Thu, Apr. 07, 2005
A FORK ON THE ROAD
If it's Saturday, it must be soup bouillon
BY LINDA BLADHOLM
If you're Haitian, Saturday means soup bouillon. These days, few in South Florida's Haitian community have time to gather all the ingredients for a good gros bouillon or fuss over the hand-rolled dumplings that go into the ''big soup,'' a traditional cure for Friday-night hangovers.
Instead, they head to restaurants for a fix of bouillon. At Tap Tap in Miami Beach, it's usually a vegetable-based version thickened with starchy malanga, true yam (ñame) and potatoes, and chock-full of carrots, watercress and dumplings. Some Saturdays it's a gros bouillon with chunks of beef, oxtail, calve's feet or pig parts added.
The flavors of Haiti -- from the Arawak ''Ayti,'' meaning mountainous land -- are seasoned by history, geography and circumstance. Centuries of native, French and West African influences combine in a unique Creole cuisine based on the region's abundance of fresh seafood, tropical fruits, vegetables and root crops.
By mid morning on a recent Saturday at Tap Tap, cook Glady's Fils-Ame is spinning donmbwey -- spindle-shaped dumplings -- between her hands. She ties the dough ropes in knots and drops them into a stockpot to simmer with the vegetables.
Chef James Alexander ''A.J.'' Henfield seasons the soup with a freshly ground mixture of scallions, celery, green peppers, onion and thyme. He throws in a few whole Scotch bonnet peppers that bob like little Japanese lanterns in a sea of broth.
''If ground up, the fiery seeds would make the soup cry,'' he says.
Better to apply your own ti-malice, a tomato-based hot sauce, or a house specialty called green sauce that's so good it should be bottled and sold. The sweet, verdant sauce is a purée of watercress, parsley, scallions, green peppers, garlic, oil, vinegar, sugar and a dash of hot pepper.
Green sauce is addictive as a dip with any of the fritay (fritters) or as a dressing drizzled over conch salad or salad chiktay, a halved avocado stuffed with pickled smoked herring served on greens with cassava crackers.
Green sauce is also good stirred into legim (legume), a thickly delicious mash of cooked cabbage, carrots and chayote squash with eggplant and blue crab (called stew crabs and eggplant when it's the daily special).
The beauty of Haitian food is the balancing of flavors, with no seasoning dominating. Green sauce and soup bouillon both stand alone, but taste even better together. Another excuse to visit Tap Tap Saturday.
Place: Tap Tap Haitian Restaurant.
Address: 819 Fifth St., Miami Beach.
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, 5 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Sunday.
Prices: Bouillon $6.95, fritters $3.95, salads $4.95, legim $8.95.
FYI: Singer-songwriter Manno Charlemagne performs Thursday and Saturday nights.