Trinidad and Tobago offer a unique culinary experience that is distinct, dynamic and delicious. Our food fusion is based on our country’s diverse culture and is rooted in our history of European colonization; West African slavery; and East Indian, Chinese and Portuguese indentured labor. You will also find in Trinidad and Tobago, the tastiest street food in the Caribbean. There are many food choices here, and these local favorites are available throughout the island. Meals are available from roadside vendors, beach bars, and Creole eateries in every town in Trinidad and Tobago. There is no need for the picnic basket as a road trip can incorporate frequent stops at any of these places, for a quick “stand up” or sit down meal. “Stand up” meals are normally purchased from the street food vendors, where everyone converges around the vendor, while sharing opinions on government, politics and the gossip of the day. It is a unique cultural experience of our island and I invite you to explore it.
Here are ten local food favorites you should try in Trinidad & Tobago. Note: These have not been placed in any ranking order on the “delicious scale” as they are all equally tasty.
TOP 10 FAVORITED TRINIDAD & TOBAGO FOODS
- Doubles: Fried circles of dough stuffed with curried channa (chickpeas) dressed with spicy or sweet sauces, and grated cucumbers, including our local hot pepper sauce for the adventurous You can order them with no hot sauce or slight, medium or “plenty pepper” according to your taste.
- Roti: This dish emerged from the East Indian cuisine. The roti is a flour dough base and it is either filled with split peas to make dhal puri (Indian-inspired flatbread) or made with lots of butter to make paratha roti or buss up shut (because the torn roti looks like a tattered shirt). Dhalpuri roti is whole, like a tortilla and it is filled with a variety of different vegetables and meat curry options and is eaten with the hands. Other types of roti are Sada (plain) and Dosti (two layered). Typical accompaniments for rotis are curried chicken and/or curried potato and channa (chick peas), curried mango, pumpkin and any other vegetables.
- Phoulorie: Phoulorie are fried, spiced dough balls that are served with various chutneys like mango or tamarind. The dough is made up of flour, ground chickpeas, water and spices. It is a great snack food and a classic street food.
- Corn Soup: This soup is another popular street food that is a split pea based with fresh corn and dumplings. It is also served as an energy lift to party goers as part of menu offerings or it can be bought outside the party or club from the roadside vendor.
- Pelau: This is a one-pot dish of rice, pigeon peas and meat often cooked in coconut milk. The dish is the meal of choice during Carnival and other celebrations because it is so convenient to carry and serve, as rice, meat, peas and vegetables are all in one dish.
- Bake and Shark/ Bake and Buljohl: Bakes are fried, leavened bread that are puffy and light and filled with fried shark or any other type of fried fish. To this, you can add fruit and vegetable options like pineapple, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and more. Next you layer on a selection of sweet and savory sauces, garlic, tamarind and shado-beni (culantro). Pepper sauce is optional.
Buljohl is shredded salt fish, mixed with onions, tomatoes and olive oil and served with the bakes as our traditional breakfast dish
- Macaroni Pie: This dish is a stereotypical part of the traditional Trinidadian Sunday lunch, and is also offered in cubed form at BBQs and other casual outdoor functions. Macaroni pie is a popular Trinidadian baked pasta dish that is made up of macaroni, cheese, eggs, evaporated milk and seasonings. This dish is commonly served at the many Creole food outlets often accompanied with meat and peas, when you purchase your lunch.
- Cou-Cou and Callalloo: This dish has its origins in African slavery. It is made with cornmeal, ochroes, coconut milk and butter. It is boiled and stirred until firm enough to be sliced. It is similar to Polenta, but our Cou-Cou is of a firmer texture. Another dish of African origin, Callalloo, accompanies the Cou-Cou or the macaroni pie. The callalloo is of a soft soup like consistency, made from dasheen leaves, coconut milk, ochroes, pumpkin and sometimes salted meat or crab. Both are traditional Sunday lunch menu items.
- Pastelles: The pastelle is a seasonal Christmas food item of Spanish heritage that can be eaten for a snack, breakfast, lunch or dinner. It consists of seasoned meat or lentils (for the vegetarians) with olives, capers and raisins in a cornmeal casing, and steamed in banana leaves. They can be frozen for use throughout the year, and heated when ready to serve.
- Curry Crab and Dumplings: Our twin island Tobago is famous for its traditional dish of Curry Crab and Dumplings, a must try when you visit. Cleaned, blue crabs are stewed in a rich and fragrant curry sauce and the creamy sauce is poured onto boiled flour dumplings. Eating Crab and Dumplings takes time, lots of paper napkins and is definitely not a quick meal. Rather, it is a meal to be savored since you use your hands to dissect the curried crab limbs. To eat, you must crack the shells and suck out the meat. Locals use their teeth to crack the shells, as you don’t get a crab cracker tool with the meal!
About the Author – Gail Mohammed, Amizade-BCA Resident Director in Trinidad & Tobago
Take advantage of this opportunity to join Gail at the University of the West Indies: St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, where you can experience peace, harmony, creativity and the opportunity to enhance your social and interpersonal relations…not to mention some DELICIOUS dishes!