It's been mentioned to me that I speak about food as most would speak of sex. I take great pride in this compliment. I love food, and especially good food. My specialty is sweets, but literally anything savory to stuff into the gaping hole in my face will suffice. As a traveler, my favorite part of any visit is the cuisine.
The two islands located off the coast of northeastern Venezuela boast a rich and vibrant culture and have encased me in a whirlwind of spices, vibrant colors, upbeat music and "wining". The one thing I've heard time and time again about Trini's is that "if nothing else, they will feed you". This sounds like my sort of place.
This "essential foods to try in Trinidad and Tobago" list I've compiled has been curated by my wonderful tastebuds in collaboration with some authentic Trini's. If you've never tried these foods, you can't truly consider yourself a Trinidadian (I don't judge, this is according to my natives). If you're visiting the islands and want a real experience, make sure to knock these items off your list.
Bake and Shark
This delicacy is most famously found at Maracas Beach. It consists of a homemade bread, the "Bake" which is ironically usually softly fried. The Bake is folded, almost like a pita and stuffed with fried Shark. There are other options like "Bake and Shrimp" and an assortment of different "Bake and Fish" for those not interested in eating shark. My recommendation is to eat the damn shark. When you choose which Bake you'd like, you'll notice that it's dry. The best part of this sandwich is being able to make it your own. There is a salad bar of sorts that allows you to top your Bake with anything from ketchup and salad to mango salsa and green sauce. Each vendor has different options, but staples are: mango salsa, garlic sauce, green sauce, salad, hot sauce. Take caution with the hot sauce, this is no Texas Pete, your mouth will literally be on fire. My toppings included a lot of mango salsa, ketchup, salad, a hint of garlic sauce, and a smidgen of hot sauce, A SMIDGEN.
There are about 5 vendors are selling Bake and Shark, and each vendor has a line out the door. "Richard's" is the most famous stall, but I recommend walking past all of these vendors and making a sharp right when you get to the end. On your right hand side you'll see this no-name vendor, go there. I've indulged on Bake and Shark plenty of times, and this is by far one of the tastiest, most flavorful I've had.
HOOOOOMMAAAGAAAHHHDDD. I love doubles. Vendors sell these on the streets for about 4TTD from small carts. These consist of a fried piece of flat bread topped with chickpeas, chutney, and sometimes even mango salsa, then topped with another piece of flatbread. Eating this is an art, and extremely messy. You take the top piece of bread and pick up as many toppings as you can and stuff it in your mouth. Almost like picking up an upside down taco. Whatever falls over, you use the bottom piece of bread to collect the remains and enjoy.
The bread is soft, the chickpeas seasoned especially well, and the mango salsa adds the perfect ting (should you choose to add it). They always ask you if you want "peppa", also known as hot as hell peppers. I love spicy food so I always add a bit, but as I've said before, this is not Texas Pete people. Be careful. I've clearly had a traumatic experience. As far as where to go for Doubles, my favorite guy is located on Ariapita Avenue connected to the "Amigo's Mexican Food" stand. My man constantly has a line, but it's so worth it.
Pastelles are basically "Tamales 2.0", which is no surprise seen as Spanish influence has been in the country for years. Above you can watch me make the pastelles. Initially you start off with a banana leaf. You lay it out on a press, lay some oil onto it and then add your cornmeal ball. You use the press to create a perfect little circle. You would have already prepared some minced meat and lots of spices beforehand. You then take the minced meat, add it to the center of the cornmeal and fold it ever so beautifully. These can now be frozen for later use, or steamed and eaten within minutes!
I've never had pastelles from a shop, so I don't have recommendations for a place to go. I recommend you make these at home, as I hear every family makes them a little different to their liking. These are made on special holidays, like Christmas. I obviously got to make them because I'm a holiday all on my own. #SudaneseWadMagic
Roti wasn't my favorite, but it was still good. It is basically a flatbread that resembles a tortilla, except a little softer, and filled with a protein of sorts. You can have it with goat curry, shrimp, chicken, and beef. I personally had a curry chicken roti. The only surprise was that the bones were still in the chicken. Only Americans expect boneless chickens everywhere. That shit is not natural. I got mine "to-go", and it was packaged neatly like a burrito. I tried to eat it like a burrito, but that didn't go over so well. The curry chicken juices were flying everywhere, and it was falling apart, and yeah.. I don't recommend eating it this way. Use your hands and get jiggy with it.
These are sold literally everywhere. On stalls, in corner stores, in restaurants, next to the Doubles man, behind the Mexican restaurant. Roti is everywhere. Try them all and take your pick.
Oxtails are the G.O.A.T. , ironically enough. I have never had meat so tender and juicy. It literally falls off the bone. My mouth is watering thinking about it alone. So Oxtails are the tail of a cattle skinned and cut into short lengths for sale. I first had it as a stew, but it can be made as a soup, broth or sauce. I don't know what sort of magic is used to season this delicacy, but as someone who doesn't particularly like red meat, I was sucking the bones trying to get the meat in every crevices.
There is no proper way to eat oxtails. You need to pick it up with your hands and sink your teeth into it, sorry. Leave your forks behind. I had mine with some rice and vegetables, but seriously who cares about anything other than the oxtails themselves? Go to Kaiso Blues Cafe, one block away from Queen's Park Savannah West, to get my favorite oxtails in Port of Spain. My favorite of all time? HOMEMADE.
It must be something about Caribbean food where the meat just seamlessly falls off the bones. Pelau is no different. This rice-based dish is combined with spices sent down from the GAWDS themselves, beans, protein, vegetables and garnishes. I was told that it was originally made with pork or beef, but chicken is becoming more popular. Once again, what a "shock" that the bones were still in the chicken when I bit into it. This can be an entree on it's own, or it can be paired with a mango chutney (deliciousness at its best).
Best place to get it? Yet again, HOMEMADE. Margaret, a lovely friend I made, hooked me up day after day.
I'm sure you're just as appalled as I was, but it's true. Every true Trinidadian has eaten KFC at least once in their life. I personally hate fried chicken of the Kentucky sorts, but the ones in Trinidad taste different. Make sure you ask for your chicken to be crispy and spicy, as a true Trini. The KFC in Independence Square yielded the largest profit margin of all KFC's in the world until just last year when Tiananmen Square took over in China. This small island loves fried chicken.
My favorite KFC has been the one at Piarco International Airport (they don't all taste the same). Ask anyone in Trinidad where their favorite KFC is, and believe me they'll have a preference. I've made it compulsory to have a Big Meal Deal every time I land and take-off from Piarco. If you're from the States, take caution that their large drink is an equivalent to our small. Ohh the land of the brave and the fat...I mean free.
As you can see, you need to visit Trinidad, if for nothing other than the food. The food is so spectacular because of its heavy Indian, Spanish and African influence. Trini's have such a beautiful culture because it is a mesh of cultures from all around the world. It is a true melting pot, and damn that thing smells good!
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE TRINIDADIAN FOOD? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!