When I traveled to Miami in January 2018, I just knew I was in for an amazing food experience. I’d spent weeks researching all the spots I wanted to hit, creating a who’s who list of the most highly recommended stops for the best mojitos, cubano sandwiches, coffee, plantains and ceviche. Day after day I’d wander into different restaurants and bars in iconic neighborhoods like Little Havana, Wynwood, and Coconut Grove — only to keep leaving disappointed.
The service was always thoughtful and attentive, but the food and/or drinks missed the mark. I had just resigned myself to spending the next few days of my trip hanging out at the beach and doctoring my mojitos with a bottle of Bacardi I’d purchased in town when I overheard a group of friends talking about Little Haiti. I canceled my lunch reservations, shook the sand off my toes, and hopped in a Uber straight for Little Haiti.
The driver dropped me off in front of Chef Creole’s, where I ordered a lobster tail platter and a mango smoothie. What arrived at my table was a masterpiece. A massive juicy lobster tail bathed in butter and Creole seasonings, stewed black beans cooked in a fragrant epis — think the Haitian version of the New Orleans “Holy Trinity” — and tender bits of rice. To the side of my plate was a heap of pikliz, a spicy and sour cabbage slaw that helped to cut through all the richness of the food. One bite of Haitian food and I was hooked. It was easily the best meal I had during my time in Miami.
When I came home, I could not get those flavors out of my head and set out to recreate my experience at my own dinner table. I looked up tons of epis recipes until I found a version that I loved. I also learned how to make pikliz — now, there’s always a jar in my refrigerator.
This Haitian fish taco recipe takes everything I loved about my meal at Chef Creole’s and makes it both accessible and easy to make for a quick dinner. In truth, I’ll never miss out on an opportunity to turn any dish into a taco (you can take the girl out of California…). Here, the epis is used as both salsa and a marinade for the fish. Traditional pikliz calls for sour oranges and scotch bonnet peppers, but if you can’t find either of those ingredients, a combination of lime juice and vinegar works, and habanero peppers make an appropriate substitution.
This recipe will make more epis and pikliz than you’ll likely need, which is a good thing because both work well in other dinner staples. Use it to jazz up simple beans, tomato sauce, roasted pork, or grilled steak. The pikliz is delicious eaten straight out of a jar — as I did hourly when I was pregnant with my daughter — but it’s also amazing on avocado toast,