As it’s hurricane season, I’ve been thinking back to my time in hurricane countries. When I was in Port of Spain, I enjoyed mornings watching the ships. One day I watched this and I wondered, how do you parallel park a ship?
Well, you don’t. You push it in with the help of “tug” boats.
Another extremely short list. There are vegetable markets in most of the towns in Trinidad, but it’s not a “thing” to do here. I like exploring markets and I managed to express my interest to the driver.
The yuppie market is the Green Market in Santa Cruz. This market is on the way to Maracas Bay. The market has vegetables, meats, food stalls, musicians, massage booth, and artisan stalls (soap maker). Apparently, this market was the brainchild of a Trini who had lived in the U.S. and decided to bring back the idea of the farmer’s market to Trinidad.
The biggest market is Central Market. Most of the stalls sell vegetables and fruits. There is a food “court” down in the corner of a large hall. Most of the vendors prefer to set up their stalls outside where the cars can drive past and use them as a drive thru, leaving most the dark interior stalls empty and boarded up. Many of the items for sale were breadfruit and coconuts. Some of the vendors made me some blatant offers which were not on the regular vegetable selection.
The one I liked the most is Tunapuna in the town of Tunapuna. It was lively and busy. The locals were busy shopping and ignored me except when they treated me like any other customer. This market also included some ferocious clothes shopping.
Trying the food in Trinidad requires learning the vocabulary:
Pepper (said, “pehpah”) sauce: made from pureed Scotch Bonnet chili peppers. In the lingo of the today, “they don’t play” in “scoville” here. This pepper sauce is flame-thrower hot. Tread lightly. When ordering pepper sauce, it’s “light, medium, and heavy.”
Doubles: this is the most famous of Trini foods. It’s eaten for breakfast and is comprised of two (hence the name) pieces of fried flatbread topped with cooked chickpeas (garbanzos) in curry, with sauces (see one in hand in photo above). Some of the sauces are pepper/chili sauce and some vendors have their own tamarind sauce to add a sweetness to the mix. At most doubles stands, there are two lines. One for eat-in and one for take-out. The take-out line takes longer as the doubles are wrapped in wax paper. The eat-in line is faster partly because some people will eat six to seven doubles at one time. Now, apparently, there are places serving “triples.” You pay after you have eaten.
Buss up shut: A dish of Indian origin with a large stretchy roti in two layers (inside is a think powdery layer inside) which is ripped up to resemble a ripped shirt. Hence the name.
Roti: is a flat stretchy bread. Eaten with curry (curry goat, curry chicken, etc.).
Callaloo soup: Also very popular. Callaloo is a vegetable. The soup is fairly thick and looks a bit like stewed collard greens.
Crab and dumpling (it is a large pasta piece, no filling). See below. In a curry sauce.
Bodi: is the Indian name for long green beans.
Channa: is lentils.
Dasheen bush choka: dasheen is another name for callaloo and when it is stewed, it becomes a dish called choka.
Fry Bake: is fried flat bread usually served as a breakfast sandwich with dried salt cod or smoked herring. Both taste slightly fishy so I’d recommend getting them with a good amount of pepper sauce.
Bake and Shark: is a fish sandwich like a po’ boy in the U.S. The most famous place for this is Richard’s in Maracas Bay. Stop for some pineapple chow.
Chow: is fruit in a slightly spicy brine.
Oil down: is a stew much like chicken and dumplings in flavor but often made with pigtail. As seen here, it is served with “provisions” which are dumplings, plaintains, breadfruit, potatoes, and other carbohydrate-rich foods.
Macaroni pie: like mac and cheese but cut in squares.
The drinks of Trinidad and Tobago are plentiful. They drink rum and more rum. I was told that the best rum here was Angostura. They also have a ‘punch’ which is made up of all kinds of other alcohol so strong enough to punch you down for a day or two. One person I talked to told me that he had something to drink that was so strong that it made him stop drinking! Again, the national pastime seems to be “to lime” which is to hang out somewhere to drink.
I did not have cow heel soup which is also a famous Trini food. It’s a thick soup made with cow hoof.
Probably the most famous outing from Port of Spain is the beach at Maracas Bay. It’s about 35 minutes outside of the city along a windy hilly road.
The view from the viewpoint is not the only reason to stop. There are chow stalls where you can try the famous “pineapple chow.” Chow is a dish of fruit in a brine with shadon beni (culantro) and chili peppers. They also make chow with green plums, mango, and cucumber. The pineapple is the best with its contrast of juicy sweetness, salty brine, and slight spice. All the basic electrolytes in one bite!
Maracas Bay is a popular beach for the locals and it’s a good place to hang out. There are lifeguards on duty, a good thing considering how fierce the waves the day we went.
For a foodie, the reason to go to Maracas Bay is to eat “bake and shark” or a fried fish sandwich. This sandwich was made more famous by Anthony Bourdain. The most famous place is Richard’s with the many condiments including pineapple chow. Uncle Sam’s is on the beach side and overlooks the beach. You buy the fish sandwich and then put on the condiments of your choice from garlic sauce, tamarind sauce, pepper sauce (pureed scotch bonnet peppers), slaw, pineapple chow, mayonnaise, etc. The sandwich reminds me a bit of po’ boy sandwiches.
Truth is that it’s not carnival. That’s in February. But, it’s a small taste of carnival. With chocolate. You don’t have to get covered in chocolate but you certainly can if you want to.
The truck/float/group called Cocoa Devils have a party in July called “J’ouvert in July” to celebrate their trucks. It cost 650 Trini dollars ($100 U.S.) for one-night party that starts at midnight and lasts till daylight. For that price, you get a t-shirt and a drinking cup. Plus endless beer, tequila, wine, and food.
Aside from the main DJ truck, there are drinks trucks, supplemental speaker trucks to blast out the music, and food trucks. At one point, the trucks drive around the stadium providing a drunken parade for revelers to follow.
The food is hotdogs, beef pies, and “doubles.” Good drunk food to sop up the alcohol.
By 2 a.m., the party was well under way. Apparently, Trinis like to “wine” and “lime” which are to twerk and to drink. Actually, they like to do it in reverse: lime’n and wine’n.
What amazed me was the creative ways that people (mostly women) had altered their t-shirts into outfits with various forms of holes and tailoring.
The whole event is well organized with lots of security, toilets, and first aid. While it looked like debauchery, it was actually very neatly done.
The music was so loud that I wondered if my ears would bleed.