Haitian cuisine is a Creole cuisine that incorporates French, Africa, and even Spanish influences. It is not terribly different from most other Caribbean cuisines, but if you have never enjoyed Haitian food before, the names of the dishes won't be familiar. Here a few suggestions for what to order your first time around.
Riz Colle Aux Pois
The word "riz" means "rice" in Haitian, and knowing this will come in handy as you browse a Haitian restaurant menu as many dishes are made with rice. Riz colle aux pois is one of the most common rice-based dishes. It consists of rice (usually white) and kidney beans coated in a marinade that has a sweet flavor to it. The rice and beans are topped with dish — usually snapper — that has been cooked in a pot of tomatoes and onions. Riz colle aux pois is a very rich, satisfying dish that's perfect for the cool seasons.
This is another hearty, filling dish that is great in the spring or summer. The base is made from corn and beans, and the "liquid" consists of blended squash. Most versions contain some meat — usually pork — although restaurants seeking to offer vegetarian options will often serve a meat-free version of this stew since it is still hearty and delicious. You can dip hunks of bread into the stew to enjoy it in a different way.
Boulette is a great thing to order if you want a dish to share with the table. They're basically meatballs, but they are seasoned with classic Haitian spices and herbs, including cinnamon, basil, garlic, and dried scallion. The meatballs can be eaten on their own as an appetizer, or they may be incorporated with a sweet sauce for something more unique.
This is a unique but enjoyable dish that is perfect for anyone new to Haitian cuisine. The base is breadfruit, a highly textured, complexly flavored fruit. The fruit is tossed in a sauce made from cooked fish and okra. The sauce has a slippery quality, which helps it slide down the throat with minimal chewing. (This is how it is typically enjoyed; chewing it is considered rude.)
Each of these dishes offers a unique and different element of Haitian cuisine. Order one dish, or order them all. After this first dining experience, you'll have a better idea of what to expect. Visit a restaurant like Fritai to learn more.