In the sun-scorched streets of Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, buzzing energy flowed from the narrow lanes and the scent of spices and batter mingled with the sea breeze. The first time I arrived on the archipelago, I was struck by the chaotic mix of the old and the new world: 18th century buildings in pencil colors next to window mannequins dressed in leggings and patterned tank tops; a graffiti artist spray painting a ruined 19th century warehouse.
All my senses were activated as I sipped fresh cane juice and strolled by the water’s edge. I immediately understood why Guadeloupe is known for good life, or the good life. The joy of living is woven into all aspects of the island way of life, from the joyful rhythms of the zouk music to record numbers for champagne consumption, but this is especially evident in the dedicated preparation of food. I have tasted complex dishes like fierce D’attorney, a spicy avocado salad with cassava and cod, as well as the Creole stew of breadfruit, plantains and tripe called be’bele. But nothing seemed to be so ubiquitous and beloved as the source of that fried dough aroma, the Almighty. Bokit.
The ultimate Guadeloupe street food, bokit is a hearty sandwich made with fried dough and a creative array of ingredients sold in stalls, trucks and cafes dotting the island. I walked into a small restaurant with a shabby sign and a few tables and chairs. A bewildering list of ingredient choices – including lamb, lobster, conch, chicken curry, pepper sauce, cheeses, curry sauce, and ketchup – lined one wall at the over a grill where the owner was frying two long pieces of dough.
I ordered salted fish with sweet peppers and a creole sauce (made with scotch bonnet peppers, onions, parsley, garlic and lime) and watched him stuff the ingredients between the bread. fried and wrap in foil. I took a bite and the flavors danced around my mouth, forming a happy blend. The satisfying mix of fat and freshness as well as the range of toppings have made it the perfect symbol of the multicultural influences of Guadeloupe. The bokit is more than a sandwich; it is a portable party and a cultural symbol.