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Cuisine in Haiti


The cuisine of Haiti originates from several culinary styles from the various historical ethnic groups that populated the western portion of the island of Hispaniola, namely the French, African and Taíno. Haitian cuisine is similar to the rest of the Latin-Caribbean (the French and the Spanish-speaking countries of the Antilles) however it differs in several ways from its regional counterparts. Its primary influence derive from French cuisine, and African cuisine, with notable derivatives from native Taíno and Spanish culinary technique. Though similar to other cooking styles in the region, it carries a uniqueness native only to the country and an appeal to many visitors to the island. Haitians often use peppers and other strong flavourings.

Dishes tend to be seasoned liberally and consequently Haitian cuisine tends to be moderately spicy, not mild and not too hot. In the country, however, many businesses of foreign origin have been established introducing several foreign cuisines into the mainstream culture. Years of adaptation have led to these cuisines, i.e. Levantine from Arab migration to Haiti, to merge into Haitian cuisine. Rice and beans in several differing ways are eaten throughout the country regardless of location, becoming a sort of national dish. They form the staple diet, which consists of a lot of starch and is high in carbohydrates. In the more rural areas, other foods are eaten to a larger degree.

One such dish is mais moulu, which is comparable to cornmeal that can be eaten with sòs pwa, a bean sauce made from one of many types of beans such as kidney, pinto, or garbanzo beans, or pigeon peas (known in some countries as gandules). Mais moulu can be eaten with fish (often red snapper), or alone depending on personal preference. Some of the many plants used in Haitian dishes include tomato, oregano, cabbage, avocado, bell peppers. A popular food is banane pesée, flattened plantain slices fried in soybean oil (known as tostones in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico). It is eaten both as a snack and as part of a meal is, often eaten with tassot or griot, which are deep-fried goat and pork respectively.

Chicken (poul) is frequently eaten, the same goes for goat meat (kabrit) and beef (bèf). Chicken is often boiled in a marinade consisting of lemon juice, sour orange, scotch bonnet pepper, garlic and other seasoning and subsequently fried until crispy.

Legim is a thick vegetable stew consisting of a mashed mixture of eggplant, cabbage, chayote, spinach, watercress and other vegetables depending on availability and the cook's preference. It is flavoured with epis, onions, garlic, and tomato pasted, and generally cooked with beef and/or crab. Legim is most often served with rice, but may also be served with other starches, including mais moulu, pitimi (cooked millet), or ble (wheat groats).

Other starches commonly eaten include yam, patat (neither of which should be confused with the North American sweet potato), potato and breadfruit. These are frequently eaten with a thin sauce consisting of tomato paste, onions, spices and dried fish.

Tchaka is a hearty stew consisting of hominy, beans, joumou (pumpkin), and meat (often pork). Tchaka is eaten by people and also used as an offering to the lwa in voodoo.

One of the country's best known appetisers are pate, which are meat or salted cod patties surrounded by a crispy or flaky crust. Other snacks include akra (crispy, spicy fried malanga fritters) and marinad (fried savoury dough balls). These foods are served with pikliz which consists of cabbage, carrot, vinegar, scotch bonnet pepper and spices.

Regional dishes also exist throughout Haiti. In the area around Jérémie, on Haiti's southwest tip, people eat a dish called tonmtonm, which is steamed breadfruit (lam veritab) mashed in a pilon, and is very similar to West African fufu. Tonmtonm is swallowed without chewing, using a slippery sauce made of okra cooked with meat, fish, crab, and savoury spices. Another regional dish is poul ak nwa (chicken with cashew nuts), which is from the north of the country, in the area around Cap Haitien.

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