One of the most emblematic foods in Trinidad for Christmas is Black Cake: a rich, boozy, fruitcake-like confection. The name is earned from the dense and fudgy appearance of the cake, made from rum-soaked prunes, currants and raisins. The key is soaking the fruit long in advance – even months! The ancestor of the Trinidadian Black Cake are the alcohol-soaked fig puddings and fruitcakes from England, meant to withstand long voyages, brought to Trinidad when the island was colonized by the British. However, over the years, Trinidad made the Black Cake entirely their own, substituting rum for other liquors, and adding the essential caramelized burnt sugar syrup. If you don’t have access to a local bakery, there are dozens of scrumptious recipes: We Trini Foods, Trini Gourmet, and Saveur. Or you can order a mail order cake from NY’s Black Cake Company.
Patrice Yursik’s recollection of Trinidadian Christmases is definitely worth a read, to get a taste of the food and music culture at the heart the celebration (including the hit by Lord Kitchener “Drink a Rum,” linked above). Black Cake is just one of the many delicious Trinidadian treats making Christmastime appearances, including Sorrel (also popular in other Caribbean countries), Pastelles, and Ponche de Creme (all highlighted at Trini Gourmet). Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!
The Hindi festival of lights – Diwali – is right around the corner on October 19th. The Indian diaspora is found all over the world, meaning that Diwali, and its collection of sweets called mithai, have traveled with them. You can check out our previous coverage of Diwali treats on the blog. Today, we’re celebrating Diwali Trinidad-style with Kurma. Trinidad has a long Indian heritage, so unsurprisingly, Indian treats are a big thing on the island. Kurma are ginger and cinnamon-spiced fried dough sticks in a sweet glaze, and though associated with holidays in Trinidad, they can now be found year-round. You can try your hand at Trinidadian Kurma with recipes from Simply Trini Cooking (seen below) and Trini Gourmet.
Today marks the colorful Hindu festival of Holi, or as it is known in Indian diaspora communities in South America and the Caribbean, Phagwah. One of the most vibrant places to celebrate the holiday outside of Indian is actually in Queens, NYC, which is home to Hindu diaspora communities from around the world including Trinidad and Guyana. The New York Timescovered the Queens Holi festivities in detail in 2011, along with a photo album. The NYT also has a great Caribbean recipe for the holiday, Gogola banana fritters.
If you live in the freezing Midwest like us, the winter holiday season may not immediately get you thinking of tropical recipes, but the Caribbean has huge tradition of delicious Christmas foods worth sampling. One emblematic Caribbean food that is a holiday staple is the simply named Black Cake (it gets its name from its rich molasses color). The cake itself is filled with figs and dried fruit soaked in wine, rum and is flavored with cloves, nutmeg and allspice. Caribbean Black Cake is a descendant of British plum pudding, and has an special stronghold in Caribbean countries that were former British colonies such as Trinidad and Jamaica. However, you will find it throughout the Caribbean and in most Caribbean-American communities around holiday time with assorted named like Christmas Cake, Black Christmas Cake, West Indian Fruit Cake, Caribbean Christmas Cake, etc. A unique ingredient that is essential to the rich taste of the cake is burnt sugar syrup, or “browning,” that is available in Caribbean markets (or you can make your own). Here is a recipe for Jamaican Black Cake from the Cooking Channel (below), Trinidadian Black Cake from Cooking with Ria and Caribbean Black Fruitcake from Chowhound.
I’m pretty surprised that it took us so long to try Trinidadian food, but since we are such fans of Caribbean food we knew we were in for a treat. One of our favorite Caribbean foods – after lechon of course – is the humble roti. Rotis are Indian-derived flatbreads filled with any number of toppings, and they are one of the staple of Caribbean street food. Taste of Trinidad (2045 Howard St, Chicago, IL) got high marks for it’s Trini-style rotis and since it was in our hood (before we moved at least) we knew we needed to give it a try.
Taste of Trinidad is a humble operation, with no air conditioning, and it is often closed during its stated hours, so be sure to call ahead. But don’t worry, this extra effort will be worth your while. We chatted a bit with who we presume is the owner and he was happy to offer his recommendations and tell us a little about Trini food. Beyond rotis, they also have curry goat, jerk chicken and the ever-popular macaroni pie. On the weekend they even have doubles, an emblematic dish made of fried flatbread filled with chickpeas!
We started out with an order of pholourie, a dish of fried chickpea dough fritters served with mango chutney. These reminded us of the Italian panelle and were a very addictive snack! For our lunch entrees we ordered a veggie roti and a chicken curry roti, which came out in short order. We appreciated that these rotis were not greasy at all, and both of the curries were flavorful and gently spicy. It was also nice to have a vegetarian option. To up the ante you can slather on some house made habanero/Scotch bonnet hot sauce, which got a hearty thumbs up from M. Neither of us were able to finish our rotis – but they were certainly delicious. Taste of Trinidad put out a high quality roti that definitely merits a future visit. We are especially looking forward to visiting on a weekend to get our doubles fix!
Hot Cross Buns are a sweet treat traditionally associated with Good Friday, the Friday before Easter. These little doughy goodies are sweet rolls with currants and a signature cross made out of icing on top. Their origin is could possibly go as far back as ancient Greece, but they really came to fame in England, when a law was passed prohibiting the sale of spiced breads at any other time but funerals, Christmas and Good Friday. In the intervening centuries, the laws fell, and hot cross buns have spread across the world, even becoming popular year-round. They are now available all over the English speaking world, and 70 million were sold by British supermarket chain Tesco on Easter weekend alone in 2010. The classic recipe is pretty similar all over the world: check out this recipe for Trinidadian hot cross buns, and another classic take from the UK. Though classic is good, why not try a chocolate-orange variety, too?
We’re two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.
To contact us for partnerships or just to say hi, email us at eating the world (at) gmail.com
Eating The World · We're two Midwestern omnivores, L and M, who are trying to eat food from every country in the world (at restaurants in both the US and abroad). Eating the World is where we update our global restaurant and food adventures. We are based in Cleveland, Chicago and beyond.