Even though they pulled out all of the stops in the Signature/National Dish and Mystery Basket Rounds, it was not enough for Team Trinidad & Tobago to secure a place in the finals of the 9th Caribbean Junior Duelling Challenge competition which came to an end last weekend at the CARIFESTA XIII Grand Market.
While the judges all agreed that this year’s event was extremely competitive, Team T&T must be credited with pulling off a Signature/ National Dish, featuring curried crab and dumplings, which offered a true representation of that country’s local cuisine which has been influenced by its colonial past and multi-ethnic background.
As we continue our focus on the local cuisine to be found in our Caribbean neighbours, we stay in this twin-island republic for this week’s tasty treat. We do through the following article reproduced from the Caribbean Junior Culinary Conference Magazine 2017
“A vacation paradise with something for everyone; crystal clear waters lapping on the sandy shores, ideal scenery to relax and of course a vibrant carnival known as the biggest street party on earth that showcases the rhythm of its people. Welcome to the sweet twin island called Trinidad and Tobago, where you can never, in theory, eat the same thing twice for a month because the smorgasbord of cuisines on these islands is staggering.
This brother and sister island nation is recognized for its diverse people with its equally diverse cultures that resulted from its many colonizers, labourers and slaves. History has shown that the multi-ethnic heritage includes African, Indian, Spanish, French, British, Chinese and Syrian-Lebanese traditions. As a result, our cuisine has been influenced, ethnically marked and is undeniably a direct reflection of the diversity of our people. From our technique of ‘one-pot’ cooking that created our signature Creole dishes like pelau, callaloo (made from spinach-like dasheen leaves with okra, pumpkin, coconut milk and/or pigtail which is a must have on Sunday in African households) and soups, to our more spicy foods thanks to the introduction of curry by the East Indians. It doesn’t matter what the dish is, we like our food peppery and with condiments (sauces) that we douse on.
With our easy accessible street-food culture, it is impossible to go hungry. We are known as ‘born-nibblers’ and our encapsulating mouth-watering street food enables this tradition as it is a norm to eat on the street. In fact, some of our best foods are eaten by hand. Upon leaving the airport at Piarco, you will be immediately tempted by the aroma of doubles. This is a savory ‘sandwich’ made of two baras (flat fried bread) filled with curry channa (curried chick peas) and laced with an array of chutneys (from five to eight) from which to choose. Doubles, the quintessential street food, served plain, slight, regular or heavy in terms of pepper, is perhaps the leading roadside delight and is a favourite for the breakfast and late evening crowds.
Equally popular is the roasted corn, corn soup, coconuts with jelly, souse (chicken or pig feet with cucumbers steeped in a salty acidic liquid of lime, onion, and peppers served cold), aloo pie, saheena, pholourie and chow (made from any fruit in season). Then there is our popular beach food “bake-and-shark” found at Maracas Bay Village, which represents the true art of seasoned shark fillets with our green seasoning, deep-fried, stuffed into a fried bake and topped with your choice of spicy condiments.
Restaurants are plentiful, from the internationally noted to the dives known only to those living nearby. If you like Chinese food, you’ve come to the right place; oddly enough, the locations are endless, providing mostly Cantonese variety. You can also head to a great Indian restaurant offering one of Trinidad’s national and well-loved dish called “roti’; from the popular sada, paratha (buss-up-shot), or dhalpuri, to homemade dosti or pepper roti. So what is roti you may ask? In Trinidad, roti is the ultimate hearty fast-food; in local parlance it doesn’t just refer to the breads listed above but it means a dish of curried vegetables or meats (from goat, beef, duck to shrimp) wrapped up burrito-style except for buss-up-shot which is served at the side.
We also love wild meats, so much so that we are willing to pay the price to have them during hunting season. It’s rare to find a local with little or no knowledge of wild meat; from agouti to lappe, deer and manicou, wild hog and iguana, whether or not you’ve had these delicacies stewed, curried or curried-stewed with provisions, rice or roti, the names undoubtedly form a major part of Trinidad and Tobago’s cultural culinary landscape.
We can’t forget our sister isle Tobago and its signature dish- curried crab and dumplings that you can find at every kiosk at Store Bay. This classic dish uses the island’s ever-present “green seasoning” and curry that combines two cultural techniques to create a unique blend that locals love.
Trinbagonians love their food and it’s easy to understand why as pretty much everything we do revolves around tradition and food. Out for drinks? Yes, but we’ll stop for doubles, corn soup, souse or gyros after. River lime! The fire side, roti, wild meat and curry are there. Cricket! Who’s bringing the pelau? It’s Christmas! Parang by the neighbor: the reward, pastelles, ham, ponche de crème, black cake, sorrel. Every day is a feast in sweet T&T and to enjoy it you must come with an open mind and an adventurous palate because the cuisine is that distinct, tasty, full of surprises and takes gastronomes on a culinary world tour.”
Next week, we’ll tell you about the highlights of the 4th Caribbean Junior Culinary Conference and the 9th Caribbean Junior Duelling Challenge.