November 26, 2014
With a variety of local dishes to try, street food in Tobago offers everything from roti to hearty and wholesome stews. A heartland of rich and spicy cuisine, remember to go easy on the fiery pepper sauce.
In the foodie isle of Tobago, a delicious mix of soul food draws on a mouth-watering range of influences, from African, Indian, British and Chinese to Spanish and Portuguese, retaining their original, exotic names and created using a mystifying array of foreign spices and recipes. Every meal decision raises a quandary: should it be crispy-roasted pigtail, Indian-style curries and roti, crab and dumplings, deep-fried doubles, or sizzling seafood and simmering stews? Unlike neighbouring Trinidad, Tobago’s foods aren’t grouped together but scattered mishmash around the island. To sample street food in Tobago is to embark on an epic gastronomic journey full of lip-smacking delights that cost little more than a handful of loose change.
Street food needs to be portable, dirt-cheap and ready in a flash: three reasons why Tobago’s doubles are the island’s most popular food-to-go. Sold on practically every street corner throughout the island, day or night, doubles are a breakfast food. Every part of Tobago has their own “secret” recipe so taste and style does vary but, essentially, this is a snack made from two pieces of fried dough filled with seasoned chickpeas dolloped with an incredibly hot pepper sauce. Beware: the sauce is as hot as Hades – so add it sparingly!
Another common street food in Tobago is roti: an Indian bread that is synonymous with Tobago and Trinidad. Thousands of shops and street vendors sell umpteen different types of roti, from fluffy stuffed flatbreads filled with curried vegetables to thinner breads wrapped around pureed lentils or chunkier spiced meats. Popular fillings include chicken, beef, goat, chickpeas, curry, plantains, or whatever else the chef happens to have available. Don’t forget the pepper sauce!
It looks less than appetizing, ladled into Polystyrene cups, but Tobago’s watery corn soup is considered an elixir of youth, aphrodisiac, hangover cure and healthy snack with its chunks of potatoes, corn and spicy peppers in a well-seasoned broth.
Coconuts in Tobago are hacked open to order by a guy with a machete the size of a cricket bat. Vendors can be found all over the island – listen out for the sound of a swishing steel blade. First, ask for a notch to be cut in the shell for a straw so that you can sip the refreshing coconut water. Then, once you’ve drunk it dry, ask the guy to slice it open – coconut jelly is delicious.
Trinidad and Tobago’s delectable version of a deep-fried burrito is a spinach-filled saheena made from a blend of chickpea flour and spices such as cumin, minced garlic, curry powder, and onions.
Souse, a robust stew made from pork, beef and chicken claws seasoned with pimento, onion, garlic, salt, peppers and lemon is considered a cure-all, from back-ache to the post-rum blues. And to wash it down? Ask for rum, a local beer, or a can of sweet Red Kola Champagne – a fruity fizzy pop ubiquitous to the island that comes in day-glow hues.
Creole one-pot comfort foods are found all over Tobago and benefit from a multitude of different recipes that have evolved over generations. Choose wholesome, flavour-packed dishes like pelau (a scrumptious one-pot of slow-cooked squash, rice and spices simmered in sweetened coconut milk), macaroni pie (a thick, cheesy and highly calorific version of macaroni cheese) and callaloo (a traditional runny soup or thicker side-order made with a spinach-like vegetable) and cauldron-cooked stews of chicken and red beans. Unsure of which food-joint to try? Join one with a line-up of locals – a queue for food in Tobago means you’ve found the best spot to dine.
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Have you tried street food in Tobago? What was your favourite dish? Let us know in the comments section below.