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What to eat in Trinidad in 72 hours : Eat like a local!

As a traveller, amateur cook and a “foodie” … and by “foodie”, I mean someone with highly exacting food standards that can come off as a pretentious “know it all” asshole, I’ve had my fair share of amazing meals. I’ve also had a litany of terrible meals in all parts of the world. It’s why I can make ridiculous claims about good eating. Trinidad has some amazing food … but for the real Trini flavours, you’ll need to stay away from any place with hordes of tourists!

If you end up somewhere and you see signs with words like “Gourmet Doubles” … run! You’re in the wrong place …

A friend of mine is travelling to Trinidad and it inspired me to put together a list of Trinidadian dishes that one should have over a long weekend – so here’s what to eat in Trinidad in 72 hours : Eat like a local!

1. Trini KFC

If you meet a Trini anywhere in the world, they will tell you that the KFC in Trinidad  aka “Colonel Sanders nonsense chicken”, “Kentucky Fried Chicken”, or “Trini Kryptonite” is the best in the world. Trinis won’t swear to many things … they might swear to a god or deity, but they will always swear that “Trini kfc is the best”. There are Facebook groups dedicated to the greatness of Trini KFC.  A visitor to Trinidad should expect to eat KFC at least twice in 72 hours … it is highly doubtful you will be sober though.

A Trini commandment along with “thou shall only take one wine with a strange woman” is “thou shall not get between a Trini and his KFC”. Personally, I’ve been to 90 something countries … and Trini KFC is still the best!!!

It’s the combination of herbs and spices and that green hot sauce … in fact, it’s all about the green hot sauce. If you’re looking for the SUPER combo … then get KFC Chicken + Royal Castle fries + Royal Castle pepper sauce. See the following primer on how important it is!!

2. Doubles

There are many posts explaining what “Doubles” are. I won’t bother with an explanation … but you have to know how to eat a “Doubles”. It is absolutely essential that you get the doubles eating technique down and you have to know the “Doubles Ordering Lexicon“. It’s imperative that any visitor understand how to order a doubles else be branded as a jackass or tourist.

Expect that you will also have doubles at least twice while you’re in Trinidad for 72 hours. You definitely will NOT be sober every time you eat doubles in Trinidad. Every visit to Trinidad has two mandatory ‘doubles” stops

Even ordering from a “Doubles man” is the simplest of things. You can order one or multiple “Doubles” and there is no such things as one “double” – asking for one “double” is asking for massive laughter at your ignorance.

The singular and plural of “Doubles” is “Doubles”. 

As for the “how to order doubles”, you know only need to know 5 terms, tourists need know the first two terms.

  1. Nothing – Plain, boring and the mark of the utter tourist or someone with ulcers.
  2. Slight – a touch of pepper and sweet chutney – typical tourist order
  3. Regular – Typical Trini order – a little bit of all chutneys and pepper sauce
  4. Heavy/Plenty – Venturing into no man’s land, unless you the know “Doubles man” chutneys well and know that he doesn’t have a really hot pepper sauce.
  5. Kill It – The mark of the expert white rum drinker aka Alcoholic (no more taste buds), the mark of the “Iron Stomach and Rectum” or a “Doubles man” with the mildest hot pepper sauce possible. The “Doubles man” will give you a slight nod of recognition.
Chances are that the doubles man will look something like this!!!

3. Caribs and a couple shots of 1919 and one shot of 1824

I love my scotch. That’s a fact! Full Stop!

I also love great rum … and Trinidad has two very fine rums from Angostura … you absolutely must have some. I’ve enclosed the following video reviews. I’m not so stoked on Carib … since I’m not a huge beer fan, but if you’re in Trinidad and you don’t have a Carib, then you’re with shitty friends or stupid foreigners … either way, you’ve missed an essential part of the experience.

Bonus points : You should have a Carib in a run down “rum shop” … there should be nothing on the walls but old Carib girl posters and nothing inside except a couple chairs and old pool table.

  • Angostura 1919
  • Angostura 1824 :


4. Chicken Roti and a Red Solo

Roti is a big deal in Trinidad. Seriously big deal! I even have a section of this blog where I do Toronto Roti Reviews.

If you happen to live in Toronto, New York or anywhere in Florida, you’re going to find a decent roti, but it will be tougher to find that “Red Solo”. You could also pair your roti with a Sorrel Shandy … but I’m a traditionalist and I go for the Red Solo. Trinis call this soft drink a “Red Solo” … because which Trini says “May I have a Kola Champagne soft drink please?” … yeah, ummm … NONE! It’s called a “Red Solo” because the colour is obviously RED. Nuff said!

The perfect partner for a Roti … DO NOT BUY IT IN THE PLASTIC BOTTLE … unless you want AIDS, HEP-C or a Plastic taste in your soft drink (Note : AIDS and HEP-C refer to other weird flavors in my book)

Here’s a note from Uncommon Caribbean on this…

Some time ago, I made a case for the sweet red wonder that is Sorrel Shandy Carib being the best drink pairing for a nice, hot roti. This contention was, like all of my reviews on food, drinks, hotels, etc., based on my own personal tastes. According to tradition, though, it’s also only half right.

As many of my Trini friends and family were quick to remind me soon after that Sorrel Shandy post, ah roti and ah red is, indeed, the time-honored roti pairing traditionally favored in the birthplace of my favorite food, Trinidad & Tobago. Only thing is the right red for most isn’t a Shandy. It’s a Solo.

Every bit as ridiculously red and sorrel-sweet as my beloved Sorrel Shandy, Red Solo has been Trinidad & Tobago’s favorite soft drink treat to pair with roti since the 1950s, though the company’s roots go back a bit further than that.

In the end, I think that a “Red Solo” is the national drink of Trinidad & Tobago. Ask for it by name with your chicken or goat roti.

Another note for those beef lovers … If you’re a fan of great beef, don’t bother with a beef roti … you’ll be sad with the result. The flavour will be great but chances are that you’ll get tiny chunks of strip or some other poor cut of beef.

Roti is food for the masses and if you’re expecting some fancy type meal … then you’re in for surprise.

NOTE : DO NOT EAT YOUR ROTI WITH A KNIFE AND FORK …seriously!!! It’s pretty touristy, shameful and the epic mark of someone completely new to Trinidad.

 

Here’s a list of places … completely copied from Trinichow

#1 – Good roti shops include Mona’s in Marabella, opposite the Police Station. Next time you go to make an accident report, buy a roti one time.  Mona’s is well-known and you can’t go wrong here. 

#2 – Shaffies Catering in Marabella near the Marabella cemetery makes roti on order.  The buss-up-shut is silky smooth and delicious – you could eat the roti by itself.  This is mainly due to the ghee.  One roti could feed about 5-6 adults.

# 3 – Staying in Marabella, there’s also the well known Amin’s Roti Shop.  Here you get buss-up-shut and dhalpuri roti.  (868) 658-1691.

#4 – On Todd Street, Les Efforts East, Sando.  S&D Roti Shop is jam up every day at lunch time.  You lucky if you get roti or food after 1:30pm.  Roti, dhal and duck is real trouble.  S&D is very breezy and open, real cool and relaxed ambiance.

#5 – On Matilda Road, off Matilda Junction in my hometown Princes Town, is Quilly’s – also known as “Kresh” to anyone up there.  Great tasting roti with chicken, goat and duck.  And, usually available up to about 4pm.  Remember the calypso with “She gone Matilda Road, She gone to look for obeahman,” that is where I talking about.

#6 – Karamath’s Roti on Coffee Street, Sando.  This roti shop is the mainstay of San Fernandians and has been around since!  They’re open late in the night and is the only place in Sando you could get home-food so late.  Here you have the interesting ‘Piper Roti’ which is basically chicken neck and back.  I don’t know the etymology but I suppose you had to be real tight to eat this.  (868) 653-1142.

Best Roti in South (alphabetical order)

Best Roti in the West and Port of Spain Area (alphabetical order)

  • Don’s Roti Shop (Petit Valley)
  • Dopson’s Roti Shop (Newtown, Port of Spain )
  • Hott Shoppe (St. James) or Patraj Roti Shop (Port of Spain)
  • Shiann’s Food Palace (Woodbrook)
  • Upstairs Towncenter Mall on Frederick Street (Port of Spain)

Best Roti in East-West Corridor/Chaguanas (alphabetical order)

  • Highway Roti Shoppe (Freeport)
  • Hot Roti on Lyndon Street (Curepe)
  • Lovey’s (Tunapuna)
  • Pamela’s Roti (Chaguanas)
  • Sylvie’s Roti Shop, Back Chain Street (San Juan)
  • Wings Roti Shop (Tunapuna)

5. Bake and Shark

I have very specific thoughts about “Bake and Shark”. It’s supposed to be Shark meat along in a fried float sandwich. Regardless of what you think is inside the sandwich … it might be Shark meat or it might be Catfish … either way it’s ridiculously tasty and if you’re heading for the MANDATORY Maracas Bay visit, then you’re going to have one.

6. Trinidadian Chinese Food

There are a lot of Chinese restaurants in Trinidad. Like a lot … and for the most part, they’re pretty decent. If you’re looking for classical Chinese cuisine, then you need to stop and don’t eat any Chinese food in Trinidad. However, if you’re looking for a uniquely Trinidadian slant complete with a million chilis, then Trini Chinese Food will be your favorite meal ever. It’s as addictive as Hakka cuisine, but even spicier … Trinis love their heat!

Trini Chinese food
Trini Chinese food … you’ll note the quantity of hot chilis on the plates.
IMG_20140417_123330
This was probably the best spicy crispy skin pork I’ve ever had!!! If you’re in Edinburgh Village, Chaguanas … I’ll tell you where it is … but I’m not sharing easily!

7. Corn Soup

Corn soup is Trinidadian comfort food. It’s a complete meal in a cup – it has carbs, protein (sketchy protein). It also must be bought from a roadside vendor outside a “fete” or party. Nothing else is the real thing. There’s something about seeing tat Well, that’s if you buy it from a roadside vendor, like most people do. And just the mere mention of it conjures up memories of Trinidad Carnival. This is the premiere after fete food, warm liquid love to set your feet on the right path home, the carnival pick-me-up. As you can no doubt tell I am a big fan of Corn Soup, but believe me when I say that it is also the favorite of many carnival masqueraders, Jouvert revelers, and partygoers; the ill, the weary, and the wounded; and anyone else who craves delicious Caribbean comfort food.

Pour that Corn Soup!!!

Corn Soup is in essence a Sancoche, which in Trinidad is a savory split pea based soup featuring a selection of ground provisions and rooty vegetables, which could include any of the following: eddoes, sweet potato, dasheen, cassava or manioc (root crop of the Caribs), carrots, green fig or plantain, pumpkin and the like, along with some form of meat, usually salted pig tail. And more recently, as the name Corn Soup implies, sections of corn have been introduced as the featured ingredient.

Another satisfied customer …

7. Aloo pies, Saheenas, Pholourie and Kachories

The Indian influence in Trinidad is strong … you can tell by the scent of hot, boiling oil that seems to radiate everywhere in Trinidad. In fact, most newcomers say that Trinidad only smells like food. You’ll want to make a pilgrimage to South Trinidad … preferably to the towns of Debe (pronounced Day-Bay) or Penal (pronounced Pee-nal) for your buffet of fried Indian delicacies … you might want to take along a defibrillator also. Eat one of everything … your belly and your brain will thank you … ignore the complaining of your heart though … hearts can be wusses sometimes.

You’ll want to eat one of everything in this glass case.

– Aloo pies: (Fried dough stuffed with seasoned potatoes, curried chick peas (Channa), mango pickles (Kutchela) and two types of mango chutneys)
– Baiganie : (Fried dough stuffed with strips of whole eggplant, curried chick peas (Channa), mango pickles (Kutchela) and hot sauce – like an eggplant fritte
– Saheena:  (Rolled Dasheen leaves with chick pea dough st, curried chick peas (Channa), mango pickles (Kutchela) and hot sauce
– Kachorie : This is my least favority and it’s still great with pepper and Kutchela. It’s a spicier Falafel … no other description required.
– Pholourie – Fried dough balls eaten with Mango Chutney … or any decent chutney available
– Multiple doubles … no explanation required

8. Everything else … Roast Pork, Souse, Pastelles, Cow Heel Soup, Black Pudding, Gyros, Callaloo, Pelau, Crab & Dumplings …etc etc

If you’re in Trinidad for 72 hours, you probably will not have time to find space in your digestive tract to have anything else. If you have a chance to try anything above … ensure that you’re with a Trini who’s been around for a while

9. What not to have … if you’re a Foodie

If you live in North America … don’t bother having dishes that you can have in North America.

  • Sushi : For example … under no circumstances should you eat Sushi in Trinidad. If you do, then you’re an idiot for wasting your money. There is nothing on the planet short of Sukyabashi Jiro opening in Trinidad that will convince me otherwise.
  • Steak : Why bother paying twice the price for some crappy Canada Select, non dry aged beef? Seriously!!!
  • Burgers : See the above, with the steak/beef. Don’t do it … there are too many other amazing dishes to have in Trinidad.
  • Pizza : It’s awful … also bonus shit points … Trinis put ketchup and mustard on their pizzas. There is some “gourmet” pizzas ala thin crust etc … but why search Trinidad for semi decent pizza.
  • Korean : Seriously … ? Trinis don’t have a culture of eating pickled cabbage, sprouts or fish. Why would you want to eat this in Trinidad, when no one will order it. Korean hot pot … see my note above on not eating beef in Trinidad.
  • GOURMET DOUBLES: Under no circumstance should you be eating a Chicken Doubles, Pork Doubles, Goat Doubles or some other ridiculous bastardization of doubles. If I could go out and slap the vendor who was selling this nonsense … I would!

10. Who not to have a Trini food tour with …

A Trinidadian who doesn’t sound Trinidadian. Here’s renowned local chef Debra Sardinha-Metivier explaining Trinidadian street food. She is an excellent chef and trailblazer in Trinidad … however I’m embarrassed at the poverty of her explanations in this clip (She also incorrect in her explanations about Dasheen vs Callaloo). The Trinidadian accent is one of the sexiest in the world … google it! I cringe everytime I hear a well educated Trinidadian speak like an American.

So … if you have a food tour of Trinidad … ensure your Trini guide or Trini friend speaks like a Trinidadian, otherwise at best, you’ll get a poor experience … at worst, the vendor will think you’re an idiot tourist with a “pseudo-Trinidadian” or “Foreign Used and Abused Trinidadian (FUAT)” or “Fresh Water Trinidadian” and more than likely put some other special additives in your food. Trinidadians have a special dislike for Trinis who pretend to be something that they’re not. You can read my article on “How to piss off a Trinidadian” for further ways to be successful in this task.

Also expect service charges for food in restaurants. It’s stupid and I hate it … and I always get them to remove it. I also never patronize that establishment again … so be warned!

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a PeopleSoft HRMS Project Manager and Oracle Solution Architect. Over the past 10+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 2 major consulting firms. He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at [email protected]

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