Haitian food is a rare find in Toronto, but at Rhum Corner—The Black Hoof’s next-door sister restaurant—griot and accra are in plentiful supply. Co-owner Roland Jean walks us through these spins on his childhood staples.
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1. Griot, $11
“When I was 16 or 17, when the parties ended at 4 a.m., we’d find a lady called Madame Jean on the sidewalk frying griot [pronounced gree-oh],” says Jean. “Sometimes you’d have it at home on a special day like Christmas, but it’s street food and always comes with rice and sauce.” At Rhum Corner, head chef Jesse Grasso (who got a crash course in Haitian cooking from Jean’s sister Monique) marinates pork shoulder overnight in bitter orange, chilies, garlic, and onions, then cooks it sous-vide for 12 hours. The pork is fried to order and glazed with the marinade that’s been reduced with lime juice and sugar.
2. Accra, $5
These fritters are made of malanga (a root plant similar to taro) that’s been grated to a paste and mixed with garlic, onion, hot peppers, scallions, parsley, egg, and a bit of baking powder. They’re shaped into little balls and plunged into the fryer. “Madame Jean would open up some bread, put the accra in there, and then put hot sauce and pikliz on top,” Jean recalls. “I ate them almost every week.”
3. Goat and legumes, $11
“You’ll find goat in Port-au-Prince, but in the north, they’ll use oxtail and beef. That’s one of the few regional differences in Haitian cuisine,” says Jean, who grew up in the capital city before coming to Toronto in 1984. In this dish, a stew of chayote squash, eggplant, carrots, and onions is combined with goat meat that’s been braised for six hours with tomato paste, chicken stock, cloves, and a bit of coconut milk.
4. Salt cod patties, $4
“When I was in school, you would buy these patties at lunch,” Jean says. “They’re usually filled with meat. Salt cod was considered a delicacy, so I always preferred that.” Grasso makes a crumbly dough of flour, water, and vegetable shortening, fills the patties with a stew of salt cod, potatoes, onions, peppers, and a hint of vinegar, and bakes them. One difference between these and the patties of Jean’s youth: They’re usually square shaped, but Grasso prefers the Jamaican half-moon form.
Rhum Corner, 926 Dundas St. W., 647-346-9356.