July 12, 2024


Food never sleeps.

New food truck brings Haitian food to Long Island

6 min read


Think about the genius of individuals little chunks of fried pork recognised as griot, in which Haitian cooks proved that French, Spanish, West African and indigenous Caribbean influences could participate in alongside one another as fortunately in the kitchen as they never could in authentic lifestyle. The substances and procedures of no less than three continents — thyme, parsley and scotch bonnet peppers, marinating, braising and barbacoa-ing — combine to deliver morsels of this sort of sublimity they make an impression on just about every ready tongue, a short one particular, as the pork quickly dissolves and deliquesces, leaving at the rear of chic puddles of caramelized extra fat. Nao’s Caribbean Flavors leaves a additional lasting perception, not in the least simply because the Westbury food truck’s griot requires Carline Jean more than a working day to put together.

Griot at the new Haitian food truck Nao's Caribbean Flavors.

Griot at the new Haitian food truck Nao’s Caribbean Flavors.
Credit score: Linda Rosier

“That’s why there aren’t as well lots of Haitian foodstuff trucks out there,” stated Jean’s husband Tony. “It’s not uncomplicated. The prep requires time.” Indeed, a disproportionate range of the country’s dishes entail 20-step recipes, hours of do the job, a cautious balancing of components and over all patience. There is a expressing there: past the mountains, there are mountains. For each Haiti and its cooking, almost nothing at any time looks to appear uncomplicated.


Immediately after a several many years and umpteen gigs at spot foodstuff festivals, hospital parking tons and a semiregular stint on Prospect Ave., Nao’s (named for the Jeans’ three youngsters, Niela, Naomi and Nia) experienced amassed very a following and carefully outgrown its authentic wheels. So in 2019, the pair bought a meals truck three occasions more substantial, one particular which, owing to myriad delays, is only now producing its debut, at Sunday’s Juneteenth Cultural Festival in Hicksville. It was the OG truck, technically a trailer, that Tony Jean was cleansing very last August when a friend sent him a textual content.

“At 1st I did not believe that it. A different earthquake? You have obtained to be kidding me,” he recalled. The 7.2-magnitude temblor — even much better than the 2010 quake that killed much more than 250,000 and remaining around a million Haitians homeless — had occur just weeks immediately after the assassination of the country’s president, Jouvenel Moïse (and would by itself be adopted by Tropical Storm Grace’s landfall just 3 times later). Most of the Jeans’ household associates reside in the northern portion of the place, much from the quake’s epicenter, but there are a couple in the south, and the Jeans experienced no call with them for months. Mobile provider was knocked out, the street to the region was wrecked, meals and help arrived only by helicopter.

“It’s practically like, how substantially more can Haiti choose?” mentioned Jean of a region he left when he was 6, 1 which, thanks to an insidious mix of generations-prolonged foreign exploitation and domestic corruption, continues to be one of the poorest in the world, with 60% of the inhabitants dwelling in poverty. “Every time we stand up, something else attempts to knock us down.”

The exact same might be claimed of the Jeans’ new food truck. The pandemic strike not prolonged following they bought it, so for significantly of 2020 the pair saved the outdated trailer, towing it to a handful of gigs in this article and there while waiting around out the crisis with the relaxation of us.

Tony and Carline Jean brought their original Nao's Caribbean Flavors truck to...

Tony and Carline Jean brought their initial Nao’s Caribbean Flavors truck to activities which include the 2021 Well-known Foodstuff Competition in Deer Park.
Credit score: Tony Jean

In the meantime, their shiny new truck sat idle in a Hicksville whole lot, the Jeans not figuring out when or if it would ever start. It was for the duration of those dim times, as the catastrophes of his adopted country commenced to pile up, that a eyesight of a new Nao’s commenced to get shape in Tony Jean’s brain. He and Carline would serve Haitian food items, certainly, but also meet the instant additional broadly. Tv screens would showcase their home country’s tunes and natural natural beauty, and the truck alone would be wrapped from nose to tail in a colorful vinyl mural depicting the nation’s landmarks, history and — crucially — its indomitability. In the COVID era, believed Jean, all of us could master anything from Haitians, some thing they had been only way too capable to train: resilience in the face of mass struggling.

“A common human being could crack when something comes about to them. Haitians will bend but not break.” Out of the knowledge of shared heartache, Jean stated, arrives the attitude required to endure it, an frame of mind of “there’s almost nothing you simply cannot endure, due to the fact we have survived so significantly.” Their small business getting survived COVID, the Denims looked forward to finally unveiling their new truck previous fall, only to confront more obstacles, particularly offer chain troubles that delayed the arrival of new kitchen tools. For many much more months, theirs was a dream deferred.


The Nao’s mural was established by Jean Esther, a childhood pal of Tony’s, and brings Haiti’s tenacious spirit vividly to lifestyle, depicting a statue of Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led an military of previous slaves to defeat Napoleon and finish French rule the Countrywide Palace, nevertheless a symbol of independence irrespective of currently being wrecked by the 2010 quake the carnivalesque ambiance at Marché de Fer, a substantial flea market place in Port-au-Prince, the cash and the country’s woman business people, who performed a essential part in rebuilding it right after the to start with earthquake.

Tony Jean, co-owner of Nao's Caribbean Flavors food truck pulls...

Tony Jean, co-owner of Nao’s Caribbean Flavors foodstuff truck pulls into a parking great deal in Westbury on Wednesday, June 1, 2022. Credit: Randee Daddona

“We phone it yautia,” mentioned Carline in the foods truck’s kitchen place, referring to the taro-like tuber that is grated, blended with spices, formed into finger-length fritters and deep fried to make akra, a flavorful snack that is the dream of each hush dog. Nao’s akra is dressed with the palatal alarm clock that is Jean’s pikliz, a crispy relish of cabbage, carrots, vinegar, shallots and thyme.

There is yet another expressing, the angrier the Haitian female, the much better her meals, a stereotype that Carline Jean gleefully defies. “People say the food is like their grandmother cooked it,” she smiled, loading a customer’s to-go box with a significant scoop of diri djon djon, Haitian black rice, which owes its shade and substantially of its earthy, nutty style to what it is cooked in, a broth of mushrooms native to Haiti. (Carline’s sister again household mails them to her.) She also helps make a necessarily mean poul fri, a batterless yet juicy fried hen. The mystery to that, as with griot, is a long bathtub in a garlicky marinade.

The Jeans know firsthand that generosity is a potent antidote to woeful occasions, and they’ve pledged to park their new foodstuff truck anywhere it’s needed most. In the previous, that has intended feeding veterans and entrance line workers, catering charity gains and supporting a Haitian organization’s efforts to rebuild a cafeteria and professional medical clinic seriously ruined in final summer’s earthquake.

It is a big occupation for a one foods truck — serving up fantastic griot when acting as an ambassador and aid company on wheels, but Tony Jean wouldn’t have it any other way. “Every time I’m driving and pulling the food stuff truck, it is like I’m pulling the place ahead,” he explained, noting that Nao’s is even far more common with non-Haitians than expats.

Even as she listened to this, Carline methodically loaded fried plantains a single by a single into a tostonera, flattening each and every into spherical discs and then throwing the full batch back into the fryer. The air filled with a burning sweetness.

“When they arrive to the truck and see that it is Haitian, the very first point they say is I’m sorry, dependent on what is been heading on,” reported Tony. “The 2nd detail they say is, I did not know you fellas had this kind of wonderful food.”

For updated information on Nao’s Caribbean Flavors’ whereabouts, dates and occasions, visit eatnaos.com. Sunday’s Juneteenth Cultural Festival is noon to 5 p.m. in the Hicksville LIRR parking ton, 125 W. John St., details at blacklegacypartnersllc.com.


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