On my recent trip to Trinidad my top priority was to live Carnival and immerse myself in all things Trini. I couldn’t do that without having some pretty awesome Trini foodie moments. They weren’t all awesome and some things I just couldn’t bring myself to try. I’ll leave that to my foodie idol Andrew Zimmerman. I’m counting down to the best thing I ate or drank during Trinidad Carnival.
The Colonel has set up shop all over Trinidad. The KFC in Independence Square of Port of Spain is in fact one of the busiest KFC locations in the world. According to our Trini cab driver it’s only second to the KFC in Beijing, China Railway Station. I couldn’t confirm this so we will just take his word for it this time. They definitely differ in appearance, with many being two stories and being extremely packed to capacity. At the insistence of several locals who claimed that KFC of Trinidad is much different from KFC in the USA, we did take a late night field trip to try this highly acclaimed chicken. Shocker……it tastes EXACTLY like what I’ve had here in the states. If you find yourself being coerced by a friendly, well-meaning local to try the Trinidad KFC, save those calories for something else.
7. Local Fruit
As we were heading to Maracas Beach we stopped at a popular lookout point that looks down below at the famed Maracas Bay. There was a really neat fruit stand full of local treats and we were fortunate enough to have our cab driver, Robert, hand-pick a couple of his personal favorites. First we tried red sweet pommecythere. These are a locally grown fruit that have been preserved and sweetened with the appearance of a very large grape. This was not my favorite thing from the fruit stand; it was a bit too sweet for my liking. We also tried pineapple chow. Pineapple chow is pineapple soaked in garlic, cilantro, hot peppers, and other seasoning. It’s very sweet at first and then the heat from the spice and peppers kicks in. I’m not a huge fan of spicy but this wasn’t bad. If you like things with sweet heat then you will love this snack.
6. Trini Chinese Food
The Chinese influence on the island of Trinidad can be seen most readily in the food. I was told by a couple of my stateside Trinidadian friends that I must have Trini Chinese food on my trip. Our favorite cab driver, Robert, was more than happy to oblige our request. I had chinese fried rice and chow mein. There’s most definitely a difference from the fast food Chinese food in the US. The spices and seasoning used is distinctly Trini. It was all very tasty and something I would most definitely eat again!
5. Rum! (and other grown-up drinks)
The Caribbean islands like their rum. I had plenty of White Oak rum, which is distilled in Trinidad, and even brought a bottle home. It’s good stuff! However I had to draw the line during the parade. I was offered a shot of vodka with a preserved prune floating in it. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the prunes. It was extremely hot and I didn’t think experimenting with prunes and alcohol while I was out on the road was a great idea. However, there was one rum I had at a fete (party) that I was told I had to try during the Carnival festivities….Puncheon! This is 75% alcohol by volume. It’s also called firewater. Mixed well with pineapple juice and a bit of coconut water this is dangerous stuff!!! This is wake-up-the-next-morning-thinking-what-the-hell-happened type of stuff. It’s no wonder when I tried to purchase a bottle in duty-free on my way back to the States I was told that I couldn’t purchase if I was traveling out of Trinidad. Bummer…I had such plans for this rum. Alas it’s probably for the best. What happens on the island, stays on the island.
4. Pelau and Trinidadian Mac and Cheese
Pelau is peas, rice, vegetables and chicken. There’s not much I can say about it; it’s yummy. Eat It! I am a self-proclaimed macaroni and cheese guru but the Trini version of my favorite Southern comfort food is a bit different. I don’t know what type of cheese is used or how it’s prepared; it’s definitely different in a good way. This traditional Trini comfort food meal was one of my favorites for sure. This was our lunch meal during the Carnival Tuesday Parade. I was starving and exhausted that day so the food may have been extra tasty.
Doubles is a very common Trini street food. It’s bara (a fried flat bread) stuffed with channa (curried chick peas, spices, and tamarind). It’s not the most appetizing looking food, but man is it tasty. They are extremely messy but it’s a fun thing to try. You get the hang of the proper way to stand after your first one.
*Bonus Fact – It’s called Doubles because it was originally served with just one bara but over the years it evolved to 2 bara being the standard, thus doubles.
2. Hyatt Regency Trinidad – Waterfront Restaurant
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency which is known for having one of the best restaurants in town. This was not typical hotel food that you want to skip out on. On the Friday night we arrived, we had major issues with our reservation. As part of their compensation for the mix up and messing up my birthday we had dinner courtesy of the hotel in the Waterfront Restaurant. Initially when we learned it would be a buffet we were a bit put off thinking it would just be plain old hotel buffet food. WRONG. This was a sampling of some of the best Trinidadian food the island has to offer. Pictured here was curried goat, jerk chicken, wood grilled salmon with a spicy mango chutney, butter garlic vegetables, and salad. In the cup there is corn soup, a Trinidadian staple. I devoured everything on this plate and went back for seconds of the curried goat. For dessert I had the Bailey’s mousse and it was to die for!
The night after we finished the Carnival Tuesday parade route I treated myself to a mudslide drink from the bar. It was the best mudslide I’ve ever had in my life. Trust me; I’ve had my share. It was magnificent. We also had the breakfast buffet almost every day of our stay and it was absolutely fantastic.
Drumroll please…..The number one thing I ate in Trinidad
1. Bake and Shark
This was yummy, divine, heavenly, celestial goodness. The bake is the fried dough which acts as your bun. The shark is a couple of fried filets of shark meat. The shark used is usually small black tip sharks. There’s an array of toppings and sauces to choose from. I had slaw, tamarind, and some other sauce that I can’t name. People also put lettuce, tomato, or cucumber. The shark filet wasn’t tough at all. It was a party in my mouth! I could have eaten this at least 3 more times before we left. The Bake and Shark is not to be missed on a visit to Trinidad and Tobago.
Stay tuned for more posts about my incredible experience at Trinidad Carnival 2014!
-Lauren G., Outdoorsy Diva
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