Tobago Cuisine

A guide to Tobago's culinary delights

Creole dish at Jemma's

Tobago's cuisine is a unique blend of African, Indian, Chinese, European and Latin American influences, overlaid with those of countries as diverse as Syria, Lebanon and Italy.

Replicating the diverse multicultural, multiracial population of Trinidad, this has created a fascinating culinary fusion far more interesting than the typical fare found elsewhere in the Caribbean. To most people is one of the highlights of a visit to Tobago.

Curry and roti are national favourites. Roti originated in East India, but, like all West Indian curry dishes, has now been thoroughly localised and are now quite different to their East Indian variants. It is basically a thin flat unleavened bread (flour pancake), very much like a tortilla. Generally known as a roti skin, or roti wrap, it is traditionally wrapped around a meat and potato curry. Other popular fillings are curried chicken, goat, shrimp or conch with potato chunks and channa (chickpeas). Vegetable roti is popular with vegetarians. A more expensive variant is the paratha roti which has a crisp crust but is light and fluffy, whilst soft on the inside. They're all rather messy to eat, but don't be afraid to use a knife and fork. Totally delicious. Must be tried!

Crab and Dumpling is a local speciality. To be frank, is not one of my favourites dishes. With all due respect to the people of Tobago, who I love dearly, this is one dish that I shall never attempt again. The crabs on Tobago are small, so contain very little meat. The dumplings are generally wet and sticky and the appearance of the dish is reminiscent of the contents of a baby's nappy. Tasty, maybe (the crab and dumplings, that is), but to my mind it's a lot of work for very little reward. Maybe I'm just not adventurous enough. Many people rave about crab and dumplings.

Seahorse Inn, GraftonSeafood is highly popular on Tobago with fishing being the nearest thing to an industry in Tobago. You won't get fresher fish anywhere else. Away from the 'international' restaurants of the most populated areas of the island, you will find that local restaurants all serve variations of the same basic spicy Creole cooking. Menus are virtually unheard of; guests are simply given one or two choices of meat (chicken, lamb, or beef) or fish.

Vegetarians are well catered for. There are two major groups of vegetarians on Trinidad and Tobago - devout Hindus and Rastafarians - so every restaurant will have options.

Turning to alcohol, rum is the most popular drinks. Beware of rum punches - they will contain at least a triple measure of rum and you'll be under the table before you know it. The local Trinidad-brewed beers are Carib - a good thirst quenching light lager, slightly on the sweet side, with an alcohol content of 5.2%; my own personal favourite Stag - slightly drier and stronger, at 5.5%; and a locally-brewed version of Heineken. Remember, the heat will speed the effects of the alcohol.

Trinbago Dishes

benne balls

A popular confection made from sesame seeds that will test your dentures.

black cake

A rich cake made with dried fruit, cherries, brandy and rum, iced and decorated as the traditional wedding cake.

blue food

Any root crop - such as dasheen, eddoes, cassava, yam, sweet potatoes etc

brown down

Spicy stewed chicken, beef, pork or fish

buljol

Salted codfish often served in a coconut bake (type of bread) and seasoned with peppers, onions, tomatoes and olive oil.

callaloo

A soup made from spinach-like dasheen leaves and okra, with various other ingredients such as coconut. A staple of Creole cooking.

coconut bake

A type of bread made with grated coconut and generally served for breakfast with buljol or cheese.

cou-cou

A mixture of cornmeal, okra and butter, boiled and stirred till firm then sliced. Normally served with steamed fish and callaloo.

crab 'n dumplings

Crab stewed with curry and coconut mils and served with flat flour dumplings.

dhalpuri roti

A thin roti made with split peas.

doubles

Curried channa (chickpeas) served between two baras (fried flour and split pea bread). It is normally served with hot mango kutcheela (hot pickle) - be sure to tell the vendor you want "slight pepper" because the kutcheela is HOT.

hops

Filled crisp bread roll, as in ham 'n' hops

kibbies

A mixture of meat and corn wrapped in pastry and deep-fried

oil-down

Breadfruit, boiled down in coconut milk with salted meat.

paratha roti

Also know as buss-up-shut, paratha is more flaky and served shredded and used to scoop up accompanying dishes.

patelles

Spanish-style filled pastries, normally served in a banana leaf wrap.

pelau

Pigeon peas and rice cooked with meat and often flavoured with coconut milk. Delicious - one of my favourites!

phulouri

Small deep-fried balls made from ground split peas and flour and served with a spicy chutney.

roti

A thin round Indian bread cooked on a hot griddle and known as a wrap or skin around various fillings.

shark-and-bake

Seasoned shark, dipped in flour, deep-fried in a wok and then placed in a fry bake (leavened bread).

souse

Boiled pigs trotters, served cold with a salty sauce. Not for the weak-heated!

Tobago Satellite Map

Enjoy interactive satellite maps of Tobago. If you have Google Earth download the map here. If not, click the map below to view in a browser window.

GBP = $9.93 

   USD = $6.00

EUR =  $7.89 

   CAD = $5.62

  Mid-market rates per XE.com

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Page Updated: 19 Apr 14