This guest post was written by Claude from the Abrams Family World Travel Blog. Claude and his wife have been traveling around the world with their four year old son and are now expecting their second child. If they can travel the world as a family of vegans, so can you!
Who’d have thought that the Carribean islands of Trinidad and Tobago would be such a vegan paradise? We travelled to both islands last October for the first time and the food was as much a highlight as the weather and beaches. While the cuisine choice is grand, there are some catches – and the key is timing.
For instance, a local delicacy is doubles (a soft flat bread sandwich with a chickpea [chana]-type curry sauce). This is the breakfast staple often served on street corners. But in order to have some, you have to be quick out of bed – I mean around 7-8am!
Doubles stalls are all over, but they sell out remarkably fast and then pack up for the day. The lines are often long. And watching the men or women serving is quite a sight. They literally pull out the skins, slap on the sauce and wrap it up in a split second. It’s not served with any panache.
Usually it is dished out on to a piece of grease-proof-type paper. It’s not unusual to gobble down two or three. They are ridiculously cheap. I bought enough for my family of three for about £4 ($6) – and had some left over. You can have additional hot chutneys to compliment the doubles. To have just a dash, you must ask for ‘slight’.
If doubles doesn’t take your fancy, try roti. These were a favourite for me and my four-year-old son. Roti shops are all over Trinidad and open for lunch and dinner. If you’re going for lunch, aim to get there for around 11.30am. That way you get the food freshly made. Ask for vegetarian. Roti is a thicker-skinned bread than doubles and made either from wholemeal flour or lentils (dhal puri). The filling consists of potatoes, pumpkin and other root vegetables. It’s truly delicious and satisfying. Pat Raj (159 Tragarete Road, Port of Spain. Tel: 622-6219) in Trinidad is my recommendation. In Tobago, by Crown Point, there are several roti shops open at lunchtime and next to each other. Take your pick. They are all good.
While doubles and roti are the more popular staple of the Trinidad and Tobago diet, side dishes for vegans come in abundance.
Try asking for ‘provisions’. These are usually a mix of yam, sweet potato, eddoes, dasheen, taro, cassava, breadfruit, plantain, green fig (banana). Mostly, they are boiled.
Speaking of cassava (pumpkin), look out for cassava pone, a delicious and filling cake made from the root vegetable. They sell them in the supermarkets (which aren’t so great), but if you are in Tobago make a point of seeking out a small vegetarian cafe in Bon Accord, on the Claude Noel Highway going from Crown Point (it will be on the right). Opening hours are erratic, but they also serve some fabulous pone made with soy milk, home-made vegetable soup as well as juices.
More expensive, but also in Tobago, is the Kariwak Village Restaurant on Store Bay Local Road. Kariwak serves some vegan dishes and also offers accommodation. The setting and service is excellent.
Another local dish is callaloo, a green soup made from dasheen leaves, coconut milk, okra, pumpkin and occasionally salted meat or crab. Be sure to ask that it’s meat-free. This is also really nutritious, so much so that it’s served to pregnant women because of the high iron content.
There are dozens of other Trini specialities. For instance, curried bodi is a type of long green bean with rice, or you can have fried aloo (potatoes), roasted baigan (eggplant/aubergine) or fried plantain. For something fruity, seek out some pineapple chow, a mix of pineapple, garlic, chadon beni leaves and hot pepper. But like almost every type of food on these islands, everyone has their own take on how best to prepare it.
Most importantly for vegans, though, you won’t starve, especially not in Trinidad (food can be harder to come by in the evening in Tobago, where the choice is much smaller).
If cooked food isn’t what you are after, Trinidad and Tobago do offer a choice of fruits, although we were somewhat disappointed, perhaps because of the time of year we were there. The fruit that we could get wasn’t especially cheap either.
But fresh coconut water is available on roadsides in both Trinidad and Tobago. You can either drink the water fresh from the coconut or have the seller chop it open so you can scoop out the flesh. It’s extremely cheap. In Port of Spain, Trinidad, head for the Savannah, the world’s largest roundabout (that’s a fact). You’ll find coconut vendors everywhere.
Should you decide to do your own cooking and want to eat organically, life is going to be more challenging. There are a few organic stores here and there, but it’s a relatively new concept. But with the range of cheap cooked vegan food available, you probably won’t even consider it.