Haitian mushroom foragers covet the djon-djon. During rainy season, which lasts from August to October, they hand-pick this delicacy from the crannies and crevices of dead wood on the island’s rugged terrain. The unassuming black fungus grows primarily in the mountains surrounding the Artibonite River valley, a region known as the “bread bowl of Haiti.”
Home cooks and restaurants alike revere the unassuming black fungus for its role in black mushroom rice, known as diri ak djon-djon or riz djon-djon. This dish features herbed and spiced lima beans and green peas mixed with rice dyed near-black from a woody, earthy infusion of dried djon-djon mushroom caps, often finished with shrimp or lobster. Cooks opt to use the dried mushrooms both because of their shelf life and because fresh ones have an intense, putrid stench. Haitians prepare this dish around the world, and it provides a sense of national identity for both those at home and those far from it. Vendors in areas with sizable Haitian communities in the United States, such as Florida and New York, sell the authentic dried mushrooms year-round.
But if you can’t find the real thing, there are a few substitutes that try to mimic the coveted mushroom’s flavor. The seasoning company Maggi developed djon-djon-flavored stock cubes to try and re-create its deep color and earthy aroma.
Where to Try It
Grandchamps197 Patchen Ave, Brooklyn, 11233, United States
This Haitian, homestyle restaurant in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood serves riz djon-djon alongside other island specialties.