Location: The Caribbean
Population: 10.8 million
Geography: A tropical, mountainous country located on the west side of the island of Hispaniola.
Language: French and Haitian Creole
Signature flavours: Hot pepper, thyme, shallot, pumpkin, plantain, rice, beans.
Eric went ambitious, with a four-item menu that included an array of Haitian flavours. He had a pot on every element, with soup bubbling and oil popping, and delicious smells filling the kitchen.
Haitian Rice and Beans: A quintessential Caribbean dish — rice and kidney beans seasoned with scotch bonnet hot peppers, thyme, and clove.
Prep and cooking time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Banan Peze: Flattened discs of plantain, deep fried to a golden brown.
Prep and cooking time: 20 minutes
Soup Joumou: A pumpkin-based soup with beef (veggie beef in our case) and root vegetables.
Prep and cooking time: 2.5 hours
Sos Ti Malice: A 16-ingredient sauce for topping meat, fish, stews, and so on. Its flavour, being neither too sweet or spicy, is an excellent accompaniment to other dishes.
Prep and cooking time: 15 minutes
The Shopping List
Eric found everything he needed at our well-stocked local market, including scotch bonnets and adobo spice mix.
When I peeked in on Eric a couple of hours into his Haitian cooking extravaganza, he was looking a little defeated. The soup had burned on the bottom of the pot, leaving a prevalent smoky flavour that he wasn’t happy about. This caused him to doubt his other dishes. “I don’t think it’s going to be very good,” he told me.
The dishes he chose were ingredient-heavy, which meant a lot of chopping, and quite a bit of day-before prep (he soaked the kidney beans overnight and pre-marinated the veggie beef as well). There were a lot of moving parts, and having run out of stovetop real estate, getting everything to be ready around the same time was proving a challenge.
Still, he struck on, and when we sat down to eat about an hour later, our plates were filled with golden plantain discs, a dome of rice, a bowl of deep red sos ti malice, and another bowl of yellow soup. It was true that the soup had a bit of a smoky taste, but it was still just fine, and everything else was amazing. The rice had a mild, earthy flavour with nice heat from the scotch bonnets. The plantains were perfectly crispy, and we dipped them enthusiastically into the sweet and spicy sos. We both had seconds, defying Eric’s expectation that his meal was ruined. (“Three out of four ain’t bad,” he conceded later.)
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.