In the sun-scorched streets of Pointe-a Pitre, Guadeloupe, buzzy energy bubbled up from the narrow lanes and the scent of spices and frying dough mingled with the sea breeze. The first time I arrived on the archipelago, I was struck by the chaotic mix of old world and new: crayon-coloured 18th-Century buildings next to storefront mannequins dressed in patterned leggings and tanks; a graffiti artist spray painting a crumbling 19th-Century warehouse.
All my senses were activated as l sipped fresh sugarcane juice and strolled around the waterfront. I understood immediately why Guadeloupe is known for la belle la vie, or the beautiful life. The zest for living is woven into every aspect of the islands’ lifestyle, from the joyful rhythms of local zouk music to the record numbers for Champagne drinking, but it’s especially evident in the devoted preparation of food. I sampled complex dishes like feroces d’avocat, a spicy avocado salad with cassava and codfish, as well as the creole stew of breadfruit, plantains and tripe called be’bele. But nothing seemed to be as ubiquitous and beloved as the source of that fried dough aroma, the almighty bokit.
The ultimate Guadeloupan street food, bokit is a hefty sandwich fashioned from fried dough and a creative range of ingredients that’s sold from stands, trucks and cafes that dot the island. I entered a tiny eatery with a faded sign and a few tables and chairs. A mind-numbing list of ingredient choices – including lamb, lobster, conch, curried chicken, pepper sauce, cheeses, curry sauce and ketchup – lined a wall over a grill where the owner was frying two long pieces of dough.
I ordered saltfish with sweet peppers and Creole sauce (made of scotch bonnet peppers, onions, parsley, garlic and lime) and watched him stuff the ingredients between the fried bread and wrap it in foil. I took a bite and the flavours danced around my mouth, forming a happy mix. The satisfying blend of fat and freshness along with the array of fillings made it the perfect symbol of Guadeloupe’s multicultural influences. The bokit is so much more than a sandwich; it’s a portable feast and cultural symbol.
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