at Atis Rezistans (Grande Rue in Port-au-Prince). A single portion ($2) will be enough to feed two hungry people.

Griyo (fried pork)

Haitian Food, Griyo
Griyo, the perfect Haitian dish for meat lovers.

For meat-eaters, griyo is an absolute must-try traditional dish of Haiti. It is most often served with cabbage salad or better yet, spicy pikliz (onions and other vegetables marinated in a spicy vinegar sauce). Where to get it: If you're going out for a nice dinner, try the griyo at Quartier Latin in Pétionville. For a more low-key meal, order a big plate of griyo at Cinq Coins Restaurant (they sell it by the pound) in Port-au-Prince and side it with a cold beer or two. Perfect to share and enjoy with friends.

Lanbi an Sòs Lanbi Kreyol (conch in creole sauce)

Of all the fruits of the sea you can find in Haiti, conch seems to be among the most distinct to appear on restaurant menus. You can usually find it grilled (see below) or in a tomato-based creole sauce. Conch is a must-try if seafood is your thing.

Where to get it: Presse Café serves up a good version of conch in creole sauce, as does Quartier Latin.

Lanbi Boukannen, Woma Boukannen (grilled conch, grilled lobster)

As seafood lovers, we did a happy dance in Haiti for the availability and freshness of grilled lobster and conch. These are readily available in most coastal areas, but especially along the southern coast in and around Jacmel, Jacmel Cayes and Port Salut. Where to get it: Chez Matante restaurant on Gelée Beach near Les Cayes may take the “heaping portion” award where a $15 mountainous serving of delicious lobster and avocado slices is enough to satiate two people. Another place for delicious grilled seafood (including langoustine) is Vue Sur Mer near Jacmel.

Tassot/Taso (dried fried meat)

Haitian Food, Tassot
Tassot with fried plantains.

Tassot is spiced, dried meat that is then fried. You may also have seen this in Mexico or Latin American countries as well, as tasajo. In Haiti, you’ll most often find Tassot Kabrit (goat) or Tassot Vyann (beef) sided with fried plantains. The description defies its tastiness. Where to get it: This was another favorite dish at Lakou Lakay Cultural Center in Milot.

Mayi Moulen Kole ak Legim (cornmeal, beans and vegetable stew)

Haitian Food, vegetable stew in Jacmel
Friendly street food vendor selling vegetable stew with cornmeal in Jacmel.

The legim (think legume) is the vegetable stew part. The cornmeal consistency is somewhere between polenta and cream-of-wheat (or cream-of-cornmeal, as it were). Where to get it: A delicious example of this dish can be found in Jacmel, past the airfield, right side on the road if you’re heading in the direction of Marigot. Go early as once they sell out for the day, they close the stand.

Diri ak Fèy Lalo ak Sirik (crab and lalo leaf stew)

A stew of crab and dark-green spinach-like lalo leaves. Rich and hearty. Traditionally, this is a specialty of Artibonite, the Haitian rice producing region. Where to get it: Get thee to the Marché en Fer in Port-au-Prince in the late morning to lunchtime. The woman between the food market and Vodou and crafts market cooks a big tin of it on weekdays.

Kalalou Djondjon (Haitian okra and black mushroom stew)

This is a sort of Louisiana-style gumbo made with okra and mushrooms, sometimes served with a kick of chili peppers. You can find it in some restaurants, but we experienced this dish stewed with chunks of pork and a healthy dose of crab legs (kalalou djon djon ak sirik ak vyann kochon) served atop white rice at a friend's house. (Sorry, that location is sworn to secrecy.)

Pwason Boukannen (grilled fish)

Haitian Food, Grilled Fish
Grilled fish straight from the fishermen at Pointe Sable.

So many restaurants and seaside shacks serve grilled fish along the coast. We always asked for additional pikliz to go on top. So good. Where to get it: Our best fish feast was a heaping lunch portion at a simple beach-side stand at Pointe Sable in Port Salut. Great food, cold beers and a fitting view of the sea.

READ MORE: Travel to Haiti: First Impressions

Haitian Sides, Starches and Condiments

Besides all the meat and seafood, rice, beans and tropical starches rule the table in Haiti. Note that fritay (fried foods) are often paired with spice and vinegar blends like pikliz (see below) to balance what goes into the digestive system.

Pikliz (picklese)

Pickled cabbage and vegetables (onions, carrots, peppers, etc.), grated or shredded, served in a vinegar base and often dashed with chili peppers. A perfect compliment to fried and heavy foods. We became slightly obsessed with pikliz and were guilty of ordering extra portions of it everywhere we went. If you are sensitive to spice, be sure to taste before topping your plate.

Diri Kole or Diri ak Pois (rice and beans) or Mayi Moulen ak Pois (cornmeal and beans)

Haitian Food, Bean Sauce
Bean sauce poured atop rice or cornmeal, a Haitian staple.

White rice cooked with beans or served with a bean sauce is very common throughout Haiti. Another variation of this includes Diri Blan ak Sos Pwa Noir (white rice and black bean sauce) or rice with a white bean sauce. Depending on the consistency the cook is after, cornmeal is often swapped for rice in these dishes.

Diri Djon Djon (rice with black mushrooms)

Haitian Food, Rice with Black Mushrooms
Rice cooked with black mushrooms.

While white rice is usually served with a bean sauce topping (see above), diri djon djon is usually served on its own because of the distinct aroma and rich flavor of the jhon jhon mushroom.

Bannann (Plantains), Fried or Boiled

The most common approach to the ubiquitous Haitian plantain: fried plantains (bannann peze), which are often sided with any of the main meals mentioned above. Although perhaps not the healthiest option, they are also delicious topped with a heaping spoonful of pikliz. We were admittedly less excited by the boiled plantain option. Where to get it: The best bannann peze was at Vue Sur Mer Restaurant outside of Jacmel.

Lam Veritab Fri (Fried breadfruit)

Definitely worth seeking out. Sometimes you'll find fried breadfruit mixed together on a plate with fried plantains. The first time this happens, you'll say, “Man, I didn't know plantains could be so good.” That, my friend, is breadfruit. The consistency is richer and more distinct than a plantain, and the taste is quite different almost bordering on a starchy version of jackfruit. Good thing is: breadfruit is widely available; it probably ought to be consumed even more than rice given how prevalent it is in the country. Where to get it: Our most memorable was at the sprawling highway-side market at Saint-Louis-du-Sud, where the breadfruit lady topped ours with an ample serving of spicy pikliz. Yum.

Avocado

When in season, avocado is plentiful and tasty. Get your fill, particularly as a side to various meat dishes and grilled seafoods. Pairs beautifully with a nice, tart pikliz.

Watercress

Haitian Food, Watercress Salad
A gorgeous — and equally delicious — watercress salad at Auberge La Visite in the mountains.

We’ve experienced blended watercress dipping sauces (see Tap Tap Haitian Restaurant in Miami Beach), but nothing beats the mind-bending fresh mountain salad at Auberge La Visite in the mountains near Seguin, Haiti. Watercress was fresh-plucked from the ground at the foot of the waterfall we passed on the return from a hike to Pic Cabayo. It's then tossed with other vegetables and edible flowers, as in the salad pictured above.

READ MORE: Haiti Trekking: A Beginner’s Guide

Haitian Soups

Soup Joumou (pumpkin/squash soup)

Pumpkins and squash are quite common throughout Haiti. You may find pumpkin and squash soup on its own or — you guessed it — stewing in a pot of goat meat and other vegetables.

Bouyon Tèt Kabrit (goat head bouillon)

A hearty favorite in the hills just outside of Port-au-Prince. Trust us, it's much tastier than it sounds. We sampled this in places like Mare Rouge and Seguin, just outside of Parc National La Visite and Pic la Selle.

Breakfast in Haiti

Travelers in Haiti can find breakfasts with the usual suspects such as eggs, toast or cereal in hotels. However, if you wish to breakfast like a local, here's what you might eat.

Pwason Seche ak Bannann (dried fish and boiled plantains)

Haitian Food, Dried Fish
Dried fish in the making, headed for a typical Haitian breakfast.

Particularly as you head south along the coast, you’ll see strings of morning-dried fish hanging on racks. Then they end up on your breakfast table.

Fwa Di ak Bannann (beef liver with plantains)

I joked with a Haitian friend that Haitian beef liver looked to me like dog food. OK, it was no joke. But as beef livers go, they are tasty for the copious use of spices like cinnamon and dashes of star anise. With this breakfast you likely will not need to eat until dinner — the following day.

Spaghetti

Spaghetti for breakfast in Haiti? Yes, spaghetti, the breakfast of Haitian champions. It makes sense when you consider the importance of starting one's day with a hearty breakfast. For more on how this tradition came to be, read this article.

Haitian Power Shakes

Jus Blennde (blended shake)

Jus blennde is a staple of the Port-au-Prince night street food scene. These shakes are essentially meal replacements so that people can eat something hearty, but perhaps not as heavy as meat, at night. The version I enjoyed (endured?) was made from approximately 15 ingredients including boiled potato, carrot, manioc (cassava), and breadfruit; banana, papaya, peanuts, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, evaporated milk, ice, rum and a wedge of la vache qui rit cream cheese for good measure. If Popeye came from Haiti, this is what he would eat before he kicked ass.

Spaghetti Shakes

Yes, you read that correctly. I could not bring myself to try it, but the idea is apparently a filling, easily digested liquid dinner, based on blending wet spaghetti, tomato flavoring and other goodies. The Godfather is turning over in his grave. Or is that his stomach turning?

Phoscao

A ground corn and cocoa shake specialty hailing from the seaside Haitian town of Les Cayes. Rich, sweet and heavy enough to keep you full for the whole day. If you are seeing a pattern of filling food here, you are beginning to understand the “why” that underlies the historical function of food in Haiti. Where to get it: La Cayenne Restaurant in Les Cayes.

Haitian Desserts and Snacks

Haitians have a sweet tooth, no two ways about it. It's not surprising considering the country's wide production of sugar cane. Here are a few of our favorite desserts and treats that we found across the island.

Mamba (peanut butter)

Haitian peanut butter is all natural. It's also a revelation. Northern varieties are purportedly six-times blended while those in the south are less smooth at four-times blended. What really sets apart Haitian peanut butter: spice. Yes, spicy peanut butter. You heard me right.

Spicy peanut butter varieties are made when ground peanuts are turned with a scotch bonnet or habanero pepper. After one taste of this, you’ll never look at the possibilities of peanut butter quite the same.

Dous Makos (Haitian fudge)

Haitian Dessert, Dous Makos
Dous Makos dries so it can be cut into slices.

Native to the Haitian town of Petit-Goave, dous makos production looks a kind of taffy production where milk and sugar are boiled in log-fired cauldrons. The signature look of dous makos: the three stripes, beige, brown and pink. Where to get it: You'll find stands all along the road in Petit-Goave, but the best dous makos we sampled was at Chez Lélène Douce. Lélène's product is smooth and features hints of coconut and other flavors that set it apart. Also, Lélène's daughters are adorable.

Kasav (cassava bread)

In Haiti, cassava bread is less moist like bread and more dry like a cracker. The version we bought were stuffed with a not-so-sweet chocolate and paired with Haitian peanut butter. Cassava bread is an acquired taste and one that you come to acquire much faster when you are famished after hiking several miles in the hills.

Haitian Food, Cassava Bread with Peanut Butter
Kasav ak manba (cassava bread and peanut butter), a great street snack.

But the best way to have cassava bread is fresh on the streets of Port-au-Prince with a dose of spicy peanut butter slathered on top. A wonderful — and local — street-side snack.

Tablèt Nwa (cashew ginger brittle)

Just like it sounds, where cashews and sugar cane are turned with ginger for a zip. You can find vendors selling it along the road from Les Cayes to Port-au-Prince, but it's a specialty of the town of Cavaillon. You can also find brittles around the country made with peanuts, sesame seeds, coconut, almonds and cashews.

Pain Patate (sweet potato cake)

If you come across sweet potato cake, give it a shot as it's made with sweet potatoes, bananas and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. We had a very nice sweet potato cake, served in warm glaze at the restaurant at Habitation Jouissant in Cap-Haïtien.

Haitian Drinks

Chokola Peyi (Haitian hot chocolate)

Haitian hot chocolate is a terrific experience, particularly if you endeavor to buy the relatively inexpensive ingredients and requisite tools at the Marché en Fer in Port-au-Prince. It's a fun process and enjoyable way to engage with different vendors at the market.

Haitian Hot Chocolate
The makings for Haitian hot chocolate: raw chocolate, cinnamon, star anise.

Haitian hot chocolate production begins by shaving a ball of pure chocolate with a Haitian grater — that is, against the holed and hollowed out side of a tomato can. Then simmer cinnamon sticks, star anise, nutmeg and fèy bwadin leaves in water (we've been told that whole nutmeg or mace is good as well). Add your ground chocolate, some sugar, some vanilla essence a tiny pinch of salt, and thicken it with some evaporated milk (don't skimp on this). Shave some of the rind of a green bergamot (a shriveled, pungent lime-like citrus fruit) for the final touch. Voilà! Not your average hot chocolate.

Learning to make Haitian hot chocolate — then consuming the fruits of our labors — in the hills above Port-au-Prince was one of our favorite memories of our time in Haiti.

Coffee

The history of coffee in Haiti, including its near disappearance as an industry, is a shame. Haitian coffee is quite good and in terms of flavor, its Arabica beans can hold their own against competing Central American and African counterparts. Of the major brands available in supermarkets, check out Rebo or better yet, Selecto. If you really wish to go off the beaten path, try the local bean at Fondation Seguin grown in the hills above Port-au-Prince where they are trying to train local farmers in coffee production.

Rum

Haitian Rum
Barbancourt rum: the ideal way to wind down the day in Haiti.

Given the prevalence of sugar cane in Haiti, it probably comes as no surprise that rum is the national spirit of choice. Although Haiti makes several types of rum, Barbancourt is the national standard dark rum that is available in a number of grades — most notably 3-star, a perfectly drinkable 4-year aged or 5-star, a perfectly smooth one-part spicy, another-part sweet 8-year aged. Although we rarely drink rum straight, we found ourselves doing this throughout our travels in Haiti. It's that good.

And it's no surprise that rum cocktails are everywhere you go in Haiti. Although rum juice punch is everywhere, our favorite is a rum sour with lime juice, sugar syrup, a dash of bitters or cinnamon, lemon or orange rind and often a cherry. We prefer it served in a plain, rather than sugar-encrusted, glass.

Kleren / Klerin

An unrefined spirit similar to white rum, kleren is distilled from cane sugar. We visited a family-run kleren manufacturer near Cap-Haïtien in northern Haiti to witness the process from start — pressing the sugar cane to get juice — to its multi-distillation chamber finish. The resulting white rum used to be called “guildive” as it was considered so strong that it would “kill the devil” when you drank it.

On the streets of Port-au-Prince, you'll find colorful flavored or infused kleren concoctions. Think “street rum pharmacy” whose outputs feature dubious medicinal qualities, look a little like kerosene, and quite honestly taste a little like it too.

Prestige Beer

Haitian Beer
A cold Prestige on the beach. Pretty. Perfect.

No trip to Haiti would be complete without drinking a cold Prestige on the beach. Prestige, a relatively heavy American-style lager, is the ubiquitous Haitian beer of choice. For various reasons, including the climate and the brew itself, it's best served very cold. You may be able to find other beers in Haiti, including various lighter beers and malts, but Prestige is the most consistent.


A huge thanks to Jean Cyril Pressoir, our G Adventures CEO (guide) in Haiti. Cyril humored us and our desire for Haitian street food at just about every turn, shared his favorite spots and never tired of our endless questions about his country's cuisine.


Disclosure: Our tour in Haiti was provided to us by G Adventures in cooperation with its Wanderers in Residence program. We stayed a few extra days to go hiking in the mountains on our own dime. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

About Daniel Noll
Travel and life evangelist. Writer, speaker, storyteller and consultant. Connecting people to experiences that will change their lives. Originally from the U.S. Daniel has lived abroad since 2001 and most recently has been on the road since 2006. When he's not writing for the blog you can keep up with his adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And you can learn more about him on the About Page and on LinkedIn.

64 thoughts on “Haitian Food: From Pwason to Pikliz”

  1. Can’t say I have ever thought about Haitian food. Probably one of the few international cuisines you can’t find in Melbourne! But I find myself super hungry after this post. The poulet aux noix looks like my kind of dish- yummy! I’m also a huge seafood addict so anywhere where seafood is plentiful and affordable ticks my list as a food destination. Especially lobster- wow!

    Reply
    • Britt, Haitian food is certainly not well world traveled based on my experience. But maybe in time.
      Besides griyo, poulet aux noix is probably the easiest to find and possibly to make (will take a look for some more Haitian food recipes). And yes, if lobster is your thing, piles of it you will find on the shores of Haiti.

      Reply
  2. I was born in Haiti. This is spot on and very comprehensive. Thank you for representing my culture with such authenticity and even using Kreyol words. My mouth is watering when reading this.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for the vote of confidence, Sim. Glad we represented Haitian cuisine accurately and thoroughly. If there are any of your favorite dishes that we missed, let us know.

      Reply
      • I always fine my self explaining to folks what Haitian food like but your post says it all. Clearly from the bottom of my heart I appreciate your article and as well thanks for sharing such a great and positive experience. The world bneed more people like you.

        Reply
  3. Hi Daniel,

    Looking at your photos, I think those green bergamots are what South East Asians refer to as “Kaffir limes”. They’re used a lot in Thai cooking, along with the leaves, and are sometimes available here in Australia. I hadn’t realised they were grown in the Caribbean as well, but they look exactly the same and the climate would be about right for growing them.

    Thanks for the interesting post.

    Reply
    • Before publishing this piece, I poked around, trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Haitian bergamot lime. I never thought of the kaffir lime. (I wish we had before visiting Haiti). We actually have a bunch of kaffir lime leaves in our freezer. Am a big fan and use them in our own Thai cooking when we’re at home.

      I’m still a little confused by other sites that refer to citrus bergamia (or bergamot) — for example, here:
      http://camellia-sinensis.com/carnet/?p=2187&lang=en

      I like the theory of the kaffir lime. Now I just need to get my hands on one of each (a Thai kaffir lime) and a Haitian sourced bergamot lime and see/taste the difference.

      Thanks for the comment, Paul and perhaps bringing an end to the bergamot lime mystery.

      Reply
      • Oh yes , you miss a lot of real Haitian food, all traditional foods, but before you know them … you need to grow up in Haitian . Some of the foods are secrets, his teach by generation from grandma to daughter
        My mama’s food and my grandma’s food are not listed to a restaurants

        Reply
    • Hi Daniel,

      I did a little more digging in the interests of getting to the bottom of this -bearing in mind that I’m just googling things…

      They not bergamot oranges http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bergamot_orange, I don’t think, since, while they look similar, they are a bit too small. In anglophone Caribbean nations I’ve heard limes referred to generically as “lemons”, and this may just be the francophone equivalent – attaching a known word to an unnamed ingredient. A couple of places suggest that bergamot and kaffir lime are one and the same, which isn’t accurate but suggests that the confusion is pretty widespread.

      Wikipedia places the kaffir lime in the francophone caribbean, though not Haiti specifically http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaffir_lime as a rum additive. I’d say that’s pretty strong circumstantial evidence that they show up in Haiti too.

      Anyway, interesting. Now I wish I had a Caribbean holiday to look forward to…

      Reply
      • Thanks again, Paul. If I manage to get to the definitive bottom of this, I’ll let you know. Now onto the Caribbean holiday search.

        Reply
  4. Yum yum 🙂 With so many of my Haitian friends traveling back to the country recently and sharing their travel pictures, I have been wanting to get there soon! Thanks for sharing all the food to eat too! Everything looks and sounds so delicious!

    Reply
    • I’m laughing, Bethaney. Haiti had us and lost us at the same place.

      Spaghetti shakes: two words that do not belong in the same sentence, let alone adjacent to one another!

      Reply
  5. The dish at the very top … does it resemble the Thai chicken and cashew nuts in any way? I bet it is delicious even if it isn’t!

    Reply
  6. Wow, my mouth is watering just looking at all those food! That spice market is just to die for! I’m particularly interested in the diri djon djon, I bet the mushroom made this rice dish so unique and flavorful. You’re so lucky to get a taste of Haiti, looking forward to the next blog!

    Reply
  7. Ahhh! Pikliz and Lanbi and Griyo oh my! I have a jar of Pikliz from my Haitian “Momma” or my best friends mom who makes it for me. I just got back from Haiti mid January and I went last year. I saw you picked Haiti in your top three to visit on Nomads World and it was my number one choice on there too. I just love that country, and happy you are sharing it as well. I’ll be starting my posts this week on it as well.

    Reply
    • I need to get me a jar of pikliz! I’ve seen a few recipes floating around. It would take a bit of experimentation to get it right.

      Glad to hear that you’ve enjoyed Haiti. Will look forward to hearing about your experiences.

      Reply
  8. “Prestige On The Beach”

    I may have to take a trip to Haiti solely for that…hahaha!

    Anyways, when I think of ‘food’ Haiti isn’t exactly what comes to mind but after reading (seeing) this post, I may have to reconsider,

    Reply
    • Mike, that’s one of the reasons we wrote this piece — because Haiti isn’t a place one typically thinks about the food. But that doesn’t stop food from telling us something about the place. Haiti was no exception. And besides that and the beer, I really enjoyed the lobster and spicy peanut butter.

      Reply
  9. I had no idea what Haitian food would be like and this is such a good overview! I am dying to try the fried breadfruit and Haitian hot chocolate now! Pretty much anything with star anise is a winner in my book 🙂

    Reply
    • Sonja, good choices on the Haiti food menu – fried breadfruit (fabulous!) and Haitian hot chocolate. The nice thing about Haitian hot chocolate is that you can try and approximate the flavor so long as you have access to the spices and close substitutes for bergamot.

      Reply
  10. What a wide array of dishes from a country that most regard in an unfair light … makes me want to seek out a Haitian restaurant near me!

    Reply
    • Hi Laura, nice to see you here. And to think that salad came from deep in the mountains of Haiti. It’s true. Glad you found the piece insightful.

      Reply
  11. Just came across this article! What a delight. We’ve been touting the joys of Haitian cuisine for at least 10 years with the publication of our cookbook, The Art & Soul of Haitian Cooking. (available at http://www.haitian-institute.org). So happy to see that others are appreciating it, too.

    Reply
  12. Great article! My parents were born in haiti but i’ve probably only had 2/3 of whats on your list (not a fan of lanbi). I can only think of a few rhings to add 1. haitian bread/ pain haitien: best with a thick later of butter along with the hot chocolate or in the morning with coffee…delicious!! 2. patte/ haitian patties: when they’re good they’re gooood https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_patty so good!

    Thanks again for this well thought out article, and I hoped you enjoyed your time Haiti!

    Reply
    • Thank you for your perspective and suggestions, Heather. This is great. You had me at butter and hot chocolate with pain Haitien!

      Banan boulli ak morue….salt cod and fried plantains (or banana)? Sounds great. I’ve become a big fan salt cod. I didn’t realize it was a force at the Haitian table.

      Thank you for taking the time to share.

      Reply
  13. Wow this was a nice read.
    I’m actually Haitian myself and have had many of these dishes on here.
    I recently introduced my husband to Haitian food as well and it’s great to see that so many people feel the same way about it has he does! He thinks it’s the best thing ever! I’ve never really paid attention to Haitian food since I’ve pretty much eaten it my whole life. This sheds a new light on it for me.

    Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed the piece, Carline. And thank you. It’s been fun getting feedback on Haitian food, particularly from people who grew up with the dishes listed here. If there’s anything we’ve missed, please let us know.

      Reply
      • Actually, there are a couple things!
        One thing I know any Haitian, including myself, enjoys/has had for breakfast is Labouyi which is a porridge but there are many different flavors.
        Another thing you might enjoy is salade de betteraves, my mom always made it for Good Friday or special occasions.

        Reply
        • Thanks for sharing, Carline. This is great. I think I remember seeing Labouyi both on the streets of Port au Prince, and along the coast to Jacmel. The salade de betteraves sounds nice, as I’m a big fan of chard. It’s always nice to know what is eaten especially for holidays, too.

          Reply
  14. Hello Daniel, what an excellent overview of Haïtian cuisine! I just came across your blog and it’s awesome. Thanks for sharing my country with the world. Haïti has received so much negative press over the years, most people forget about the culture. Haïti is a beautiful country with so much more to offer than we have time to experience. I am glad you were interested and enthusiastic to try just about everything.

    I love your description of Klérin… funny! Haïtians indeed have a sweet tooth and I blame it on that sugar cane! To add to your list of sweets, Haïtians make bonbon siwo which is a cake made with molasses and typically eaten with mamba. Delicious! Also, Haïtian cremas which is like eggnog but made with coconut, sweet condensed milk, and of course rhum or Klérin not to forget the staple spices (cinnamon, anise star, nutmeg, ect…). We love to eat fried foods, drink rhum and Prestige, and eat sweets☺️!
    Thanks again for visiting Haïti!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Francesca! I’m so glad you took the time to comment. It’s always nice to hear from readers that we were fair, accurate, or thorough regarding how we addressed their food and culture.

      Bonbon siwo sounds like a terrific combination. I’d love to try it. Haïtian crema, too.

      Reply
  15. This was amazing, you took me through a hearty journey about Haitian cuisine. I am Haitian and our dishes can seem complex but your descriptions were so relatable yet inticing. One of my favorite dishes was left out though…Boulette (spicy meatballs) avec diri blank and sous pwa nwa

    Reply
    • Very flattering description of our writing about Haitian food. Thank you, JT. Thank you also for the additional recommendations of Haitian treats!

      Reply
  16. Nadege

    Thanks Daniel for enlightened my culture!!!!!
    You make me hungry. You leave out the most important dishes “legumes combination with beef, salted pork, crabs, lambi, watercress, Haitian spinach, carrots, eggplants, shrimps, chayote,green papaya, cabbages…….. Served with white rice, etc. I can’t wait for next trip I can eat good and healthy food without chemicals. Haiti forever.

    Reply
  17. Hello Daniel… looking at your pictures everything looks good and tasty! I’m moving to Haiti for this school year, is there any food you recommend or safety concerns I need to know before enjoying Haitian food? I appreciate your input.

    Reply
    • So why did not you do it? seems jaleous……get a life

      I found that site wonderful even though some of my northern dishes are missing.
      – AK 100 for breakfast
      – Piskette spicy
      – Beef ak sauce Labapin
      – Touffe crab

      dessert: pain patate, rapadou

      Reply
      • Thank you for taking the time to respond, Jean. Great suggestions. I did a little bit of research. AK 100, that’s Akasan, the corn drink? Is that like phoscao (above) without the cocoa?

        Beef Labapin, that’s beef with chestnut sauce, right? I like the sound of that.

        Touffe crab. Is that similar to what we might call étouffée, or is it something different?

        Piskette: is that some kind of fish?

        We had pain patate (above), but I’m not sure about rapadou (a brown cane sugar dessert?). We might have had that on the road.

        Reply
        • Hi Dan,

          Yes, the Ak100 or Akasan is the corn mill drink mostly sold as breakfast…not phoscao….
          The sauce labapin would be closer to the the chestnut sauce although i am not sure the haitian labapin and chestnut are the same, despite being from th same family…….

          Piskette is the “Bichique” seasonal tiny fish got from the river before they join the sea…I have not seen that recipe in the west….really good

          Rapadou is indeed the brown sugar dessert….

          Reply
    • The mayi moluen part is a creamed polenta made from cornmeal (with water, oil, butter, garlic). For the bean sauce (sos pwa) that is usually made with black or kidney beans, onions, shallots, garlic, black pepper, parsley, and sometimes coconut milk. We’ve been told that chefs like to keep the spice combination for poul an sos a secret, but there is usually star anise, cloves and thyme. Other ingredients include sweet peppers, hot peppers, onion, tomato paste. There are quite a few recipes for these dishes online so just do a quick Google search and see which version you like most!

      Reply
  18. I don’t like your blog post. Reason being, a lot of the “food” you have tried and written about isn’t what haitians truly eat and isn’t considered haitian food. We do not eat spaghetti for breakfast, ever. Peanut butter isn’t considered a dessert. Spaghetti shakes isn’t a common haitian drink. Maybe they chose to experiment and see if anyone may like it…. I don’t know. I think this would have been better if you had a better tour guide to have you try the more delicious and traditional foods haitians eat daily and at restaurants. Or maybe it would have been best for a haitian to post about haitian food. Also, the ingredients that your wife has provided for Mayi Moulen ak sos pwa, poul an sos isn’t correct .Poul an sos never has star anise and thyme. I cook haitian food every day of my life and star anise is only used in sweets and certain sweet drinks and we never use thyme. This blod post is upseting to me.

    Reply
    • Sorry to hear about your opinion, Melissa. We created this list based on firsthand experiences in Haiti with a lifetime Haitian citizen and guide and interactions with Haitians across the country, on the street, in kitchens and in Haitian restaurants run by local Haitians. The reactions of most others on this thread and across internet forums — Haitians in Haiti and abroad and other Haitian food connoisseurs, Haitian restaurants in places like Miami, FL, etc. — also seems to suggest we did a pretty thorough and representative treatment of the subject of Haitian food. Having said that, everyone has different ways in their own kitchen. And of course, there’s always room to add and improve our understanding of subjects as broad as Haitian cuisine.

      Reply
      • Well, I’m haitian and when I lived in Haiti I used to have Spagetti with herring and sausage for breakfast. And let’s not forget the boiled egg on top. I’ve never had spaghetti shake, but I remember people selling it in the streets. Furthermore, if someone thinks that only Haitians should write about Haitian food, I suggest that he or she does so. I thoroughly enjoyed your post, I think it represented Haitian cuisine very well.

        Reply
    • ummm wrong, i ate spaghetti for breakfast in Haiti and that was over 20 years ago…. but you missed the best snack at night. grilled corns with avocados… and cold lemmonade.

      Reply
      • Thanks for your support on the role of spaghetti in Haitian food, and for sharing your experience, Julien.

        Thanks also for the addition/suggestion of grilled corn and avocado. That reminds me the mounds of avocado we had in Les Cayes la gélee.

        Reply
  19. Are just rice and beans (without corn) easy to find at most restaurants? We’re considering taking our kids to Haiti this summer but uncertain if we could find food for one of our kids to eat. She has issues with corn, soy, wheat, dairy, avocado, pineapple, tuna, peanuts, and cranberries. Do you think we would we be able to show up at most any restaurant and find something she could eat (such as uncontaminated rice and beans)?

    Reply
    • That depends, Rachel — on the type of restaurant, style/budget, and where you are traveling. That’s a daunting list of foods to avoid. Also, I’m not certain of the “base” preparation that restaurants in Haiti will be using for things like frying, and in sauces. For certain, you will want to prepare in French (and the local Crèole the names of the food items that your daughter is allergic to . If I were you, I would get in touch with Cyril and the folks at Tour Haiti. Pose this question to them, see what they say. If there are challenges, they might be able to offer some additional help and guidance.

      Reply

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