Haiti, Land of Great Food

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“Ayiti” – land of the mountains, as the Taíno Indians called it; the “Black Pearl of the Caribbean” – I am deeply sorry that we have not been better neighbors to help you in your time of need even though you’ve given us so much; that you are not given the credit you are due.

Haiti, island where Cacica Anacaona ruled, the mecca of Caribbean music and arts, is the first Independent Black Republic in the world. It has also given us, the Latina/o Diaspora, more of our culture than we realize.

haiti

As some of you may or may not know, I recently traveled to the southern Caribbean island of Trinidad to search out a well-known genre named Kalindá. I wanted to find the connections between Kalindá and a lost stick-fighting tradition in Puerto Rico named cocobalé. While in Trinidad, I noticed that as lavways or songs were sung that many were in Creole. When I asked my teachers about that, they simply said, “Haiti”. This is so in Puerto Rico, as well where Creole lyrics abound in bomba, its oldest surviving genre. And so it is in Cuba with the genre named tumba francesa. Haiti has left its impression on us. At a minimum you will see many similarities. You will see this within their food which is strongly influenced by African, Spanish, French, and North American cuisine.

To make things a bit easier I wanted to take the time to translate some dishes. Because of the Creole language I feel that Latina/os are a bit intimidated to approach Haitian food:

 

Creole

English

Spanish

Bannann Peze

Fried Plantain

Tostones

Dire ak Pwa

Rice and Beans

Arroz con Habichuelas

Griyo

Fried Pork

Carne Frita

Poule en Sauce

Stewed Chicken

Pollo Guisado

Bannann Duece

Sweet Plantain

Plátano Maduro

Pate

Meat Pie

Pastelillos

Pate mori

Codfish Fritters

Bacalaítos

Bouyon

Hearty Stew

Sancocho

Akra

Taro root Fritters

Fritura de Malanga

Lambi Creole

Conch in Creole Sauce

Carrucho en Salsa Criolla

Corosol

Soursop drink

Jugo de Guanábana

Kola Champagne

Kola Champagne

Kola Champagne

Crema

Coconut Punch with Rum

Coquito

You can find these dishes in Chicago at Kizin Creole (2311 Howard St, Telephone number: 773-961-7275). Keep in mind all food is made to order, which means although your wait is longer, the food is well worth it.

Formerly known as Chez Violette,  Kizin Creole was the on the brink of closing its doors when current owner, Daniel Desir, decided that he would take on the challenge of taking over the business, the only Haitian restaurant in the city. He explained that Chicago, the land of Haitian-born Jean Baptiste Point du Sable needed a Haitian restaurant. Today, Kizin Creole not only serves as a great restaurant, but also is a cultural center for its people.

This month’s recipe I wanted to share some, which historians will say has made its way from Haiti to Cuba and Puerto Rico and other countries in the Caribbean. Here is my recipe for “Fricasé en Pollo” which is known to be a French style of cooking:

Fricasé en Pollo (Feeds 6-8)

pollo

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken

1 tbs of kosher salt

1/2 tbs garlic powder

1/2 tbs cumin

1/2 tbs black pepper

1/2 tbs onion powder

1/2 tbs cayenne powder (for a spicier option)

3 tbs of vinegar

3 tbs achiote oil

½ cup of sofrito

1 small diced onion

5 minced garlic cloves

1 green pepper diced (membrane removed)

4  tbs of chopped recao/culantro

3 cups of cooking wine of your choice.

1 cup tomato sauce

2 peeled and cubed potatoes

2 carrots peeled and chopped

4 tbs of stuffed green olives

4 tbs capers

3 ½ cups of water

2 bay leaves

Salt as needed

Directions:

1) Cut chicken into parts on clean surface. Remove wings, thighs and drumstick. Split breast in two. Keep skin in tact. Wash chicken and set in large bowl.

2) Marinate chicken with first 6 dry ingredients and vinegar. Rub in well, cover, and let marinate in refrigerator at least 1 hour. If time allows, overnight is best.

3) In large saucepan, heat up achiote oil until hot. Seal in the flavors and brown chicken for about 6 minutes on all sides ‘til browned.

4) Add Sofrito, onions, garlic, green pepper, recao to pan of browned chicken. Let ingredients cook about 5 minutes.

5) Deglaze pan with cooking wine about 4-5 minutes

6) Add tomato sauce, carrots, potatoes, olives, capers, bay leafs.

7) Add water and bring to boil

8) Add salt or cayenne powder again if you enjoy spicy. This is a great time to taste food and make adjustments of taste as needed.

9) Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for about 1 hour. Chicken should be tender and falling off bone.

10) Stir on occasion and remove bay leaves before serving. Great with with rice.

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Roberto Pérez

Cooking Philosophy: People have always looked to the colonizers like Spain, Italy, Portugal and France as culinary leaders that we should follow. But we have so much we can draw from as Puerto Ricans. I'd rather look within, look to my family, look to our Taino past, look to our African roots, look to the Caribbean links, and not allow these traditions to fade away. I'd rather cook funche than polenta, caldo santo than paella, guingambo than broccoli, and so on. Unfortunately Chicago has not one Caribbean food blogger and I hope to bring attention to our wonderful culinary experience 

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