Welcome to the island of Trinidad in the West Indies. It's here after a five hour red-eye flight from New York that upon leaving the airport doors, the heat might hit you something fierce. If you're lucky, there's a trade wind blowing your way. You may be met by the sun taking to the skies and giving life to the day. Family and friends will greet you with all their love and genuine happiness melted into the warmest hugs and hellos you could find any where. And after all that, your first stop is right across the street for breakfast from the cart selling "Doubles".
A sandwich of sorts, curried chick peas (also known as "chana") act as the filling between two pieces of fried flat bread called bara. While it may look incredibly unappealing for consumption (and you eat with your eyes first, right?), trust me when I say if you ever have the opportunity, do not pass up the chance based on looks. There are lots of spices involved including cumin and turmeric (for that lovely tinge of a golden colour, no doubt) in the bara; and you can have your doubles with varying degrees of spice levels to match your cravings. Heavy on the pepper? You can have that but if you wanted just a little, then just ask for 'slight' pepper.
so much to love in that little parchment paper... All good doubles are topped with tamarind chutney, mango chutney, shado beni (a culantro but as per wikipedia, not to be confused with cilantro) and of course, pepper sauce.
The bara's greasy yet airy and soft. It's light and should never be thick. How does it hold all that awesome, runny chana together? It doesn't really but then you really don't eat it like a traditional sandwich. You could though I suppose because you could have it wrapped up in the parchment to go but for me it's ideal to just break off pieces and scoop up the chana into little pieces of the bara. It's certainly messy work but nothing some napkins won't take care of.
I shamed my people by sitting at a table to eat my doubles (for the record, I blame my brother who wanted to sit there). The proper way to have one is to stand in the vicinity of the doubles man's street cart and enjoy. It takes a lot of skill. I think my skill level has been dulled or maybe I never really had that level of skill to begin with. I'm conveniently all sorts of fuzzy on those details.
The taste is hard to describe. It's not salty. It's definitely savoury. It's not too sweet thanks to the tamarind and mango but does add a good hint of sweetness to it without being overwhelming. But all the spices blend together in this lovely blend of yum. The cumin really shines but is not overpowering but definitely has that distinct taste in the bara. The chana are not hard and crunchy but retain their shape due to the fact that they're not squishy soft either. They are perfectly cooked.
At $4 TT, which roughly translates into about 62 cents in USD, they're small enough and deceptively light and tasty to down another without trouble. Two's my standard at any given time but any more than that and you start to feel the heft in the grease. I know some who could probably eat more in one sitting but I would not recommend it. It certainly makes you crave another at your next meal but with so many good things to eat in Trinidad, it's not hard to move on to your next adventure...
...which might actually be Second Breakfast and Elevensies with Saheena (a fried bread infused with spinach) and cut open to be stuffed with more curried chana; and another fried bread stuffed with eggplant (commonly called "baigan").
Saheena. It's quite yummy with all that spinach in there. But you fry anything and chances are it'll taste good. The inclusion of chana is new to me. Usually we have saheena topped with a mango chutney or tamarind sauce.
This was also new to me. Swirled in that fried mess of crunchy yet perfectly chewy dough, is a piece of eggplant, also fried and topped with the same curried chana and seasonings. It was hot, soft and messy to eat. It was bliss though on taste.
Insides. Because who does not want to see that. Looks
The problem with Trinidad is that your friends and family try to feed you way too much. It's not all grease and frying all the time in spite of what transpired here but more to come on that in a future SnackTAYku... Right after the Brunch SnackTAYku planned next that is actually all about more fried bread...
Update: Nach cheated and included a duck in the street. He knows ducks win always! Really though, go check out his breakfast SnackTAYku International edition. It's beautiful. I'm hungry. Curse you, Nach.
- Visit TAY Classic for a healthy bowl of cereal. Yup. It's what I'll be eating all week after that whirlwind trip to Trinidad. If you don't want cereal, you can also find discussions on life, video games and whatever else you wanted. Join in a discussion or start one of your own! If you're confused on how TAY works, read the TAYtorial: the handy guide to all of your questions.