Island Cuisine

You will never go hungry in Trinidad! If anything, you will have a difficult time deciding what to eat next. Choose from upscale fine dining haunts to intimate family-run establishments where Trini warmth and hospitality will overwhelm you. You can opt for trendy little cafes, which reflect contemporary design, or eateries with questionable exteriors but incredible food. There are also options for visitors who crave something more familiar Trinidad's rich cultural heritage has contributed to our mosaic of culinary styles. During different phases of its history, the Spanish, French and British occupied Trinidad. These colonisers relied on the island's original inhabitants, the Amerindians, for labour as well as workforces from Africa, India and China. The people of the Middle East and Portugal also came, and in recent times, American society has influenced the island's trends. These regions, with their distinctive cultures and culinary traditions, have all had a hand in creating the delectable mélange that is Trinidad's cuisine.

Creole Food
When African slaves came to Trinidad, they brought their robust stews and one-pot comfort foods. Over generations, these have been refined to create signature Trinidad dishes like pelau, macaroni pie and callaloo. Just about any meat or legume can be stewed Trini-style, but the favourites are chicken and red beans. Rich, hearty and delicious soups are also part of the Creole tradition with island favourites like oxtail soup, beef soup and cowheel soup combining melt-in-your-mouth chunks of meat with

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East Indian Food
As is the case with Creole stews, just about any meat can be curried but the preferences are chicken, goat and duck. Curried duck is part of a larger social experience for Trinis, especially those of East Indian descent. It is key to the popular "river lime," where food is cooked on a riverbank in iron pots over an open flame. Although south Trinidad is considered the home of East Indian food, there are two hallmarks of this cuisine that can be found anywhere on the island – roti and doubles. Roti (a stovetop roasted flatbread served with curried meat and vegetables such as potato, pumpkin and bodi) is an East Indian staple. There are many Trini varieties such as paratha, dosti, dhalpourie (made with yellow lentils) and aloopourie (made with potato. Doubles is the unofficial national breakfast, with many Trinidadians starting their day with two or three of these palm-size flour and split peas (yellow lentils) patties filled with spicy channa (chickpeas) and topped with different relishes.

Chokas, which are roasted and pounded vegetables, are another well-liked choice for breakfast. The popular chokas of tomato and eggplant are usually eaten with sada roti, similar to naan bread. Indian delicacies and sweets are also a mainstay. Penal, a town in south Trinidad is famous for its main street lined with huts where vendors sell favourites like aloo pies (fried potato pies), pholourie (fried balls of ground split peas served with chutney), barfi (coconut fudge), goolab jamoom (milk balls in sweet syrup).

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Chinese Food
Chinese restaurants abound everywhere, from small towns to the capital city. Some busy city streets boast as many as three or four Chinese restaurants. While the style is predominantly Cantonese, local spices and ingredients add a distinctive flavour. Be sure to try dasheen pork, a Chinese-inspired delicacy that originated in Trinidad. The highly seasoned combination of dasheen (a ground tuber) and pork can be ordered at most Chinese restaurants.

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Street Cuisine
Trinidad's cuisine is an adventure and for the best experience, you may have to take the unbeaten path. A street vendor will serve some of the most memorable and unique foods you will eat on the island. If you think the vendor looks a little dodgy, you can politely ask for a food handlers badge but if there's a line-up of locals, you've picked the right spot. St James, on the western edge of Port of Spain, is the place for nightlife and street cuisine. In the wee hours of the morning the town is abuzz with vendors selling barbecue and jerk meats, roti, homemade ice cream, Creole corn soup, ital (vegetarian) food, fruit punch (not the hotel variety) and much more. Around the Queen's Park Savannah, you can treat yourself to coconut water and coconut jelly (scooped from a freshly cut coconut), boiled or roasted corn, Indian delicacies or oysters, served in a glass with a dash of lime and spicy cocktail sauce. Another popular street fare is the snow cone (shaved ice topped with syrup and condensed milk), great for beating the tropical heat.

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Food Festivals
Trinis love their bellies. In Trinidad, people say if you want to raise money, hold a barbecue or a curry-que. The point being that if you involve food in the event, you are sure to make money. This fact has led to the growth in the number of food festivals held on the island. Some are done for charitable purposes while others aim to showcase the island's diverse cuisine.

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UNUSUAL CUISINE

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.

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 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 limejuice, 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.

Souse, 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.

Chip-chip is a tiny shellfish similar in taste to clams. It is usually curried or used in a spicy cocktail.

Conch 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.

Wild meat 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).

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