I wrote this post a year ago. I never published it. But, today, a debate about food (fried plantains specifically) brought it back to mind. Here it goes.
Anyone who's ever had some can testify.
(My fellow Haitians, there is no pun intended, no innuendo, no double meaning. I am not talking about Nèg bannan lan. Honestly. Back story: Haïti's current president used to work in the plantain export industry. Hence the nickname: Plantain Man.)
My trip to Bogota, Colombia (2017), reminded me that fried plantains are part of various cultures’ cuisine. And I was surprised—and delighted—to find some there.
And just how many ways can you fry plantains? I've counted three.
Bannann peze, tostones or patacones
However they call them where you're from, these slices of heaven are delicious.
Y'all should have seen my face when I realized that they served them all the way in Colombia.
I felt like I had won the lottery. I felt Santa Claus had brought me all the toys from my list. It was as though the food gods were simply showing off at that point. I was already eating my way through all the Colombian goodness I could handle.
My favorite way to eat fried plantains is with griyo (fried pork) and pikliz (a pickled mix of shredded cabbage, carrots, hot peppers, etc.). Never had that? Ask a Haitian friend to hook you up. You'll thank me.
My second favorite way: with guacamole, the way they served it at that cute little restaurant in La Candelaria—the oldest neighbourhood in Bogota. Now, I love fried plantains and I can eat avocado every day. Why didn't I think of that?
Bannann mi, platanos maduros, alloco or kelewele
Plantains turn yellow and sweet when they are over ripe. Fry them and they will bless your taste buds with a whole different flavour.
Every time my Grann used to make these I'd be ecstatic. See, I. Love. Sweets. And these would allow me to give in guilt-free. Plantains grow on trees after all!
The trick is to wait for the right time to fry them. Not ripe enough, they won't have the right amount of sweetness. Too overripe, they become mush.
Since I moved to Canada, I've been enjoying the West African version of this dish—alloco. The cut is different from my Grann's, but the taste is just as good. Kelewele is how they’re called in Ghana (according to the Web series An African City).
Imagine my surprise when I saw a huge slice of bannann mi fri lounging next to a sea of sós pwa (bean purée) in my plate, in Bogota. Winning! To make things more interesting, it was part of a traditional dish: bandeja paisa.
I had no idea that Haitian and Colombian cuisine had that many similarities. Among these similarities: tablèt nwa (nuts) and tablèt kokoye (coconut). Tablèt are a type of Haitian sweets with sugar and milk mixed with other ingredients such as coconut or nuts and spices.
This serving of rice, sòs pwa, fried over ripped plantain and avocado reminded me that, despite the difference of climate and language, a Colombian and a Haitian could feel at home on each other’s land.
Last, but certainly not least!
Patita! Also known as tajaditas in Bogota. Do you know them by another name?
These took me back to my childhood. Way back when my mom didn't really approve of my eating street food. She was worried about hygiene; I wanted to explore new tastes.
Thin, crispy, salty slices. Simple. Wholesome. Delicious.
Both in Port-au-Prince and Bogota papita is considered street food. The Haitian version is pre-packaged. The one in Bogota is left exposed; it's placed in a bag right in front on you. (My mom would have a heart attack!)
Side note: they also have papita pómdetè (potatoes), but I didn't ask for the name. And I regret not tasting them.