Trinidad and Tobago, a dual-island Caribbean nation near Venezuela, is home to cuisine that’s the envy of destinations the world over. The country’s history has brought people of diverse ancestry to the islands, and its food has evolved to reflect these varied backgrounds: Indian, African, Spanish, French, Chinese and Syrian influences are all incorporated here. Visitors’ taste buds will be treated to culinary fare that’s as sumptuous as it is unique. From street food to fine dining; from fingers to knives and forks; all tastes are catered for.
Your breakfast on the road starts with the ever-popular doubles, which is simply chickpeas, stewed in curry and select spices, between two fried flatbreads. Doubles are a staple of any street-food strip and cost less than £1. It’s the perfect introduction to East Indian cuisine, which also includes the ever-popular roti.
Around Christmas time on Trinidad and Tobago, Spanish foods come to the fore. Pastelles — small cornmeal pies stuffed with various types of meat and soya for vegetarians — accompany the sweet sounds of Parang (folk music). Another major influence on the country’s fare comes from its early African settlers. They left islanders with dishes such as coo-coo (cornmeal and okra), cow heel soup, pelau (pigeon peas, meat or chicken cooked with fresh herbs and coconut milk), banana, cassava and callaloo (pumpkin, coconut milk, spices and dasheen leaves).
Speaking of dasheen leaves, in the ground beneath these leaves is the root crop, dasheen. Dasheen has formed the basis of what’s now become one of the top 10 festivals in the world, the Blue Food Festival on the island of Tobago. Held every year in the month of October, this unique festival pays homage to the versatility of dasheen or blue food. The name is derived from the fact that the root crop turns various shades of blue when cooked. Who’d have thought that this simple commonplace ingredient is used to prepare bread, cookies, sweets, chips, lasagne, and even sweets and ice cream?
Back to Trinidad, where street food is king! Take a night trip to the Queen’s Park Savannah and you can get doubles, phulourie (fried, spiced dough balls), corn soup, coconut jelly, aloo pie (fried dumpling), saheena, souse, chow, and bake and shark. The ever-popular bake and shark can also be found at Maracas Beach, where it’s slathered in numerous sauces and salads. Within recent times, gyros, empanadas, tortillas and Chinese restaurants have gained in popularity, symbolic of the most recent settlers on the islands.
Back in Tobago, lunch can consist of curried crab and dumpling, while traditional sweets such as coconut fudge, sugar cake or coconut ice are available at both the airport and on the coast at some beaches. In Trinidad, along Ariapita Avenue, and in and around Port of Spain, fine-dining restaurants captivate the senses, some with creative adaptations of street cuisine and others with menus themed after the country they represent.
There’s no doubt that Trinidad and Tobago is the perfect destination for fun, festivals and definitely for foodies!