Trinidad‘s diverse and exciting food culture is a gastronomical adventure that typifies its culinary renaissance…
Far away in the Caribbean Ocean lies the little twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. They’re situated just off the south american coast of Venezuela, and is tiny in comparison to some of the bigger islands out there – although Trinidad and Tobago are thought of as a rather exotic islands, they exude a certain notoriety in the global consciousness. The land of festivals, the greatest show on earth “Carnival”, the land of the hummingbird, sugar island.
Whatever your idea of the islands love it, hate it or indifferent Trinidad and Tobago has blessed our planet with some of the greatest sons and daughters in the fields of creative arts, sports, music and literature. With the likes of Nicki Minaj, Nia Long, Brian Lara, Trevor McDonald, V.S.Naipaul, Billy Ocean and Dwight Yorke to name a few. Along with its rich cultural diversity its steadily becoming the culinary star in the caribbean region, coming of age alongside the recent wave of food mania, and its national obsession with everything food.
“For Trinis, pepper sauce is more than just a condiment. It’s been part of our daily lives and that of generations of pepper sauce lovers.”
With a diversity of cuisines, there is a certain flavor that is decidedly Trinidadian, It’s homegrown, casual, maybe a little spirited, effortless in appearance but exotically adventurous, experimental yes but often rooted in tradition, real and — yes, the buzzword of choice — artisanal. With new speciality shops, food fairs and hotels popping up every day, alongside retail complexes, clubs and more gourmet restaurants, it’s clear that Trinidad’s increasing celebrity is due, in large part, to its food. Trinidad food is the richest and most exciting food culture in the Caribbean.
Trinidad and Tobago Cuisine is ethnically marked. A typical Creole dish is stewed chicken, white rice, red beans, fried plantains, and homemade ginger beer. Indian food consists of curried chicken, potatoes, channa (chick peas), white rice, and roti , an Indian flatbread. Chinese food is typically chow mein. However, all of these are simultaneously regarded as national dishes and food metaphors are made to stand for the nation. Trinidadians are said by Creoles to be ethnically “mixed-up” like callaloo , a kind of soup made from dasheen leaves and containing crab. Crab and dumplings is said to be the typical Tobago meal.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions:
Indian food taboos and customs remain in some areas, while in others, the food customs are reinterpreted and take new form or are not relevant. A society-wide ethos valorizing generosity with food prevails, especially at ceremonial occasions. Trinidadian novelist V.S. Naipaul wrote in his travelogue The Middle Passage about Creoles that “Nothing is known about Hinduism or Islam. The Muslim festival of Hosein, with its drum-beating and in the old days stick-fighting is the only festival which is known; Negroes sometimes beat the drums. Indian weddings are also known. There is little interest in the ritual; it is known only that food is given to all comers.” Creole knowledge of Indian rites is now considerable, as is their participation as guests at these events. Food is important in both Hindu and Muslim celebrations. In Christian families, sorrel, made from a flower, and ponche de creme, a kind of eggnog with rum, are typical Christmas drinks. Ham and pastelles are Christmas fare.
Bake and shark
now synonymous with Maracas Bay, is the flagship of Trinidad’s unusual cuisine. Deep-fried pieces of shark are nestled between two slices of fried bake (fried dough) and topped with your choice of condiments and relishes. You can choose from tomatoes, cucumbers, pineapple, ketchup, mustard, tartar sauce, tamarind sauce, garlic sauce, oyster sauce and pepper sauce.
(hot peppers blended with vinegar and herbs) for most Trinidadians goes with everything! Expect everything you eat on the island to be a little spicy and don’t be surprised if pepper sauce is offered with your meal. For the safety of your taste buds, always ask how hot the sauce is, and proceed with caution.
Fruit ‘Mango’ chows
are part of every Trinidadian childhood. They are usually made with seasonal fruit such as mango, plums and pineapple. The half ripe or ripe fruit is cut up and mixed with lime juice, garlic, pepper, cilantro, oil, salt and black pepper. Chow can be used as a relish or dip but mostly it is eaten as a snack on its own.
is usually made with pig trotters or chicken feet. The meat is boiled and served cold in a salty brine seasoned with lime, cucumber, pepper, and onion slices.
is a tiny shellfish similar in taste to clams. It is usually curried or used in a spicy cocktail.
is a dark, edible marine snail, usually served curried or in souse.
Cascadura or Cascadoo
as it is commonly known, is a rare freshwater fish covered with large plates of bony, dark scales. Usually curried, it holds a special place in local folklore. According to legend, once you eat cascadura, you will always return to Trinidad.
is highly sought after during hunting season (October 1st to the end of February). Locals stew or curry agouti, iguana, manicou (opossum), lappe, quenk (wild hogs) and tatoo (armadillo).
Gary ‘Rhodes Across The Caribbean’ Hassan De Four & Barrington Douglas: Trinidad Episode.
With the increasing global popularity of Caribbean food, one of the exciting movements in local cuisine is the emergence of haute cuisine where traditional, even grassroots, dishes are done gourmet-style. In Trinidad’s burgeoning gourmet food industry, you will find casual dining restaurants, steak houses and some international cuisine. You will also find a fusion of fine dining restaurants boasting French, Italian, Indian, Japanese, Spanish and Thai food. These are primarily located in Port-of-Spain on Ariapita Avenue or “restaurant strip” as it is commonly known, Woodbrook, St Clair and around the Queen’s Park Savannah. Trinidad and Tobago cuisine brings to us profound Gifts that words struggle to describe. Take it from me, a Trinidadian by descent, and someone who loves Trinidad food,there are some things in life that must be experienced and Trinidad food is one of these. Trinidadians say that good cooks have a (My Wife & My Mother) “sweet hand”; I guess that’s where the “Sweet Trini Flavour” comes from.