By FABIOLA FLEURANVIL Special to South Florida Times
Haitian culture is lively, energetic, and powerful with a cultural tapestry that infuses African heritage with Caribbean flavor and French influence. From the style of dance to Haitian compas music and lively Haitian art adored by art aficionados throughout the world to even the dynamic flavors of Haitian cuisine, Haitian culture is to be embraced and celebrated.
All month long during the month of May, Haitians and cultural enthusiasts around the world are celebrating Haitian Heritage Month to recognize the birth of the Haitian flag on May 18, 1803 and the country’s contribution to world history as the first free Black nation. In South Florida, there is a full lineup of celebratory events that includes Haitian art exhibits, the Haitian Flag Day celebration on May 18 in North Miami, various concerts and live performances including the 18th annual Haitian Compas Festival on May 21, the 5th Annual Haitian History Bee Championship on May 25, and a book signing on May 18 for Haiti’s former president, Michel Martelly.
Among one of the highly anticipated Haitian Heritage Month events is the 4th Annual Taste of Haiti on Saturday, May 14 from 2pm – 10pm at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) plaza in North Miami. The food festival, which celebrates Haitian culture through its cuisine, is a family friendly, community wide festival with something for everyone whether Haitian or not.
The Taste of Haiti features culinary delights by dozens of food vendors and fierce competitors and cooking demonstrations at the Top Chef Cook-Off between celebrity trainer ‘The Naked Chef’ Jaques Laventure and Chef Irie of the PBS ‘Taste of Island’ cooking show. The cook-off will feature celebrity chef judges Ron Duprat from Bravo’s TV Top Chef, Chef Amadeus from Extreme Chef, and the Queen of Haitian Media Elizabeth Guerin. In addition to the food and competitions, expect an all day party with music by Dj Nicky Mix hosted by Haitian poet Mecca aka Grimmo and co-hosted by Brown Sugar, including live performances.
In anticipation of this foodie experience, here are the top five Haitian foods you can expect at the Taste of Haiti. Griot
Of course, griot has to be the first thing to expect at the Taste of Haiti and plenty of it. It wouldn’t be an authentic Haitian food experience without it. The infamous pork shoulder tenderly fried and seasoned with various aromatics including scotch bonnet pepper, garlic, and green onions is a staple among Haitian cuisine and savored just as much by non-Haitians. Not all griot is created equal, and everyone has their own special flavor that makes their griot unique to them. So enjoy sampling the various griot options, and of course, you can’t forget the pikliz, the famous spicy slaw mixture that jazzes up your food.
Lalo with Crab
This traditional flavorful dish consists of lalo, a green leafy vegetable similar to collard greens or spinach, braised with various vegetables like cabbage, eggplant, and carrots, and stewed with either crab, beef, or any other kind of meat of choice. It’s served over fluffy white rice or with rice and peas and is a hearty staple in Haitian cuisine.
Haitians love pate kode, and it’s usually served as a precursor to a nice meal or as a snack. It’s a Haitian patty similar to the fried empanada and filled with chopped chicken, beef, or fish. The flakier the pate kode the better since it’s made as a puff pastry.
Bouyon Kabrit aka Goat Soup
Goat dishes are common in all parts of the Caribbean, but how Haitians infuse goat in a vegetable soup is unique. The soup made of various vegetables including carrots, celery, spinach, dumplings, and potato is hearty and healthy and can be eaten as any meal of the day. Haitians particularly enjoy it because of how filling it is and to help a sick person regain strength. It can be cooked with stewed goat, with any other kind of meat, or enjoyed meatless.
Bannan Peze or Fried Plantains
No Haitian dish is complete without banana peze. It’s cut pieces of green plantains flattened and deep fried and almost always included as part of any Haitian dish. You can eat bannan peze on the side with a meat dish like griot and rice or just as a snack. It’s even better when it’s topped with pikliz.
For more information about the Taste of Haiti, visit www.TasteOfHaitiUSA.com. The food festival will be at the plaza at MOCA Museum from 2pm – 10pm at 770 NE 125th Street in North Miami. The event is free to the general public and presented by the Haitian Culinary Alliance in collaboration with the Office of Chairman Jean Monestime, MiamiDade District 2, the City of North Miami and others.