Banm graten diri djondjon…

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♪♩Diri djondjon, diri djondjon, banm graten diri djondjon… ♫

(Djondjon rice, djondjon rice, give me graten from djondjon rice)

This is the exact chorus I used to sing loudly at home when I found out that diri djondjon would be featured on the menu of the day. I would stand at the top of the staircase leading to the kitchen and sing it over and over to express my happiness. I don’t really know why I used to sing at the top of my lungs to request the graten instead of the actual rice, which was my favorite. I am not even sure I actually liked graten back then since I am still not a fan today. Who knows? I was probably demanding it for my dad as I was daddy’s little girl…I was about six or eight years old, I still remember the melody, though I don’t know which song inspired it. I will refrain from sharing the sung version here so as not to assault your ears…

For those of you still wondering what I am talking about, djondjon is a dried edible mushroom that is apparently only found in Haiti. We use it to add flavor to and color some dishes especially rice and ground corn. We add it to chicken, okra touffé, to name just a few of the other preparations.

Djondjon rice, the most common dish made with that mushroom, is regularly featured on the menu of formal dinners or receptions (wedding, first communion…) taking place in Haiti. It is so popular that a table served without djondjon rice might be said to lack something.

This dish is actually easy to prepare. The djondjon is soaked in warm water for a while until the water turns black. The resulting liquid is strained to remove any trace of the djondjon, though some people do keep some bits and pieces, and is used to cook the rice or the ground corn. Nothing complicated. Shrimps or blue crabs are often added to the recipe in which case, se koupe dwèt!

Today djondjon “cubes” are available on the local market. This might seem like an ideal solution when the actual djondjon is not accessible, however it does not beat the real thing. The cube does not quite taste the same. Do use the natural djondjon for the real local touch.

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