FOODS OF THE HAITIANS
Haitian food is often lumped together with other Caribbean islands as "Caribbean cuisine." However, Haiti maintains an independently unique flavor. Unlike its Spanish-influenced counterpart, the Dominican Republic, Haitian cuisine is based on Creole and French cooking styles. Strong pepper flavoring in many dishes also sets Haitian food apart from the other islands.
Several dishes are specifically native to Haiti, including rice djon-djon (jon-JON). It requires Haitian black mushrooms, locally grown fungi. The stems of the mushrooms are used to color the rice black, then the mushroom caps with lima beans are used as a tasty topping. Calalou (kah-lah-LOO), consisting of crabmeat, salted pork, spinach, onion, okra, and peppers, and pain patate (pane pah-TAT), a sweetened potato, fig, and banana pudding, are other native dishes to Haiti. Soup jomou (pumpkin soup) is traditionally served for lunch on Sundays.
In general, the average Haitian diet is largely based on starch staples such as rice (which is locally grown), corn, millet, yams, and beans. However, wealthier residents can afford meats (usually pork and goat), lobster, spiced shrimp, duck, and sweet desserts such as French-influenced mousse and pastries.
Extravagant fare such as frog legs, cold cuts, and French cheeses are available (typically in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital), but they are not commonly eaten by the average Haitian. Riz et Pois, the country's national dish of rice and beans, is more common fare. It is relatively inexpensive, and the rice and beans provide carbohydrates for field workers. Mayi moulen (cornmeal mush) cooked with kidney beans, coconut, and peppers, and pikliz (spicy pickled carrots and cabbage) can be filling, and its ingredients are usually affordable. Haitians also tend to frequently fry their meals in pig fat to give them greater flavor. Bannann peze (fried plantains, similar to bananas), poule (fried chicken), tasso (deep-fried beef), and grio (fried pork) are common examples.
Haiti's tropical Caribbean climate allows for tropical fruits such as avocados, mangoes, pineapples, coconuts, and guava to grow in abundance. Such fruits are often used to make refreshing fruit juices. Other popular beverages include shaved ice topped with a fruity syrup, Juna (a locally produced orange squash drink), and even sugarcane. Both adults and children enjoy chewing on the stalks to extract its sweet juice.
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