Food and Drink

What foods and drinks should students on a budget try when in Trinbago?(click to tweet) As a culturally rich country, T&T has an abundance of flavourful foods and drinks at economical prices for student visitors! Below I have categorized some of my top food and drink recommendations; prices range from ~$1US to $15US. Enjoy!

SAVORY FOODS

Pholourie, Trinidad, Tobago, West Indian

Pholourie

Pholourie

An  Indo-Trinidadian snack food that consists of fried dough, which is made of flour, split peas, saffron, turmeric, and other indo-spices. It is best enjoyed when accompanied with some spicy mango chutney sauce. Where to find it: Debe (Trinidad) is the best place to go, but it also can be found in any nearby curry-shop, or even around the Queen’s Park Savannah.

 

Corn Soup, Trinidad

Corn Soup Trinibago Style

Corn Soup

A delectable medley of sliced cobs of corn, carrots, special local seasonings, and cassava or flour dumplings! Where to find it: Maracas Bay Look-Out (Trinidad), on evenings at the Queen’s Park Savannah (Trinidad), and Store Bay (Tobago).

 

Curry Crab and Dumplings, Trinidad, Food

Curry Crab and Dumplin’

Curry Crab and Dumplin’

Succulent crabs cooked in Indo-Trinbagonian styled curry and served with cassava or flour dumplings. While a bit tedious to eat (since you have to crack open the crab), it is quite a satisfying dish! Where to find it: The Breakfast Shed (Trinidad), and Store Bay (Tobago).

 

SWEET FOODS

Tamarind, Trinidad, Tamarind Balls

L to R: a tamarind ball, unshelled tamarind, a tamarind pod.

Tamarind Balls

A mouth-watering combination of local tamarind pulp(bitter by itself), brown and white sugar, and sometimes pepper. Though very sweet, this local snack is quite addictive and is loved by locals and foreigners alike. Where to find it: Food Stands at Port of Spain lookout, Maracas Bay lookout, and any place that sells preservatives.

 

Chow, Pineapple, Trinidad, Food

Pineapple Chow

Pineapple Chow

Slices of juicy pineapple marinated in chadon beni, salt, pepper (optional), garlic, and lime. The taste can be described as sweet and salty, depending on how ripe the pineapple is. Where to find it: The same places or vendors that sell tamarind balls and other popular preservatives.

 

Guava Cheese, Trinidad, Tobago, Food

Guava Cheese

Guava Cheese

A saccharine delight made of guava pulp, water, sugar, and sometimes lime or lemon juice. Where to find it: UpMarket (Trinidad), Peppercorns, and certain local groceries. *Sometimes hard to find.

 

 

DRINKS

Soursop, Trinidad, Drinks

The Soursop Fruit

Punch

Usually made by blending milk, ice, fruit, and sugar, this sweet drink is out of this world! Flavours to sample include: Seamoss, Barbadine, and Soursop (all locally grown). Where to find it: Tragarete Road in Woodbrook, parlours in Blanchisseuse (some of the better ones I’ve had), or on evenings in The Queen’s Park Savannah.

 

Sorrel being made

Sorrel

Popular around Christmas, this drink is made with the red flowers of the Roselle plant (locally called Sorrel), which are combined with water, cinnamon, whole cloves, and brown sugar. Where to find it: restaurants and drink shops in December when it’s in season (normally made by households).

 

coconut, trinidad

A vendor chopping open a coconut

Coconut Water

Best served straight from a chilled coconut, this drink is most enjoyable on a sunny day to quench your thirst. Where to get it: For Fresh Coconuts – Vendors around the Queen’s Park Savannah or at Maracas Bay (bonus: vendors cut-open the coconuts so you can eat the jelly). For Bottled Coconut water: any supermarket.

 

Ponche de creme, Trinidad, Drinks

Ponche De Crème

Ponche De Crème

A popular rich concoction made during the Christmas season. Ponche De Crème consists of eggs, lime zest, condensed milk, evaporated milk, rum, bitters, and nutmeg. Where to get it: Like Sorrel, it is usually made by families, but can be sourced at restaurants.

 

Interested in finding our more about Trinbagonian and Caribbean cuisine?
Tamara of Gem’s Living shares wonderful recipes that allow you to get a closer look at island food. Also, the TriniChow blog provides excellent reviews of local eateries’ cuisine.

Festivals

Trinidad and Tobago has a multiplicity of festivals. In terms of events for visiting students with tight budgets, the following are a few select annual festivities that students might be interested in:

Carnival – March/February

Frequently referred to as “the greatest show on earth”, many flock to Trinidad and Tobago to experience Carnival. It can be traced back to the Europeans who brought the tradition during the colonisation period. The two-day celebration takes place before the Christian period of Lent. Over time, the many distinct cultures of the islands helped to transform it into what we know as Carnival today. While passing through the streets, expect to see brightly coloured costumes and to hear the roar of sweet soca and calypso music. Though the overall aesthetic seems to be gradually getting closer to that of the Brazilian Carnival, traditional costumes (satires and folklore characters) are still worn.

Trinidad, Carnival, Costumes, Masqueraders, Colourful,

Carnival in Trinidad

Costumes, especially well-made ones, are quite expensive (> $500 US), but sometimes you find great deals. Harts, Island People, and Tribe are the popular carnival masquerading bands. If you can’t afford the high prices of the Carnival costumes, you can still participate in the festivities, by observing from the sidelines and by attending the pre-parties. J’ouvert is also another cheaper possibility; many participate in both Carnival and J’ouvert.

Marking the start of Carnival, J’ouvert commences at the crack of dawn. People dress up in inexpensive make-shift costumes (<$28US) and go out on to the streets in the wee hours of the morning to have fun. Paint, oil, chocolate, and like matter are thrown around, making it a messy but enjoyable time.

For more information on dates, fetes, costumes, J’ouvert and the like, visit Trinidad Carnival Diary.

Diwali (Divali) – November

Known as “the festival of lights”, Diwali is celebrated not only by the Hindu community, but also by the wider population. It commemorates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness. Deyas (diyas) are lit in remembrance of this triumph; they function as a symbol of good, dispelling the darkness (physically and mentally). Hindus during this period pray to the goddess Mother Lakshme, for prosperity and wealth.

Deyas, Trinidad, Diwali, Divali

Girls Lighting Deyas in Trinidad

Many public areas (temples, savannahs, houses etc) around the country are converted to exhibit this show of lights. The Divali Nagar is one such space to visit during this season. At Diwali events, music from tassa drums and rhythm sections can be heard; traditional Indian cuisine is served; people dress in classic Indian attire; customary dances are performed; and of course deyas are lit and displayed on intricate cut-out bamboo displays.

Foreigners are always welcomed to join in on the activities. Festivities are normally open to the public and are free. Even the deyas and related supplies are modestly priced (~$1US each). Diwali is a great opportunity to experience the many aspects of Hindu culture, especially when in Trinidad where the population is notorious for being warm and friendly.

Tobago Heritage Festival – July/August

Bele, Dance, Tobago Heritage Festival

Bele Dancing in Tobago

Known as one of Tobago’s main yearly events, this festival seeks to preserve the distinct traditions of Tobagonian culture. During the commemoration, locals and foreigners visit charming villages and learn about life of the early 1900s. Villagers dress in costumes reminiscent of the past and share via performance their folk dancing and singing; local dishes are served as well. Other activities that take place include story-telling, stick-fighting, and limbo.

The cost of attending the festival’s events varies, but it is generally cheap (~$7US), and in many cases events are free. Visit the official Tobago Heritage Festival site for more information on this culturally-rich celebration.

Want to know more about the major happenings in Trinbago?
Visit gotrinidadandtobago.com to find out more.

Feel free to share (by leaving a comment) any festivals you think international students may be interested in.

Next week: Look out for a post on Eco-related activities!