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Long-time Charlotte resident Christina Bowman was looking for a way to honor her mother’s cooking skills when she got the notion to launch a Haitian food truck.
Today, Ms. Didi’s Caribbean Kitchen trolls the streets of Charlotte, palm trees painted on its outside panels, offering a menu filled with Haitian staples, each named after a city in that Caribbean nation.
“People were not really familiar (with Haitian cuisine), so that just made me excited. I want people to ask me questions. I want people to be curious and know different things about Haiti and not just assume.”
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The griot (fried pork) entree is named for the western port city of Miragoane. The vegan legume entree is named for the Northern port city Au-Cap, also called Cap-Haïtien. In keeping with Haitian culture, each meal is served with rice and a side option like bunan (fried plantains), cabbage, and macaroni and cheese.
Even though Bowman grew up with this food and has been serving it weekly for nearly three years, she still speaks with excitement when she talks about her favorite menu items — the Haitian fried chicken entree, named after Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, or the fried fish, named after the southern city Jacmel, because of the epis (seasoning blend) her mother uses.
Edith Jean-Francois’ culinary gifts were already well known in some of Charlotte’s Haitian communities, long before her daughter launched the food truck. Bowman said her mother would cook for events and churches regularly.
Jean-Francois’ favorite item is the chicken in sauce, named after Leogane, a coastal city that was at the epicenter of a 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Ms. Didi’s is open two to three days a week, regularly rotating between the shared kitchen space at City Kitch and on the food truck throughout Charlotte. Jean-Francois and Bowman have dreams of opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the area within the next few years.
“People think I’m joking when I say this, but our food is literally my favorite food, I really just believe in our products,” Bowman said.
About six months after Ms. Didi’s opened its window, COVID-19 became a public health emergency and changed the way the mother and daughter would do business. They immediately pivoted to an online, pre-ordering system that lessened the lines and the possible contact among customers.
In the three years since, Ms. Didi’s has gained in popularity, appearing at large-scale events like Eat Black Charlotte’s food festival.
“We do want to play around with creativity as far as plating or flavors or things like that, but when you come to Ms. Didi’s, you’re not going to get a fusion or anything; you’re going to get authentic Haitian cuisine.”
Follow Ms. Didi’s on Instagram to stay up to date on the food truck’s weekly schedule and location.