Banm graten diri djondjon…a Haitian wild mushroom story
♪♩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 was on the menu of the day. I was either six or eight. To this day, I still remember the melody. I, however, could not tell you which song actually inspired it. I have no clue. Perhaps one of you guys could tell me. But I would rather refrain from sharing the sung version here so as not to assault your ears.
Back then, I would stand at the top of the staircase leading to the kitchen. From there, I would sing this chorus 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. Diri djondjon, djondjon rice, was actually my favorite, not the graten itself. I am not even sure I actually liked graten at the time. After all, I am still not a fan today. Who knows what was going through my child mind then? I was probably demanding it for my dad as I was daddy’s little girl. True to his Haitian roots, my dad does love his graten.
What exactly is djondjon?
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 handpick it and let it dry. We then use it to add color and enhance the flavors of some local dishes especially rice and polenta. We add it to chicken, okra touffé, as well, just to name a few of the other preparations.
Let’s get back to the rice from my chorus. Djondjon rice is the most common dish we prepare with that mushroom. It has a prominent place on our formal dinner or reception menus. Weddings and First Communions cannot go without that rice. Without it, a table definitely is incomplete.
How do we cook with this mushroom?
Djondjon is fairly easy to prepare. There is nothing complicated in the process. We first soak the mushroom in some warm water so as to extract its flavors and color. We then strain it and preserve the liquid. We use that water as the base for our rice or polenta. We often add shrimp and blue crabs to these preparations. Se koupe dwèt!
I personally like to add the shrimp and crab shells to the bouillon. I also enhance it with seasonings, which, more often than not, include garlic, thyme, bay leaves, pepper and piment bouc. To make sure the flavors fully develop, I boil the water and let it simmer for about half an hour or so. I then let my bouillon cool down so that it can be fully infused with the flavors. Then and only then do I strain it.
This makes for a well-seasoned bouillon, which enhances my rice or polenta. As a matter of fact, the steps above are the exact ones I followed for my djondjon polenta bites, which recipe I shared with you a while back.
If you have yet to try our djonjon, I definitely encourage you to give it a chance if you’re able to find it in your corner of the world. Your taste buds will thank you.
This well-seasoned broth is the base for all your djondjon rice or polenta dishes. Feel free to adjust the seasoning to your taste.
For a shrimp infused djondon broth
- 2 cups of djondjon Haitian black mushroom
- 3 cups of water
- 3 garlic heads
- Fresh Thyme
- Bay leaves
- 1 piment bouc
- Shrimp shells
Bring all the ingredients to a boil in about 3 cups of water
Simmer for about 30-45 minutes
Allow to rest for 15mns or more
Strain the liquid and use it to cook your rice or polenta