The twin archipelagic states of Trinidad and Tobago are located in the North Atlantic Ocean in the Caribbean, and share maritime boundaries with places such as Barbados, Guyana, Grenada and Venezuela. Tourists from all around the world head to this popular destination for sun, sand and good times.These islands are a fantastic destination for anyone who needs rest, relaxation and restoration thanks to their tropical climate, perfect beaches, diverse wildlife, stunning landscapes, vibrant coral reefs and lush rainforests. Visitors find plenty to see, do, explore and experience, as the place offers a plethora of outdoor activities.
The twin states, which are birthplace of the limbo dance and the steel pan, are also home to a sizable expat population. Many of these prefer to reside in the capital, Port of Spain, or the bigger cities like San Fernando and Scarborough. However, you will also find individuals or smaller groups of migrants settling down in the remote areas.
The locals are known to be warm and hospitable towards everyone. However, while local people are relaxed and laidback at home, they tend to be extremely professional when they are at work. Since English is the official language, it is widely spoken by throughout the country. Western newcomers therefore find it quite easy to settle down and integrate. However, each region of Trinidad and Tobago will have a different dialect, which you may have trouble understanding at first.
Contrary to popular belief, the two islands are worlds apart in terms of infrastructure and culture, even though they are separated by just a few miles. What unites the two places is its cuisine, which has a rich mix of Indian, African, British, Creole, Middle Eastern, Spanish and Chinese influences.
Food in Trinidad and Tobago
There is a wide and delicious range of food available in Trinidad and Tobago. Local fare includes a wide variety of ingredients such as seafood, meat, pulses, peas and fresh produce, prepared as barbecue dishes, rich curries and flavorsome stews. In fact, the food of Trinidad and Tobago has become so popular, it can be found on several different islands across the Caribbean region. Here are some of the most well‒known and recommended dishes.
Doubles are sandwiches with a difference. They are a flavorful, easy to eat and affordable street food treat that you will always be in the mood for. The locals often have this snack for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Doubles are made from two pieces of fried bread (or bara), often served open‒faced, filled with chickpea curry or sauce. This vegan treat is eaten with homemade condiments such as tamarind and mango chutney, fiery pepper sauce, kuchela, coconut chutney and julienned cucumbers. Meat lovers can customize doubles by adding chicken, but many prefer the vegetarian version.
You can pick up doubles almost anywhere on the two islands but it is best to try this snack at street stalls outside the airport.
Like doubles, this specialty has been inspired from India. For Indians from the East of the country, the word roti refers to the simple wheat‒bread made at home. However, roti to Trinidadians means a flatbread wrapped around some form of curried filling. People can grab this snack at any time of the day, especially when in a hurry, since it can be eaten on the go. Roti is generally bigger than doubles, but is also a healthier option, since the bread is not fried.
Anyone can prepare this Caribbean-style taco, using the ingredients such as chicken, beef, fish, lamb, pork, shrimp, chickpeas, potato, eggplant, pumpkin, okra or even mangos.
Different variations of roti are sold on almost every street across Trinidad and Tobago. The best vendors will have the filling ready, but will prepare the bread in front of you. These wraps are available in many restaurants too. If you have the time for a sit-down meal, try the tender and flaky “buss up shut” or paratha roti, which is filled with savory meat or vegetables.
Definitely not for the squeamish, souse is made from pig feet, cow tongue or chicken feet. It can be described as a spicy pickle, and is served cool. This specialty is very popular with the locals, who do not believe in wasting any part of the animal and can turn even the cheapest cuts (such as pigtails, ears and snout) into scrumptious meals. Many expats put their reservations aside to enjoy this Caribbean delicacy.
To make souse, pickle the meat of your choice by marinating it in water. Season with chopped onions, bell peppers, lemons, cucumbers, salt, pepper and any other ingredients of your choice.
As travel around the islands, you will find numerous variations of this dish, as each region personalizes it with their signature touch. Restaurants also make this dish in their own way.
You are in for a big surprise if you expected to be served a thin, watery broth when you order corn soup in Trinidad. Instead, you will get a hearty soup with chunky veggies and flavored meats. This item is often regarded as a pick-me-up street food after a night of partying.
Strange as it may sound, the main ingredient used to make the base of the corn soup is split pea. Cook the meat and vegetables of your choice in onion and garlic for a while, before adding the peas, stock and coconut milk. Once the broth comes to a boil, it can be blended if you like. Add a few ears of corn, creamed corn and dumplings, and boil for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Preparing corn soup is easy, and locals often make it at home. However, you can also find it at restaurants and food stalls.
Bake and shark
While the Trinidadians don’t always agree on the name of this delicacy (many call it shark and bake), they will all tell you that is the best fish sandwich on the island chain. The term “bake” is deceptive, as both fish and bread are deep fried.
Fillets of shark are marinated in lime and seasoned with chives, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. The shark is then dipped in batter and breadcrumbs before being fried in hot oil and placed between homemade, fried bread. The best part about this sandwich is its toppings, which can include coleslaw, cucumber, tomatoes, pineapples, mangos, lettuce and chadon beni. You could add some hot pepper sauce, tamarind sauce or garlic sauce for an extra zing.
While several restaurants and stalls across the islands serve excellent shark and bake, the most well-known vendors are located at Maracas Bay.
Crab and dumpling
One of the signature dishes of Tobago, this is a reflection of the island’s laidback, relaxed lifestyle. After a bowlful of crabs and dumplings, you will probably want to avoid any kind of physical activity for a while!
To make this dish, local crab is curried in a generous amount of freshly squeezed coconut milk. Many people marinate the meat in green seasoning overnight. The cooked crab is then served with thick wheat dumplings, boiled or fried, which soak up the spicy sauce. This can be a messy meal but it is very satisfying; its real flavor lies in the gravy and dumplings.
Every local will have their favorite place which they believe serves the best crab and dumpling in the Caribbean. However, the kiosks at Store Bay beach come highly recommended. This area can get packed during lunchtimes, so it is best to visit the place in the morning.
Often served during the holidays, the origins of pastelle can be traced all the way back to when the Spanish occupied the islands. This delicacy is also served as a garnish during important functions throughout the year, including Christmas.
Pastelle can be described as a cornmeal roll that is stuffed with seasoned meat or vegetables, before being flavored with olives, raisins and capers. The bread is then wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. Like most other Christmas specialties, this item is easy to make at home. However, it can be time consuming to make the roll and steam it to perfection.
Most people prefer to make pastelle at home, when families gather around the table for a Christmas feast. Alternately, you could pick a few varieties off the supermarket shelves, or order them from a restaurant.
With its roots firmly set in Mediterranean cooking, gyro is an example of how diverse the cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago really is. This West Indian version of the doner kebab is made from flat bread and spit‒roasted meat. It is known as shwarama in the Middle East.
Pieces of spiced meat are placed in layers on a vertical rotisserie in the shape of a cone. They are then placed in front of an electric broiler, to cook for hours. Since fat is placed between the layers, the meat remains tender and crisp at the same time. As it cooks, the outer part of the meat is sliced thinly and is placed on a piece of grilled pita bread. A variety of salads, pickles and condiments are added, enhancing the flavor of the wrap.
The procedure for making gyros is complicated and time consuming; most people cannot make them at home. It is best to try this wrap at one of the many restaurants that specialize in them.
Callaloo and coocoo
A traditional pairing of local cooking, this combination represents the two islands well. Callaloo is like a potpourri of flavors and ingredients which is very popular. It can be described as a soup, or as a thick paste made from leafy greens, especially spinach.
Coocoo is a wholesome, corn-based side dish, made with okra and coconut milk. It looks and tastes a little like polenta. This dish can be eaten with callaloo, or with other main meals. Coocoo goes particularly well with fried fish.
One of the most popular desserts of the islands, bene balls are easy to make and buy. These crunchy treats are made from roasted sesame and brown sugar. Since they are so light and small, locals may enjoy them any time of day, sometimes soon after they wake up.
To make bene balls, melt four cups of brown sugar and add a cup of sesame. Mix the ingredients well and shape the mixture into balls. You can also pick them these from any grocery store.
Fresh fruit with a twist, chow is made from chopped pineapple or mango, dipped in lime juice, garlic, pepper and chadon beni (also known as Mexican coriander). This spicy fruit is hard to resist. You will often find sunbathers dipping into this refreshing, light and nutritious snack.
Drinks in Trinidad and Tobago
You will find a good variety of beverages across the islands, ranging from popular brands of soda to local specialties such as malta, smalta, shandy, ginger beer, sorrel, mauby, as well as different flavored punches such as peanut, chickpea, beet, seamoss, barnadine, soursoup and pawpaw.
People on the islands often enjoy washing down their meals with beer, and there are two popular local lagers that are available in different flavors.
Coconut water is one of the most widely consumed drinks across the islands. While many people prefer this refreshing drink as it is, several places will add a dash of rum before serving it.
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