As you may know, our peanut butter (and our name) is inspired by the traditional spicy Haitian peanut butter, Manba. Each jar of Manba contains 100 grams of Haitian peanuts. Since our origins are deeply connected to Haiti, we want to take you on a culinary journey to this country that is very dear to our hearts.
Haitian Cuisine Influences
Haitian cuisine is rather unpretentious and some may qualify it as simple, but anyone who has tried it will attest that the flavours are complex and bold.
Haitian flavours have been shaped by people of many origins: Taino natives (one of the largest indigenous peoples of the Caribbean), the Spanish, Africans, and French. Before the arrival of Europeans, native Haitians cultivated many fruits and vegetables like pineapple, guava, papaya, sweet potato, cassava, avocado, mango and corn. When the Spanish arrived on the island, they brought in new spices, cattle, oranges, lemons and rice. With the colonial period and the beginning of the slave trade, Haitians began to cook more with rice, plantains and seafood. Later, when the French took over Haiti, they deeply influenced its cuisine through new cooking techniques as well as a growing use of herbs and spices.
Undeniably, all these cultures played a key role in the development of Haitian cuisine and, to this day, still are an important part of the country’s culinary traditions.
Traditional Haitian Dishes
There are many traditional dishes in Haiti, some of which include the following:
- Akras (Malanga fritters): They are made of a mixture of grated malanga (a dense root vegetable in the same family as the yuca) and various spices. These fried delicacies are a favorite appetizer for many native and non-native people because of their crunchy exterior and moist interior.
- Paté (Haitian patty): Made with beef, chicken, salted cod or smoked herring and surrounded by a flaky buttery dough, these patties are a quintessential street food in Haiti and one of the country’s best known appetizers.
- Diri ak Djon Djon (Black mushroom rice): Served as a side dish, this rice made with black mushrooms is very popular in Haitian cuisine. It is a traditional dish served on Sundays or for special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, and Christmas.
- Diri Kolé ak Pois (Red rice and beans): Filling and satisfying, this dish is made with red kidney beans, rice and multiple spices. It is a staple in Haitian cuisine and some even call it Haiti’s national rice!
- Sauce Pois (Bean purée): Rich in protein and flavour, this purée is typically made with black beans and traditionally served on top of white rice or with mayi moulen (a Haitian cornmeal porridge).
- Légume: A versatile thick vegetable stew consisting of mashed vegetables like cabbage, eggplants, carrots, zucchinis, parsley, spinach, watercress and many others. It also often contains meats like beef, pork and small crabs and is generally served with rice or plantains.
- Soup Joumou: This aromatic and velvety pumpkin soup has a very special place in the history of Haiti. On January 1st, 1804, Haiti gained its independence by defeating the French military. To celebrate this newly acquired freedom, the now free slaves started to make and enjoy this delicious soup which was previously forbidden to them. It instantly became a symbol of Haitian independence and freedom and is now eaten on January 1st in all Haitian families.
- Other traditional Haitian dishes include fried and boiled plantains, fried chicken (poul fri), fried beef (tassot) and fried pork (griot).
Small Haitian Delights
- Pikliz: A bright and fiery Haitian pickled vegetable relish made with cabbage, carrots, shallots and scotch bonnet peppers.
- Kasav ak Manba (Cassava with spicy peanut butter): This popular street snack in Haiti consists of a slice of cassava bread topped with a generous amount of spicy peanut butter.
- Kremas: A traditional Haitian alcoholic beverage made from condensed/evaporated milk, cream of coconut, and rum (amongst other ingredients). Kremas is creamy, sweet, and simply delicious.
What about Haitian Rum, Chocolate & Coffee?
Because of the prevalence of sugar cane in Haiti, it does not come as a surprise that rum is the official national spirit and one of the country’s most famous exports. Haiti’s national standard rum is called Barbancourt and is considered by many as among the finest rums in the world because of its smooth, complex, and well balanced flavour profile.
Another one of Haiti’s specialties is cacao. Although the country produces less than 1% of the world’s cacao beans, industry experts have started to recognize their high quality. One of the reasons why Haitian chocolate is so appreciated is because cacao beans are grown using organic methods, which results in a rich, smooth, fruity and high quality chocolate bar. You can try chocolate made from Haitian cacao beans in Tremblant, Quebec at Palette de Bine, an award winning chocolate shop.
Lastly, coffee has always been part of the Haitian economy. Haiti grows Arabica beans, which are the high quality beans used in gourmet coffee. Again, the rich and delicious flavour of Haitian coffee comes partly from the fact that all their beans are organic.
The End of the Culinary Journey
Now that you are more familiar with traditional Haitian dishes and exports, we encourage you to explore some of the local Haitian restaurants in your area. Here are a few recommendations if you live in Montreal or Toronto: