Trinidad and Tobago: How to eat like a local
January 1, 1970
It’s easy to get carried away by the beauty of the Caribbean especially the little island of Trinidad and Tobago. Although located at the tailbone of the Caribbean arch, Trinidad and Tobago is still every bit of the tropical paradise that the Caribbean is noted for: the beaches, sand and never changing summer weather. It’s very tempting for foreigners to laze back all day long and sip on fresh coconut water. But any true Trinbagonian would tell you that the true highlight of the country is its food. The Trinidad cuisine like many other parts of the culture is a melting pot of African, Indian, Chinese, Spanish, Middle Eastern and many other influences. The easiest way to experience Trinidad and Tobago like a local is through food and with these five foods you’re bound to go from tourist to local in no time – take it from a true Port of Spain girl.
1) Bake ‘N Shark
When marron 5 visited Trinidad, Adam Levine called it a shark burger. When Andrew Zimmerman featured it on his Bizarre Food television show, he called it a fish sandwich, but no matter what they call it, everyone agrees that it is simply delicious! The sandwich consists of the ‘bake’ which is usually fried dough and the fried fillet shark meat (although due to shark shortages and environmentalist’s concerns, King Fish is often used as a substitute). Another thing everyone agrees on is that the best place to get a shark burger is Richards Bake and Shark, a restaurant located at Maracas Bay beach in Trinidad. On weekends, the queue extends all the way to the parking lot, but it’s well worth the wait for this local delicacy. The secret behind the popularity of bake ‘N shark is the condiments used. Different condiments combination can give the sandwich a totally different personalized taste and that’s why Richards is the place to go as they currently have more than 15 condiment options. As the saying goes here: we eat them, before they eat us.
Doubles are the ultimate street food in Trinidad and Tobago and it’s easy to see why. It’s tasty, its filling and its cheap ($ 4TT=$0.60 US). The golden trio of street food. Like many other meals in this country, Doubles is inspired by our Indian heritage. It is said to have evolved from India’s chole bhature or chana bhatura. The sandwich is usually made of two fried flat bread (bara) which is where the name doubles originated from, curried chickpeas (curried channa), and topped with either mango, shado beni, cucumber, chutney or pepper sauce (Slight!). It’s a normal sight to see long lines of people waiting for their doubles fix for breakfast, lunch and even as a late night snack. It’s not far –fetched to say if you’ve never eaten doubles, then you’ve never been to Trinidad and Tobago.
3)Buss-up shot roti
Like doubles, roti is an Indian-influenced food. There are three main types of roti served in Trinidad and Tobago; Sada roti, Dhalpuri –roti and Buss-up shot (paratha roti) – which is the most popular. Roti is simply Indian flat bread and can be served with bodi (long bean), pumpkin, ochro, curry chicken, curry goat, curry shrimp and curry mango. The name buss-up shot is creole which translates to busted shirt. It was gotten due to the texture of the roti resembling a torn shirt (disclaimer: it does not taste like torn shirts). Historically, good buss-up shots could only be found at Indian weddings, but today , I believe if you ask 10 Trinbagonians where to get great buss-up shot , you’d end up with ten different answers.
If doubles is the ultimate street food, then pelau is the ultimate get-together meal. Whether it’s at a friend’s house, cricket match, fete (party), a day at the beach or a “river lime” (hanging out at the river banks), pelau always seems to be the meal of choice. This African- influenced, one pot dish is made of rice, pigeon peas, meat or chicken that is cooked with fresh herbs, coconut milk and colored with Burnt Sugar. It’s often served with a salad of watercress, shredded carrots, tomatoes or cucumber, accompanied by homemade hot sauce, kuchela (pickled mango), roasted coconut or vegetable chutney, zaboca (avocado) and even a raw scotch bonnet pepper. Pelau is a dish that can be prepared by anyone but can easily be found in any creole restaurant. I’d dare to say that pelau is the unofficial meal for Trinidad and Tobago making it a must-try when visiting the islands.
Last but not least, we have chow and no, I don’t mean the chow chow dog. Trini Chow is a very popular snack in both islands due to our abundance of various fruits. It can be made of half-ripe mangoes, oranges, portugals (tangerine), cucumbers, tomatoes, pommecythere (also called golden apples), chennet, pommerac, green “Trini” plums, tart green apples, unripe peaches or pineapples and spiced with fresh green herbs. It’s a favorite amongst those looking for sweet and savory yet spicy snack that is bound to thrill the taste buds. Chow is often sold by street vendors but the fruit usually varies on which one is in season. It’s also one of the many traditional Christmas food and can usually be found in a bowl right next to the ham during the Christmas season. Things can get pretty “heated” when eating chow, so if you don’t have an affinity for spicy things, I’d suggest having a bottle of water at hand before trying it.
So, there you have it, 5 foods that are a must-try when visiting Trinidad and Tobago. It’s easy to tell that we’re a nation of spices and fresh herbs but that’s what give our dishes their distinctive taste. So be prepared to have your taste buds tantalized and your tolerance for spices tested.
Have you tried any? Or did I miss any? Let me know what you think in the comments below.