Aloo Pies, Saheena and Phoulorie… Oh, My!

In Trinidad and Tobago’s eclectic society, there’s one thing that has remained constant: the power of food to unify. The culinary influences of Africa, India, China and the Middle East reflect the nation’s forebearers who have all contributed, deliciously I might add, to T&T’s diverse street food scene.

Many of Trinidad and Tobago’s local dishes represent a fusion between traditional ethnic styles with local ingredients creating uniquely flavoured cuisine that is quintessentially “Trinbagonian”. The selection of street food options are abundant, with most being popular picks among locals and visitors alike. However, the East Indian influenced cuisine tends to lead the charge with its mixture of curry and spices with local seasonings, herbs and even fruits that add a combination of sweet, savoury and spicy flavours that tantalise the taste buds.

On almost every street corner, there is clear evidence of the East Indian influence on Trinidad’s street food. Here’s a run-down of some of the most delightful guilty pleasures:

Aloo Pies: Typically, aloo (Hindi word for potato) pies are well-seasoned, mashed potatoes that are stuffed into balls of dough, flattened into a crescent shape and then fried. They’re usually served with mango chutney; green mangoes either cooked down with lots of spices, or grated and seasoned with hot peppers, lime and chadon beni. The mainstream appeal isn’t just the affordability or ease of eating; it’s also a staple local dish that many have modified over the years. Additions such as curried channa (chickpeas), ground split peas (dhal), kuchela (pickled green mango) and even cheese have made an appearance atop aloo pies. Either way it’s consumed; this fried food is just the tip of the culinary iceberg.

Baiganee: Made with local baigan (Hindi word for eggplant), this snack is another foodie favourite. There are two variations: the first is when round slices of the baigan are dipped into a robust chickpea batter with enough body to coat the slices thickly. After frying, one side is cut open to reveal the creamy insides and lovers of this fare usually top it with spicy pepper sauce and mango chutney. The other version uses a method similar to the preparation of aloo pies but instead of potato filling, the baigan is sliced and placed inside the dough before frying.

Doubles: By now most of the world knows a thing or two about doubles. Our own review tells one story. Most recently, a feature on a Ft Lauderdale television station also highlighted doubles. Such is the love for this informal national dish! As both versions have it, this fried goodie is made out of simple, well-seasoned ingredients. A popular breakfast item, doubles can be enjoyed at any time of the day or night. Made with a soft, fried dough made from split peas flour (bara) it is then topped with curried channa and a range of fruit, vegetables and sweet, savoury and spicy sauces. Popular toppings includehot pepper sauce (slight, medium or fire-breathing heavy), chadon beni sauce aka bandhaniya (Hindi word for culantro), tamarind sauce, cucumber chow and mango chutney. Whatever your fancy, this is one street food you have to try at least once in your life.

Katchorie: Made entirely out of ground chick peas mixed with a bit of split peas flour, katchorie’s tasty flavours are enhanced by grated carrots and Caribbean seasonings mixed into the batter. Notably, katchorie is heavier than aloo pies, though the taste is just as fantastic. Spoonfuls of batter are dropped into hot oil and fried to crisp, golden perfection. Despite the inherent density, the insides are usually moist and perfect for soaking in the spiciest chutneys and other sauces.

Phoulorie: Another fried favourite (notice the theme here!), made from a yeasty split pea flour batter, these bite-sized circles of fried dough are perfect for snacking. Crisp on the outside, but fluffy on the inside, this traditional school-time treat is a favourite with all walks of life. The insides often feature little air bubbles, making sopping up the accompanying mango or tamarind sauces even easier!

 

These are just some of the local East Indian-influenced delicacies enjoyed by Trinidadians and Tobagonians for generations. No matter the differences, the love for local food and those tasty treats unite us all in ways we can’t describe.