Trinidad and Tobago cuisine
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Popular breakfast foods include doubles; sada or paratha roti served with a variety of curried, roasted or fried vegetable dishes; fried bake served with fish, meat, or vegetable dishes; and coconut bake (coconut bread) served with a range of fillings.
Doubles is made with two baras (flat fried dough) filled with curried channa (chickpeas) and served with toppings like pepper, tamarind sweet sauce, and cucumber relish. It was a popular breakfast snack eaten by the indentured laborers and farmers before going in the fields.
In a traditional Indo-Trinidadian breakfast, dal bhat, sada roti, or paratha roti is usually served with damadol choka (roasted and mashed tomatoes), baigan choka (roasted and mashed eggplant), aloo choka (boiled, roasted, and mashed potatoes), fried or curried bodi (long beans), fried or curried aloo (potatoes), fried or curried bhindhi (ochro), fried or curried seim (hyacinth beans), fried or curried karaili (bittermelon), kohra tarkari (pumpkin simmered with spices and seasoning), fried or curried lauki (calabash), fried or curried saijan (drumstick), bhagi (made with young taro, spinach or spiny amaranth leaves), and/or fried plantains.
Fried bake (a fried dough unleavened bread) is usually served with fried shark, saltfish (dried and salted cod), buljol (saltfish with fresh sweet peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and sometimes boiled eggs), sardine, smoke herring (smoked, salted, and dried fish), bacon, fried plantain, stew chicken, or corned beef with onions and tomatoes.
Coconut bake (coconut bread) is usually served with fried accra (saltfish fritters), buljol, black pudding, butter, cheese paste (a mixture of cheese, butter, mustard, grated onion, mayonnaise and green seasoning) or stewed meat like chicken.
A common hot drink consumed for breakfast is cocoa tea (hot chocolate) made from homemade cocoa balls.
Lunch and dinner
A very popular and nationally well known dish with distinctly African roots is callaloo, a side dish made of young dasheen or taro leaves, okra known locally as ochro, crab or pigtails, pumpkin, onions, coconut milk, pimento, and green seasoning like chives, cilantro and culantro (locally called chadon beni from the French name for thistle "Chardon Bénit" or bandhaniya from the Hindi name for closed cilantro "ban dhaniya").
Trinidad and Tobago dishes are often curried, stewed, or barbecued. An array of fish and seafood can be bought at local merchants throughout Trinidad and Tobago, such as flying fish, king fish, carite, prawns, sapatay, red fish, shrimp, bonito, lobster, conch and crab, tilapia and seasonal cascadura.
One of the most popular Trinidadian dishes is curried duck served with either roti or rice. Local curried duck cooking competitions are often held with multiple variations being created. A simple dish to make, but difficult to master, curried Muscovy is regarded as a delicacy which can be served at all times.
Tobagonian food is dominated by a wide selection of seafood dishes, most notably, curried crab and dumplings, and Tobago is also known for its sumptuously prepared provisions, soups and stews, also known as blue food across the country. "Fish broth" a soup made in the style of Bouillabaisse is quite popular as a main dish or as a side.
Another local dish is the rare delicacy cascadu (cascadura), which is a small, freshwater fish. The fish is curried and served with lagoon rice and cassava and yams. There is a local legend in Trinidad that s/he who eats cascadu will return to Trinidad to end their days.
Also a special type of West Indian spaghetti dish is made in the towns of Chaguanas, Couva and some parts of San Fernando. It is made by using durum semolina, scorpion peppers, pasta sauce and a hint of garlic sauce. Everything is sauteed in a sauce pan until all the fluid dries. It is then served with salt dashed on top with some rosemary and parsley.
Trinidadians accompany their meals with various condiments; these can include pepper sauces, chutneys and pickles and are often homemade.
Pepper sauces are made by using scotch bonnet or other hot peppers, either minced or chopped and other spices. It can sometimes include lime or lemon as well as other vegetables, and come in many variations and flavours. The murtanie (mother-in-law) is another popular condiment which is a coarsely chopped spicy medley of scotch bonnet peppers, carrots, kareli (bitter melon) and other spices.
Chutneys are popular as well and often include mango, tamarind, cucumber, pommecythère, bandhaniya, dhaniya, tomato, and coconut. They are most commonly eaten with doubles, aloo pie, saheena, baiganee, kachori, and pholourie. There are a variety of popular pickles known locally as Achar which are commonly used. Kuchela a grated spicy version, usually made from mango but sometimes made from pommecythère, the Mango version being most popular. Other version of Achars are made from mango, pommecythère, tamarind, amla, lemon, lime, and chulta.
Green seasoning is extremely popular, a cold sauce based on culantro or chadon beni, pureed with green onions, garlic, pimento, vinegar, and other herbs, which can be used as a table condiment or marinade.
Popular freshly prepared street foods include:
- East Indian foods like doubles, aloo pie, pholourie, saheena, baiganie, kachori and samosas. Debe in South Trinidad is a popular destination for these foods.
- Dhalpuri roti (roti stuffed with seasoned, crushed split peas) is used to wrap curried channa (chickpeas) and aloo (potatoes), curried chicken, curried duck, curried conchs, and other spicy fillings.
- Bake and shark (most popular at Maracas Beach along the North coast of Trinidad) is a fried dish that is topped with fresh fruit like pineapple; vegetables like cucumber and salad; and a variety of sauces and seasonings.
- Souse is made from pig, cow or chicken feet and seasoned with onion, garlic, salt, pimento, scotch bonnet peppers, lemon and chadon beni. It is served warm (mostly) or slightly chilled (room temperature). It is also rumoured to be a cure to hangovers.
Other common street foods include wontons, corn soup, geera (cumin) pork, geera chicken, kebeabs, gyros, pasteles, raw oysters (usually sold at stalls where there is a lighted kerosene torch or flambeau, with a spicy sweet/hot sauce mainly with cilantro or bandhaniya aka shadon beni aka culantro), fish pies, macaroni pies, cheese pies, beef pies (many Trinidadian neighbourhoods boast a local pie-man), and pows (Cantonese pao-tzu < baaozi, steamed wrapped roll with savoury or sweet filling – steamed buns filled with meat, typically char siu pork). Sausage rolls are also eaten as midday snacks and are available at stands usually found along the nation's streets.
When in season, roast and boiled corn on the cob can be found any time day or night.
On festive occasions (Carnival, Borough Day and most public holidays), street foods also include wild meat such as deer, iguana, manicou (opossum), tatou (armadillo), and agouti, to name a few. These are prepared either as a creole or curry dish, and served with a wide choice of local pepper sauces.
Cold Street Snacks: On hot days, locals enjoy ice cream, snow cones (served in various colours, flavours and shapes, often sweetened with condensed milk), ice pops, kulfi, freezies, sucker bag, coconut slushies, coconut water, and fresh coconut jelly.
Special Christmas foods include appetisers like pastelles (called hallaca in Venezuela where they originated), pholourie, saheena, baiganee, kachori, and chicken or pork pies. Entrees include garlic ham (carne vinha-d'alhos, a Portuguese dish), baked ham, baked turkey or chicken, macaroni pie, fish pie, garlic roasted potatoes, grilled or barbecued meat (chicken, shrimp, fish, or lamb), corn, pigeon peas, Christmas (also called Spanish or festive) rice, fried rice, chow mein, lo mein, Chinese roast chicken, pepper shrimp, different types of curries (chicken, goat, duck, fish, shrimp, crab, baigan, channa and aloo), roti, and dal bhat (rice). Desserts include fruitcake, blackcake (rum cake), sweet bread, cassava pone, coconut drops, sponge cake, chocolate cake, black forest cake, raisin/currants roll, burfi, khurma, and laddu. Drinks include soda, coconut water, juices (mango, orange, or cranberry), ginger beer, ponche crema, egg nog, cocoa tea, and sorrel.
Special Diwali, Navratri, Phagwah, Ram Navami, Krishna Janmashtami, Mahashivratri, Vasant Panchami, Hanuman Jayanti, Ganesh Chaturthi and other Hindu festivals foods include mohan bhog (parsad), lapsi and suhari, burfi, khurma, gulab jamoon, pera, rasgulla, rasmalai, batasa, gujiya, roat, kheer, laddu, jalebi, halwa, roti (dalpuri, puri, sada roti, dosti roti, paratha, aloo paratha), curry aam, dal bhat, kharhi, murtanie (Mother-in-law), channa aur aloo (curried chickpeas and potatoes), curry katahar or chataigne (curry breadnut), and other vegetarian curries, tarkaries, and Indian dishes and desserts.
The popular local desserts are usually extremely sweet. Local snacks include cassava or coconut pone and stewed guavas, sweetbread, paw paw balls, tamarind balls, bene balls (sticks or cakes), toolum, guava cheese (guava paste), jub jub and sugar cakes, nut cake, chilli bibi and brown sugar fudge. Local chocolatiers and confectioners manufacture several different types of sweet treats. Indian delicacies like kheer (sweet rice or meetha bhat), sawiyan, paysam, khurma, gulab jamoon, roat, laddu, jalebi, halwa, mohan bhog (parsad), sirni, malpua, lapsi and suhari, rasgula, gulgula, rasmalai, pera, kulfi, modak, gujiya, batasa, and burfi are also popular.
There are many different popular beverages in Trinidad. These include, various sweet drinks [sodas] (Chubby's, Busta, LLB (Lemon Lime and Bitters), Solo, Peardrax, Coca-Cola, Fanta, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, and Sprite), Malta, Smalta, Shandy, citrus juice, ginger beer, Guinness Beer, peanut punch, channa (chickpea) punch, beet punch, sorrel, mauby, seamoss punch, barbadine punch, soursop punch and paw paw punch.
Carib and Stag beers are very popular local lager beers. There is also Carib Light and Carib Shandys, which come in Sorrel, Ginger, and Lime flavours.
Coconut water can be found throughout the island. Rum was invented in the Caribbean, therefore Trinidad and Tobago boasts rum shops all over the island, serving local favourites such as ponche-de-crème, puncheon rum, and home-made wines from local fruits. Homemade alcohol is popular also. Bitters (especially the one made by House of Angostura) is also popular.
Fruits available in Trinidad include mangoes (axe, bread, bastapool, button, belly-bef, calabash, cedar, cutlass, doudouce, egg, Graham, Bombay, ice-cream, Julie, long, pawpaw, Peter, rose, round, spice, starch, Tommy, teen, turpentine, vert, zabrico), breadfruit, sorrel (roselle), passion fruit), watermelons, sapodilla Manilkara zapota , pommerac (Syzygium malaccense), guavas, pommecythère (Spondias dulcis), caimite (star apple), abiu, five fingers (carambola), cherries, zaboca (avocado), popoy (papaya), chenette (Melicoccus bijugatus), pineapples, oranges, Portugal (tangerines of various genetic breeding), plum (Governor, King and common variety), West Indian (Barbadian) cherry (Acerola), bananas (sikyé, silk, Gros Michel, Lacatan), barbadine (granadilla), balatá, soursop, cashews, Tamarind, Ceres (Flacourtia indica), Pois Doux, Cocorite (Attalea maripa), Gru-Gru-beff (Acrocomia aculeata), Fat-Pork (Chrysobalanus icaco), pears. and coconuts (several varieties).
Many fruits available in Trinidad and Tobago are commonly used in a savory and usually spicy delicacy broadly referred to as "chow". The main ingredients of chow are usually: the fruit of choice, culantro (bandhaniya), pepper (powdered, sauce or natural form), salt and sometimes garlic and vinegar. Traditionally, the most popular fruits for chow have been mangoes, pommeracs, pommecythère, cucumbers, tomatoes, cherries, pineapples, green apples, pears, and plums.
The fruits are "seasoned" by the rest of the base ingredients and larger fruits (like mango and pineapple) are usually cut up into bite sized pieces.
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