There’s no doubt in any travelers mind that one of the best ways to try out a new culture is to sample their food. The islands of Trinidad and Tobago offer some of the most unusual food blends in the Carribbean due to the island’s mixture of African, Indian, British, Chinese, and even Spanish influences. Interestingly, even though the islands’ primary language is English, many of the foods have foreign names dating back to their roots. This can make it quite confusing to a traveler that wants to try something new. If you are planning a trip to Trinidad take a look at this handy guide to some of the most common Trinidad street food before your journey.
Doubles have all the components of a classic street food. They are super cheap, portable, and freakin’ delicious! You can find someone (or lots of someone’s) selling doubles almost anywhere you go on the island, at pretty much anytime of the day. Traditionally though, doubles are a breakfast food, which is when you’ll find the best vendors out and about. Like any popular food there are many variations, but the basic recipe never changes. First you begin with two pieces of fried dough (hence the name doubles ) called barra, then you spoon in heavily seasoned chick peas or channa followed by crazy hot scotch bonnet based pepper sauce. You can order it with anywhere from no pepper, to slight (very hot for someone not used to pepper sauce), to plenty pepper (watch out! Here comes the fire engine hot!!) and some vendors will also top it with a herby cucumber blend. Once assembled they are wrapped up in a neat little package made of paper and are ready to eat! Now, you might be wondering, how do you eat it? Doubles are eaten with your hands. Don’t try to pick it up like a sandwich or you’ll make a mess, and a fool, of yourself. Tear off bite sized pieces of barra, pinch some of the mixture into it, and then shovel it into your mouth. Doing it this way allows you to stay relatively mess free and enjoy!
Aloo Pie is another very common street food. It’s made by cooking well seasoned potatoes then filling the cooled mixture into raw dough then deep-frying the dough. No one can tell me exactly why it’s called a pie, since it’s not sweet, or round, but it’s still tasty As with most foods in Trinidad, it’s traditionally served with pepper sauce, but can also be enjoyed without it.
Sahina is slightly less common amongst street food vendors in Trinidad, but it happens to be one of my favorites. Made out of a variety of spinach, it’s mixed with a doughy blend and then flash fried. When done well, they come out light and crisp and are quite enjoyable.
Roti is probably the most famous and ubiquitous of the islands foods. There are literally hundreds of roti shops and street food carts across Trinidad and they all have something different to offer. This is because roti is an all-inclusive term, sort of like sandwich. Here are some of the basic differences. The two most common types of roti are Sada Roti and Dhalpourie. Sada (shown below) is a flat bread similar to naan or a pita that is normally stuffed with or served on the side of curried, stewed or fried vegetables. Dhalpourie roti is a thinner bread that is blended with pureed lentils, or dhal, and then filled with heartier meats like curried lamb or goat, curried or stewed chicken or curried shrimp. Both roti styles are meant to be eaten with your hands by tearing off pieces of roti and filling together. Most shops will make the fillings mildly spicy and then more spice can be added with pepper sauce. If you’re not sure how hot you like it, get the pepper sauce on the side. Here are a few examples of different rotis from across the island.
Of course all of this delicious food needs to be washed down with something right? While you could wash it down with a cold Carib, that’s a tough thing to do at 8AM. Enter Trinidad’s own Solo drinks with the solution. With a line of locally made and flavored drinks they’ve got you covered. They have your basic flavors like cream or club soda, but really shine when they mix it up with some island flavors. There is the traditional Red Kola Champagne which has a uniquely sweet taste to it or they offer lots of fruit flavors like banana, pineapple, and orange. Whatever flavor you choose they are all a great balance to the savory and spicy street foods they are served with.
Hopefully this guide to Trinidad street food, will help you get started on your culinary adventure through island and help you find some new favorite foods. I will however leave uninitiated with one warning. No matter what you try, and no matter how much spicy food you’ve eaten in the past, BEWARE OF THE HOT SAUCE!!!