Heat, school, salt, excitement…such are the memories that come to mind as I look at the above pictured papita snack that we enjoyed after school when we were kids.
A few weeks back, I was happy to catch sight of a street vendor carrying his basket filled with these goodies. I hadn’t seen one in a while, especially since we now buy these at the grocery store. Right here and there, I went back in time. I saw myself in my school uniform licking a plastic bag to savor the last crumbs mixed with salt. Back then, I thoroughly enjoyed the remnants of these papita bags.
We used to buy them at the school’s main entrance where street vendors set up their baskets every day when school was out.
I can still picture us, my classmates and I, filled with excitement as we reached the front gate after a long day. We gathered around the merchants, a habit that certainly didn’t always make our parents happy.
Indeed, his presence gave us a reason to beg them for money. One after the other, our tiny hands reached out to the vendor. We gave him our 3 gourdes and later 10 gourdes – obtained from our parents through a lot of bargaining – in exchange for a bag of papita which content disappeared only seconds later.
I still recall those thin plastic bags sealed using a short string that we never took the time to untie.
Instead, we made a hole in the bag using our fingers. That’s how impatient we were to eat its content. Once we ate all the papitas, we turned the bag inside out to make sure we savored its content to the last bite. We left no crumb behind as I explained earlier.
Papitas are typically plantain-based chips. Over time, the papita flavor repertoire extended to also include potato, lame veritable and even sweet potato chips. We thinly slice these vivres alimentaires and sometimes dry before frying them in sizzling hot oil. The result: crispy chips that are salted before being transferred to a bag and then dispatched to their final location. The ones merchants sell on our streets are exposed to our hot Caribbean sun. That sun exposure impregnates the plastic bags with the salt. In my humble opinion, it also gives the papita a special taste, a taste I call gou lari a (taste of the streets). This taste is not found in the bags sold in our grocery stores. And I must confess that the nostalgic in me quite often thinks of this gou lari a.
Papita, Haitian Plantain Chips
- Mandolin Slicer
- Green plantains
- Salt to taste
- Oil for frying
- Wash and peel your plantains
- Using a mandolin, thinly slice the raw plantains lengthwise
- In a pot, heat some oil until sizzling hot
- Add the plantain slices one at a time in the hot oil
- Fry until golden and crispy
- Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel
- Season with salt to taste
- Enjoy as chips with your favorite dip or spread.