Chef Nahika Hillery offers fresh perspectives to change the Haitian narrative in America.
By Allie Justis, Photo by Karla Grzymala
When Chef Nahika Hillery set out to bring Haitian cuisine to Austin with her famous food truck Kreyól Korner, she had a uniquely difficult task. She was attempting to become a pioneer in the Austin food scene where she would be the first to showcase the rich culture that Haiti has to offer.
But Hillery says that she doesn’t just want to stop there. Her main passion is to change the narrative of how many Americans see Haiti in general.
“Just being of Haitian descent, my dad always jokes that I’m 200% Haitian,” says Hillery. “I just felt a responsibility to my culture, being a Haitian ambassador, to find a way to bring a piece of home to my new home here in Austin.
“I want to find ways to highlight Haitian culture in a positive light because in the media there’s a misrepresentation,” she continues. “Haiti is only talked about when it comes to the natural disasters and the poverty, but we also have this eclectic, vibrant culture. If [I could highlight] that here, then I would feel like I am fulfilling something that was missing.”
The Present & The Future
Even though her food truck is retiring, she is in the process of creating a cloud kitchen that would be able to cater, deliver and more.
“Moving to the cloud kitchen model allows us to be able to offer customers food being delivered to their door rather than in person,” says Hillery. “It helps cut down on costs and helps us provide higher quality food for our customers. It’s actually really nice, and I’m loving the cloud kitchen concept for our next step.”
One mainstay recipe of Kreyól Korner is griyo with bannan peze, or fried pork with fried plantains. Hillery says this dish has a special place in her heart.
“Griyo is our best seller on the truck, but it’s also one of the most popular dishes in Haiti,” she says. “From how it’s cleaned, to how it’s marinated, to how it’s cooked, I feel it’s very unique to Haiti and Haitian cuisine, so I really wanted to highlight griyo the most.”
Griyo and Bannan Peze: Haitian Fried Pork Shoulder and Fried Plantains
Serves 4 people; Prep time: 20 minutes; Total time: 1 hr 30 minutes
Epis (seasoning base):
6 garlic cloves
¼ cup vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ cup canola oil
Fresh parsley, to taste
½ green bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
1 Scotch bonnet pepper
2 scallion stalks
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon adobo seasoning
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
Fried Pork & Plantains:
2-3 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon vinegar
3 limes, juiced, separated
2 cups water
1 tablespoon seasoning salt
2 sprigs thyme
1 Scotch bonnet pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil, for frying
Saved pork broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bell pepper, julienned
1 onion, julienned
- Add all of the epis ingredients into a blender and blend. Set aside.
- Wash pork in water with vinegar and the juice of 2 limes. Let it sit in the mixture for about 2 minutes, drain and rinse off with cold water.
- In a large bowl, take the epis blend and pour it over the drained pork shoulder. Massage the epis into the pork shoulder evenly. Cover bowl and marinate for a minimum of 1 hour (for best results, refrigerate and marinate overnight).
- Over medium-high heat, place marinated pork into a pot and allow to brown for 3 minutes. Add water, seasoning salt, thyme, Scotch bonnet pepper and juice from 1 lime, then cover the pork and cook for 45 minutes. Remove pork from broth and set aside.
- To make the sauce, using the pot already containing pork broth, add tomato paste and mix well. Add bell pepper and onion and mix. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Keep warm for serving.
- In a separate pan, bring frying oil to 350 degrees and fry pork for 1 minute or until it has browned evenly. Remove and set aside.
- Prepare a bowl of salt water for the plantains. Peel the plantain. Cut by the bias into 5-6 slices. Fry in the oil for 2 minutes.
- Flatten plantain with a flat-surfaced item (i.e., plate) and then soak in salt water for 10 seconds. Fry again for 1-2 minutes until golden brown, then serve immediately with fried pork and sauce. Pair with red beans and rice.