One of the best ways to discover a new culture when travelling is through food. Visiting a local market and going on a hunt for fruit and vegetables one has never seen before is a true, eye opening pleasure. Another great way to get to know a country through its food is to ask locals for restaurant recommendations.
Caribbean cuisine is a rich and varied one due to the mix of many culinary cultures such as African, European (Spanish, British, Portuguese) and sometimes even Asian and Arabic. The Caribbean islands have all been conquered, some even several times, and they have retained some of the conquerors’ cuisines, which they have then mixed in with their own to create unique blends specific to each island. The ingredients of Caribbean cuisine are often more or less all the same, plantain, rice, beans, pork, chicken, peppers, tubers, onions and garlic–and can be found in plenty of combinations and dishes on many of the islands.
Haitian cuisine is a delicious blend of native, African and French cuisine. Unpretentious, it can be fiery due to its African roots and sophisticated due to the French influence. It’s unfortunately not as well-known a cuisine as it should be because it’s absolutely delicious! Until recently, it was hard to find great Haitian food in Montreal but that is no longer the case. Agrikol opened its doors to great acclaim in the fall of 2015. The colourful restaurant is Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne and Win Butler’s project with partners Roland Jean and Jen Agg of Toronto’s The Black Hoof fame. The restaurant was an instant success since its opening. Located in a small two storey house in the heart of Montreal’s Village, it’s got the ambiance of an island voyage with its double height ceiling, its wrought iron indoor balcony and its many colourful works of art. The drinks at Agrikol are, of course, all rhum-based and deliciously potent. Chef Marc Villanueva has mastered the art of Haitian cooking and divided his menu into small plates to nibble on with that cocktail or comforting, stick-to-your-ribs main dishes that you’ll be happy to tuck into. Here’s his recipe for acras, a most famous Haitian dish that’s easy to make at home.
Recipe by chef Marc Villanueva of Agrikol
- 3 lbs. malanga lila (root similar to cassavam, yam or taro)
- 2 green onions
- 1 Scotch Bonnet pepper
- 1/3 bunch flat-leaf parsley
- 1 shallot
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. Maggi
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 egg
- ¼ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tbsp. bitter orange juice
- Frying oil
- Finely chop green onions, pepper, parsley and shallot.
- Peel and grate the malanga lila.
- Combine all the ingredients.
- Shape into dumplings using spoons.
- Heat oil to 350 degrees. Fry the dumplings (acras) and serve with mayonnaise and pikliz*
* Pikliz is a common Haitian condiment made of cabbage, carrots, bell peppers and Scotch Bonnet peppers pickled in vinegar. It’s the perfect compliment to rich dishes and friend foods.
Intrigued by Haiti’s cuisine? Book your direct flight to Haiti with Air Transat to taste more.