Photo: Tara Hunt
Souse is really pig feet, also known as trotters, or chicken feet which are first boiled then pickled in a sauce spiked with lime juice, pimento peppers and hot peppers and scattered with wafer thin cucumber and onion slices. Souse is not for the squeamish. Leave your misconceptions at home and dig in. As we say in Trinidad and Tobago, “Try it, you go like it!”
2. Corn soup
We’re not talking a wimpy, thin brothy version here, but a hearty soup filled with chunky vegetables and salted meats. Corn soup is the pick-me-up street food after spending hours dancing at the nightclub or at an outdoor party or fete. This thick, yellow split pea concoction must be served piping hot and includes corn cob pieces, carrots, flour or cornmeal dumplings, cassava, green figs, sweet potato and sometimes, a bit of salted pigtail.
What do you do if you pick some fruit but it isn’t ripe enough? Instead of throwing it away, locals cut half-ripe fruit into bite-size chunks and season it with generous helpings of salt, black pepper, lime juice and chopped hot peppers, chandon beni and garlic. Locals usually make chow in their own kitchens but you can find chow vendors almost anywhere in the main towns and cities and especially en route to Maracas Bay. Favorite combos include pineapple, mango, plum and pommerac.
4. Bake and shark
Although there’s usually some contention among Maracas Bay locals about whether it’s called bake and shark or shark and bake, everyone agrees that it’s one of the best fish sandwiches you’ll ever have. Bake and shark is basically a thick wad of battered and deep fried shark meat between two pieces of fried bread ironically called bake. Bake and shark is all about the toppings: cucumber, tomato or pineapple slices, cole slaw, shredded mango chow, lettuce leaves, chandon beni dressing, hot pepper sauce, tamarind sauce, even garlic and tartar sauces. Go brave!
5. Black pudding
Black pudding is not for the finicky, but the adventurous foodie. It’s basically fresh pig’s blood and liver seasoned with salt, pepper, ground spices and green herbs, stuffed into a casing and boiled until the filling coagulates into a meaty sausage. Black pudding is then heaped into bread rolls locals call hops or eaten on its own, often doused with fiery pepper sauce.
Doubles is the ultimate street food in Trinidad and Tobago. You literally eat it on the spot. Because it’s cheap, fast and readily available, locals have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Doubles gets its name from the fact that it’s an open face sandwich made up of two pieces of fried bread or bara and a curried channa or chickpea sauce. This delicious vegan treat is also sprinkled or drenched with homemade sauces and toppings like fiery pepper sauce, sweet sauce, chandon beni sauce, kuchela, coconut chutney, even julienned cucumbers. If you do ask for pepper sauce, make sure to tell the vendor if you want it slight, medium, or heavy. Some vendors even top doubles with stewed or curried chicken but purists insist on the original, meat-free version. Doubles must also be paired with an ice-cold, red Solo soft drink to make this epic Trini food experience complete.
7. Crab and dumpling
If you’re on the smaller and more laid-back sister isle of Tobago, then you have to try its signature dish, crab and dumplings. Local crab is curried with freshly squeezed coconut milk and served with dense boiled or fried flour dumplings which soak up the spicy sauce. Don’t forget to wait a couple of hours after eating this hearty dish before hitting the waves.
Roti, like doubles, is another Indian-inspired street food. It’s a favorite with office workers because you can grab it and go. Usually, when you order a roti, a huge dhalpuri is folded into a massive rectangle bursting with flavor. You can fill it with curried channa and aloo, curried mango and your favorite curried meat, including chicken, shrimp, duck, beef and goat. For those who prefer a sit-down meal, try flaky and tender buss up shut or paratha roti served with savory curried vegetables and meat.
9. Indian delicacies
When it comes to street food in South and Central Trinidad, fried, Indian-inspired snacks win hands down. There’s so much to choose from but locals love pholourie, little fried dough balls that are super addictive, especially when drizzled with sweet and spicy mango or tamarind chutney. Saheena is another split peas dough delight studded with bhaji or spinach leaves and flash-fried. The fried disc is then split into two and served with sweet or spicy mango, coconut or tamarind chutneys. Locals also clamor for aloo pies: crispy, fried pies filled with potato seasoned with cumin, hot pepper, onions, and other spices and pepper, which is like a quesadilla but filled with a spicy potato, vegetable and cheese filling.
10. Bake and buljol
Because language in Trinidad and Tobago is a very fluid thing, bake can be fried, as in bake and shark, or baked in an oven, as in coconut bake. Coconut bake is a dense bread made from freshly grated coconut and is a favorite breakfast meal when filled with cheese slices, sardines or scrambled eggs. The signature coconut bake combination is bake and buljol which is a side dish that includes shredded salt cod, chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, hot peppers, green herbs and a splash of lime juice.