At BunNan, plantains are considered a love language — they are the eatery’s star ingredient. This new Haitian foodie spot is located within the Flatbush Central Caribbean Marketplace in Brooklyn, where vendors offer a robust selection of Caribbean fashion, the mellow island music in the background transports a native back to their childhood and for some, the food tastes like home. Haitians and foodies alike will be able to savor its Haitian flavors through BunNan’s signature plantain sandwiches.
BunNan is the brainchild of Nadege Fleurimond, 40, who opened up the food stall earlier this month. Her love for cooking started when she was a child. At 8 years old, she immigrated to Brooklyn from Port Au Prince, Haiti, to live with her father. Since it was only the two of them, Fleurimond’s father taught her how to cook.
“Cooking is my dad’s love language. A Haitian father doesn’t tell you ‘I love you.’ They’ll never say ‘I’m sorry,’ not likely anyways. But he would make me a meal and he would cook for me,” she says. “My dad could cook, and whenever he wanted to say ‘I’m sorry’ he would make [my favorite meal, seafood legume (a thick vegetable stew)], and I always associate that with family, with community and whenever I’m really feeling like I need comfort, that’s the dish I make.”
When Fleurimond was at college, she began missing home. Although she was only a few train stops away at Columbia University, she missed the Caribbean-feel Flatbush always provided her. She began cooking as a way to comfort her homesick-ness and when she would share food with her friends — and they loved it.
“I [thought] this is such a great way to talk about Haiti,” Fleurimond says. “A little light bulb went off in my head, I could really use food as a tool to teach people about Haiti, about the culture beyond the things they see on TV. At the time it was always very negative, it was always about natural disasters or political turmoil. But when food was involved we had conversations on traditions and the celebrations we had.”
Upon graduation, Fleurimon worked as a community liaison for a city council member and also opened a catering business on the side. Despite her passion for cooking, she never considered it a career option, but her catering business took off and became wildly popular. She quit her day job and took the catering business full time. When the idea to open a food hall at Flatbush Central Caribbean Marketplace came up, Fleurimond knew she wanted her food to be a part of it.
“I really loved the story of the marketplace and what it represents for Flatbush because Flatbush is really changing. Flatbush is Caribbean, it’s [called] Little Caribbean for a reason,” she says. “But you also notice the displacement of communities that really made this area what it is. I wanted to be a part of an institution like that and to be able to continue to maintain some aspect of Caribbean culture.”
What better way to maintain Caribbean culture and connect people to Haitian food by creating an eatery devoted to something beloved by Caribbean people: plantains.
“The plantain connects the whole Black diaspora, it connects Latin America, it connects Africa,” Fleurimond says. “Everybody loves plantains.”
Fleurimond created BunNan as a play on bannann, the Haitian-Creole word for plantains, pronounced “bUn-nan.” BunNan’s specialty? Sandwiches that use plantains in lieu of bread.
Fleurimond creates the plantain “buns” by mashing and then frying them. BunNan specializes in four sandwiches, each of which come topped with caramelized onions, red cabbage slaw, pikliz (a spicy cabbage slaw) and sauce.
The griot sandwich, which features marinated pork shoulder, is BunNan’s best seller. The red snapper sandwich is a close second, and for vegetarians, there is a mushroom sandwich. All of which pair perfectly with Fleurimond’s homemade passionfruit lemonade.
“It’s really a one item concept,” she says. “I really wanted the plantain to be the star.”
While BunNan has been open for a short time, it already has several devoted regulars, including Rita Pierre.
“I think the food is amazing,” Pierre, who was born in Haiti, says. “Usually a plantain can be a little tough, especially to cook. For them to be able to perfect it in a way to make a sandwich out of it so that it’s not too thick, not hard or rough but nice and crispy is amazing.”
Pierre appreciates the fact that BunNan puts a unique twist on traditional Haitian flavors.
“If you go to a Haitian party and there is no red snapper, is it really a Haitian party? It’s a really popular fish, and they were able to season it so well,” she says. “You could tell it was seasoned with Haitian spices because it has a nice kick to it. Putting it all together, sandwiches aren’t a Haitian thing, but blending all these [flavors] into a sandwich was amazing.”
Richard Coleman, who was visiting New York City from Canada, found BunNan through Instagram and it was high on his list of food joints to visit.
“I needed to try this place to see if it’s real and I am very happy with my selection,” he says. “You can feel the sweetness and saltiness [of the jerk chicken sandwich] at the same time. The flavor of the jerk chicken with the pikliz — perfect. Paired with the crunchiness of the plantain — perfect.”
Fleurimond encourages customers not just to go to BunNan but also to visit the rest of the marketplace and support the shops. In the meantime, she’ll continue to spread love and Caribbean culture through the plantain.
“Food is the tool that I love,” Fleurimond says . “It’s the gift that I have and it’s how I will continue to use it to keep sharing the message and connection of culture with other people.”
Visit BunNan at the Flatbush Central Caribbean Marketplace food hall located at 21-23 Caton Ave. in Brooklyn. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Show this article when you buy in-person and receive 10% off your order.