Food Week Part 6 – A Haitian Addition

Heather sent in the following question/challenge for me:

Hi Leslie!
I have a fun and challenging question for your Food Week…
If you could recommend one really good recipe for a Haitian dish (or meal) what would it be? Requirements are:
1) must be something truly Haitian… that people in Haiti really do eat
2) must have ingredients that I can find here in the U.S.
3) must be relatively easy to make in my American kitchen
4) must be something that you think my 5 year old Haitian-American boys will like.

I have to admit, I really had to think about this one in order to find something that met all of Heathers requirements. The biggest thing was that most often Haitian cooking is very labor intensive and often takes quite a while because people are used to cooking over charcoal. The result is a lot of stewed foods like chicken in Creole sauce and the like. I think most people know that rice and beans are a basic in Haitian cooking, as they are in many caribbean countries. And, that seemed too easy :) The ingredients used in Haitian cooking actually tend to be very basic – veggies like onions, tomatoes, carrots, eggplant, shallots, cabbage and peppers. Rice. Beans. Those that can afford meat will eat beef, chicken, goat, and pork. 

What I decided to share is very much authentic Haitian. I consider something to be authentic food for a country if you can get it at a little restaurant, or in Haiti’s case, on the street. Now, I know there are probably Haitians that are reading this that may not have had this, especially if they grew up in Canada or the US But, that said, this is something that we serve when we do classes (cooked by our Haitian cook) and most of our staff and I would say about 60-70% of the population probably eats regularly, maybe even daily. When I first had it I thought it was bizarre, mostly because it’s usually served at breakfast. I will not lie to you, it’s not the healthiest way to start the day, but it’s tasty and I would recommend trying it at least once just for kicks :) I’m sharing this from memory from when I helped Yonese make two HUGE pots of it a year ago, so if there are Haitian readers that make this I would love to hear your suggestions or changes.

serves 4

6-8 c. water
1 pk. spaghetti

1/3 c. oil
1/3 c. tomato paste
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 c. water
salt to taste
6-7 hotdogs cut in dime sized chunks or cooked chicken cut up to the same size (good for using leftovers)
3/4 c. grated carrot

1. Boil your water and salt. Add in your noodles and cook until al dente. You don’t want overcooked noodles for this one. They should be firm, not mushy.

2. In a sauce pan warm your oil over medium to high heat. Once your oil gets hot add your tomato paste. Be careful! The mixture with sputter and spit. Stir in your tomato paste until it’s all dissolved. You are essentially frying your tomato paste. Add your garlic and continue stirring. Cook the mixture for about 5 minutes. Yes, you are cooking oil, tomato paste and garlic. Yum!

3. Now add your water and bring to a simmer. It may sputter again when you add the water. Be careful. It’s all crazy, but this is seriously how they make it here. Imagine doing this over a charcoal fire and in a HUGE pot. 

4. Once you’ve simmered the sauce for a few minutes add your hotdogs or chicken. Simmer for a few more minutes and add your carrots. You want to cook it long enough for your hotdogs to cook. Turn off the heat. 

5. By the time you finish the sauce the noodles should be done. Drain them. Put your sauce in the bottom of your noodle pot and add the noodles back in. Put the pot back on the stove and cook over medium heat while stirring the noodles so they get good and covered in sauce. You want to cook this for about 5 minutes. Salt it to taste. Stir, let it sit for a few minutes, then stir again. It shouldn’t be saucy. Your noodles should just be coated and not dripping. The cooking will cook off any moisture as you want your noodles to essentially be dry. Turn off and serve.

Okay, I know you’re probably thinking “They eat that for breakfast?!?!” Yes, they do. Normally when we serve this for a class Yonese will prepare the spaghetti and she’ll serve it along with lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced raw onion and water cress. Also on the side will be hard boiled eggs. On the table will be hot sauce, ketchup and mayonnaise and I’ve seen people pile all of them on their spaghetti. I’ve tried it with the ketchup and mayo and it’s tasty. 

I know you’re probably thinking about the calorie count, but one thing Haitian cooking is known for is the amount of oil that’s used. Lots of oil! Chris has actually seen people pour oil on their rice like it’s a condiment. And usually people use Maggi, MSG based bouillon cubes, or just straight MSG. We’ve banned it from our house so Yonese uses a lot more garlic. There are a lot of people here with blood pressure problems.

I wanted to share this with you because it’s not something people would normally tell you about, but is an everyday thing here. If you wanted to cook other traditional Haitian food – stuff that might be more of a “nice” meal I would Google recipes like Haitian Lalo (basically cooked spinach like greens with beef or crab), Legume (cooked vegetable mash), or Creole chicken. All of those would be served with either white rice and bean sauce or beans and rice cooked together. There are a lot of great recipes out there. You could also get this cookbook:
Click on photo to link up
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About Leslie

I'm Leslie. Wife. Mother. Missionary. In the day to day my husband and I are responsible for running Clean Water for Haiti, a humanitarian mission that builds and distributes water filters to Haitian families. Living in Haiti full time provides lots of stories, and as I tell my husband, our grandkids probably won't believe most of them. Maybe writing them down will give me some credibility.

7 thoughts on “Food Week Part 6 – A Haitian Addition

  1. Ah great!!!!!!!! Thank you for this. Will try it at some point and will let you know how it goes! :)
    P.S. As for the steak au poive and pomme frites duo blogging posts… how about this weekend? Fri nite?

  2. You can find the cook book on Amazon.

    How about rice and beans with sauce pwa on the side? It remains my favorite. Good sauce, when you are lucky enough to have it, makes rice and beans.

    Yonese's sauce pwa is good. I don't know how labor intensive it is but I am sure the beans are cooked down. I loved this dish.

    Fried plantains, Jamaican style too, YES!

    Barb, who is still making her way back to Illinois from WA. It is a LONG drive, I don't know how the settlers ever managed it. The South Dakota Badlands really are bad, the worst terrain imaginable.

  3. Hey Heather!
    Do let me know how it goes. I would love to know, and to know what the boys think :)

    We're away Friday through Sunday. Would another day work for you guys?

  4. Yes Barb, good sauce pwa is fabulous. It is a long process as they do cook the beans down for several hours, and they put coconut milk in them. We would just open a can of coconut milk and pour it in, but they actually grate the coconut, soak it in water, squeeze the water out, and then use the water to cook the beans. Then they run everything through a food mill if they can. Thinking about it makes me want to not make it :)

    Are the badlands worse than Haiti? ;) Actually, I shouldn't complain too much. They're ALMOST at our house with the road construction, probably only a few more weeks. The new road is SO NICE!

  5. Leslie, that spaghetti recipe is on point! lol It's nearly the same recipe my oldest sister would make every Saturday after we did our chores, topped with parmesan cheese. Every Saturday in Miami and I've also had it on a Sunday morning in Haiti.

  6. I almost fell over at the part that US Haitians may not be familiar with this dish, especially since I’m from South Florida. Haitian spaghetti is such a quick and easy dish that most US Haitians eat it more than you would think. But, anyway, great site…and great work!!!

    • I know :) It’s amazing how many times I’ve talked to Haitian Americans and asked if they grew up in the US eating Haitian spaghetti and they look at me like I have two heads. I suspect in areas with a concentrated Haitian population it would be more common. Thanks for stopping by!

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