When one thinks of Haiti, delectable cuisine is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Unfortunately, Haiti has faced quite a lot of adversity, especially in recent years. Hardship is what seems to define the country in the eyes of the media, and is therefore how it is portrayed to the rest of the world. While this is partly true, Haiti has so much more to offer.

grass, bird, water
Callie Austin

In February/March of 2016, I went on a missions trip to Grand Gôave, Haiti to work with a ministry called Haiti ARISE. As it was my goal to serve on this trip, I didn't realize how much I would receive in return. I had some of the best food in my life, most of it cooked by wonderful Haitian chefs who worked at the Haiti ARISE compound. Best of all, since Haiti is in the Caribbean, the food is incredibly fresh and not processed. Below are seven foods I tried during my trip that I now firmly believe taste way better Haitian-style.

1. Bread

Arika Bunfill

Known in Haitian Creole as pen, the bread was beyond addicting. We always had a fresh bag at our compound every day, and I literally had to yell at myself to not eat it with every meal. It was light, fluffy and just had that perfect bread flavor that everyone knows and loves. Slathered with peanut butter, this bread sent me to heaven. I actually got to see where it was made, too. The oven was inside a small, hidden building in the midst of the marketplace. It was so interesting to see how the bread was prepared; it was genuinely handmade.

2. Lobster

Callie Austin

This wonderful crustacean (pictured with my beautiful friend, Arika) is always a tasty treat, albeit expensive as it is usually served at high-end restaurants. My team and I went to the beach one day, and we got to try lobster fresh out of the ocean, served with fried plantains and a spicy salad (both of which I discuss later), for a grand total of $10. The lobster was ridiculously fresh. There was a man sitting in a canoe catching them, and some friendly Haitians cooked them right there on the beach. It was absolutely incredible. 

3. Mangoes

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Image from WikiCommons

Ah, my favorite tropical fruit. I did not think I could love mangoes any more than I did until I ate one right off of a tree. As soon as I sunk my teeth into the beautiful orange flesh, my taste buds were dancing. The sweetness was comparable to candy, the texture was heavenly, and the juice was abundant. I will not ever be able to eat another mango from a grocery store and feel the same way. If it were not for international agricultural laws, I would have taken some of the pits home with me and planted a tree in my backyard. 

4. Bananas

vegetable, pasture, banana
Arika Bunfill

Unless they are in my smoothie or my oatmeal, bananas are not a favorite of mine. I can eat them by themselves only if the peel is a little green. The mushy texture of bananas with brown spots kind of gets to me. This was not the case in Haiti, though -- I ate them straight up. The experience I had was similar to that of the mangoes. The sweetness factor was so much more intense than store-bought bananas here in the states, which often come from out of the country as well but are picked early so they can be sold in stores before going bad. Sliced on the side, these scrumptious bananas were the perfect addition to our morning meals.

5. Salad

sauce, chicken, beef, pork
Arika Bunfill

A common side dish in Haiti called pikliz (pictured at the bottom of the plate) consists of vegetables such as cabbage, carrots and onions. Instead of being tossed in dressing like regular salad, the vegetables are pickled. The taste was extremely unique and so delicious. But, take caution my capsaicin-sensitive friends: it definitely had a bite to it. The spicy element often comes from Scotch bonnet peppers, which is a variety of chili peppers mostly found in the Caribbean.  I love anything spicy, so pikliz was right up my alley. We had it with almost every meal, and it was the bomb.com. 

6. Fried Plantains

I did not expect to like these bad boys (pictured at the left side of the plate). Plantains look like bananas, so my uncultured mind thought, "Fried bananas? Yuck." On the contrary, these chip-like beauties were to die for. They are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The actual plantain did not taste like much, but that was fine with me. Dashed with a unique blend of spices, fried plantains are my new favorites.

7. Coffee

Photo by Nick Karvounis | Unsplash

nickkarvounis on unsplash

I am not a coffee drinker (tea is life), but Haitian coffee is so fresh and rich that I could not stay away. There are several coffee plantations all over the island, so the coffee does not travel far from soil to mug. The short travel time preserves the coffee's invigorating aroma and deep flavor. Freshly-brewed, locally-grown coffee was just the thing I needed to wake up at 6:30 AM, watch the sun rise, dive into the word of God and prepare for the day's work.

Callie Austin

While I was blessed to have three meals a day, many Haitians are not as fortunate. It is so important that we continue to reach out in any way we can. Haiti ARISE is an incredible ministry doing so much good in many parts of Haiti, and I was so grateful to be a part of their mission.