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Trinis – does anyone cook like this?

So, I was surfing the net, not really looking for anything in particular, but as usual ended up looking at food and recipes…

Maybe it’s because of Trini Gourmet‘s post on Hops Bread that got me looking for other explanations of Hops Bread, the reason for the name, traditional descriptions etc (because don’t you find that these days to get a really crusty on the outside, fluffy on the inside, with a little touch of sweetness, is getting more and more difficult?). Anyway, got on to the VisitTnT site, which is the official Welcome to T&T website (started by government) and they have a page entitled Local recipes to try yourself!, where they list recipes for pelau and Trinidad curry chicken that concern me.

First the pelau – here’s my recipe which involves browning the sugar and then adding the chicken, so the chicken and eventually the peas get a nice stewed flavour and a brown colour, then the rice. Their recipe calls for browning the chicken just so in oil, no browning* nothing, then taking it out, then sauteing onions and garlic AND TAKING IT OUT and somewhere along the way adding brown sugar to the pot of rice and water just so, no browning (caramelisation). What? I know there are other techniques for making pelau, and I know there are people who make white-chicken pelau (without the browning of the sugar and stewing), but do people really cook everything separately, throw it in with the boiling rice water and then RAW SUGAR? Please help. I need to know if this is really a Trini way of cooking as described in the official T&T tourist website, and even if not, how would that taste?

And then there’s the curry chicken recipe…

First of all, they don’t season the chicken. Then they saute the garlic and ginger and throw it away (ok have seen this technique for flavour before, but in T&T – we don’t throw this away, do we?!?) And then…they cook the chicken WITHOUT the curry powder, cook it completely. I know of people who may season the chicken with the curry powder, people who throw the curry powder on the raw chicken directly in the pot and people who actually fry up the curry in the oil before adding the meat. All to get the curry flavour released by the oil/heat and for the chicken to really be curried before it is cooked. Not fully cooked chicken then boiled in a curry powder liquid. I have tasted chicken that was probably cooked this way – you can still taste the curry powder, gritty and nonflavourful on your tongue. They don’t fry up the onions, they add it to the concotion to boil away. My grandmother’s secret to great Trini curry, is lots of onions, well sauted in oil before adding any meat, or potatoes etc.

Sigh. I accept there are lots of ways to cook pelau, but I never knew of their way. Is that pelau? They don’t even save it with coconut milk. It’s not that I am closed off to variation, but…

For example, I know there’s recipe on Allrecipes.com for Trinidad Stewed Chicken which calls for lots of coconut milk (strange to me, but confirmed by my mother as a possibility), but I have learned not to be annoyed by it, because Allrecipes.com is a user submitted site, and there can be variations; plus they do brown the chicken in the sugar first. What bothers me about VisitTnt.com is that it is official.

I really would like to get feedback. I am not going to say that these methods as described at VisitTnT.com are bad recipes; I just want to know if they are Trini recipes. Because if they are, what’s my food?? Or what have I been missing out on? I am now officially worried about my status as a real Trini cook…

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* Please note that where browning is used as a noun, it refers to the sticky, dark brown result of caramelising sugar in the hot pot, may be called gravy browning, cake browning etc. like this.

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34 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. that is hotel food yes. i dunno… all these fraudulent recipes are part of why i started TG in the first place! i was just tired of being aggravated, but you are right, for VISITTNT to perpertrate this crap… this had better not be that Metevier woman behind it???

    you know what i think it is.. i think they are trying to show we are ‘big time’… the browning and leaving all the bits and scraps in probably looked too homely to them, so they want to zuzz it up. Nothing wrong with some high priced accessories but if the basic system is what made the dish beloved to begin with, why tamper? ACK!!!

    1. The TriniGourmet on December 8th, 2006 at 10:06 pm
  2. Good -iz not just me, then. Whew. The recipe sounds like someone who’s never seen the real thing cooked. Like somewhere on this internet, there was a site that had a doubles recipe – real one. And someone (a declared non-Trini who clearly never see it cooking on the street-vans in T&T) protested that the bara could NEVER be deep fried and the recipe had to be wrong, as no doubles he ever ate was oily. The Bara, he claimed must be dry-baked or dry-fried or something so.

    Now, apart from the fact that the doubles wrapper ALWAYS looks grease-soaked, he clearly knows nothing about cooking – what dry-baked dough or batter could produce super-soft pliable and fluffy bara?

    Anyway, I would love to know who is responsible. And if it’s a hotel/restaurant, I need to warn people away from it.

    2. chennette on December 8th, 2006 at 10:50 pm
  3. nyam nyam nyam bara….

    mmm me thinks a channa post needs to be in my future too..

    nyam nyam nyam

    3. The TriniGourmet on December 9th, 2006 at 7:22 pm
  4. Chennette, things like this does worry me yuh know. Who’s is behind this? It’s almost an outrage for this to be purported as Trinidadian on an official website. I think we should send them mass e-mails and get them to change it.It’s embarrassing. There’s nothing worse than a sugar-sweet pelau and a raw-curry curry. Blech! I know just from watching my mother that you have to burn the sugar before you can stew and cook the curry properly before you curry. Where these people does come out from?

    TriniGourment….all you and Chennette do is make me hungry.

    4. Mani on December 9th, 2006 at 8:24 pm
  5. Man even me who can’t cook trini food without explicit instructions know about browning. When I didn’t have browning, I knew enough to try to make browning from sugar (didn’t use enough so it was white-ish/cream-ish pelau) but it tasted good and I think it had the right texture, flavour etc…

    Only complaint from american friend: why does it have bones? can you make it without? i’m not accustomed to eating chicken with bones in it.

    ARGH!

    But yes mass mail the site…it’s the only way. They shouldn’t perpetuate crap.

    5. Lilandra, Empress of Chocolate on December 9th, 2006 at 11:06 pm
  6. much love mani! lolz! 😀

    6. The TriniGourmet on December 9th, 2006 at 11:26 pm
  7. Anytime TriniGourmet! Chennette, I went ahead and sent the first e-mail. Who’s next?

    7. Mani on December 10th, 2006 at 8:26 am
  8. Me. I emailed!

    And Mani…I didn’t want to say anything before, but “I know just from watching my mother that you have to burn the sugar before you can stew and cook the curry properly before you curry.” I hope that doesn’t mean that you don’t cook :-)

    8. chennette on December 10th, 2006 at 10:02 am
  9. Ooo you proactive people

    9. Lilandra, Empress of Chocolate on December 10th, 2006 at 11:53 am
  10. i really can’t believe all those discards

    10. Lilandra, Empress of Chocolate on December 10th, 2006 at 11:56 am
  11. lol, no I meant a looooong time ago before I began to cook for myself. I was implying that even as a child I knew what was right. Gyul, even though I don’t allude to it on my blog, I am a foodie too. I’m still in the closet though, lol. I’m going to make myself some Matar Paneer this week. I already made myself some paneer

    11. Mani on December 10th, 2006 at 11:59 am
  12. Just checking…I didn’t think so, you talk about cooking before, but you know we have to be sure!
    Good going with the paneer – I have never tried making it although I know how.

    12. chennette on December 10th, 2006 at 12:07 pm
  13. sag paneer is tha bomb!! 😀

    13. The TriniGourmet on December 10th, 2006 at 2:49 pm
  14. Nah man….I does cook, lol.

    14. Mani on December 10th, 2006 at 7:38 pm
  15. TriniGourmet, I never had Sag Paneer, but now that I know how to make my own paneer, the paneer world is mine.

    15. Mani on December 10th, 2006 at 7:40 pm
  16. It’s like a whole other language!

    But I can back brownies from a box!

    16. ewe_are_here on December 11th, 2006 at 8:26 pm
  17. :-) that is cooking – it produces something people eat and enjoy. And I am sure there are less fights about the proper technique 😉

    17. chennette on December 11th, 2006 at 8:57 pm
  18. Hee hee. I actually made a double pan of brownies last night -hey, and I chopped up walnuts and threw them in! – for today’s playgroup. Deliriously happy mommies everywhere!

    The ones I laughed at are those that asked me for ‘the recipe.’ Umm, first, buy a box… 😉

    19. ewe_are_here on December 12th, 2006 at 9:06 am
  19. Hubby wants to know (but thought it was too mean to ask) if their pelau was green too….But even as a half (and I call him wanna be-trini) he was appalled at the recipes….especially the pelau…he just doesn’t get it. You know the one of the few things he learnt to cook for university was pelau, except that the first time he cooked it for his 8 friends he put slits in the hot pepper cos he thought that would improve the flavour…..you know how these people can handle pepper…

    20. Hmmmm on December 12th, 2006 at 10:45 am
  20. @ ewe are here – sounds delicious either way. Even though our family has the excellent Betty Crocker recipe for brownies and have used it many times, I still have a bulk box of Ghirardelli double chocolate brownie mix in my cupboard.
    Your recipe reminds me of our friend’s recipes for cereal and macaroni and cheese back in Edinburgh. “1. Go to store. 2. Buy box of cereal…”

    @ Hmmmm I don’t talk about green pelau…go talk to Lilandra about green pelau. And did hubby manage to eat the hot pepper himself?

    21. chennette on December 12th, 2006 at 2:31 pm
  21. smile

    22. Hmmmm on December 12th, 2006 at 3:17 pm
  22. mmm ghirardelli ….. mmmmmmmmmmmm

    23. The TriniGourmet on December 12th, 2006 at 4:16 pm
  23. It was Ghirardelli, of course! Giant Costco buy!

    24. ewe_are_here on December 12th, 2006 at 5:16 pm
  24. Probably the same exact thing – as we bought ours in our Costco equivalent Pricesmart…

    25. chennette on December 12th, 2006 at 7:57 pm
  25. I know nothing of green pelau.

    Hmph.

    26. Lilandra, Empress of Chocolate on December 12th, 2006 at 8:24 pm
  26. I have two words in response to this post – Wendy Rahamut. Go figure.

    27. Trinifood on December 17th, 2006 at 5:29 pm
  27. I have so many problems with Wendy Rahamut…I am glad she has a well produced show and fancy cookbooks, but…I’ll leave that to another post!

    28. chennette on December 17th, 2006 at 8:34 pm
  28. well produced show??

    i think her counters are the wrong size but that is just my being nit-picky

    29. Lilandra on December 18th, 2006 at 4:00 am
  29. lol y’all gonna rag on her counters hahahahaaha 😀
    she hasn’t offended me yet but i have only seen like 3 episodes of her show.. hahaha… i really like her magazine tho … plz don’t throw stones or tomatoes 😛

    30. The TriniGourmet on December 19th, 2006 at 1:56 pm
  30. Okay, I don’t like the colour and photography on her show and the insipid music.

    It’s a Caribbean cuisine show or something. It should be something lively. I have no idea who pick out that half dead, kill me now, blah blah blah music. And if it’s changed since I remember it then God be praised!

    31. Lilandra on December 19th, 2006 at 2:28 pm
  31. Hahah i don’t remember the music to tell you the truth, I think Trinis have an odd idea of ‘television professionalism’ … it’s either the extreme slapstick crystal meth theater school of facial expressions or happy lobotomy days… there’s bound to be a happy medium!

    32. The TriniGourmet on December 19th, 2006 at 2:44 pm
  32. For ages it didn’t used to seem that she was smiling but now you can see her making the effort.

    You’d think after all these years she’d be more comfortable.

    Oh well…they always say we more critical of our own.

    33. Lilandra on December 19th, 2006 at 5:51 pm
  33. i had the opportunity to make doubles with a street vendor in tobago and while i did not get to see the channa part, ( i have a good recipe for that from a sweet hands cookbook) the dough that i make at home still cannot compare to soucou’s double’s recipe.

    his wife used her fingers dipped in oil to spread the dough out and he deep fried it.

    there is some question as to whether he uses yeast, or freeze dried yeast because he has no refrigerator or electricity to keep yeast alive. don’t know if that would make a significant difference in the bara part.

    35. sarah on December 30th, 2007 at 5:26 pm
  34. Hi Sara and Welcome. Yup, my mother has mastered that art of stretching the bara dough with oiled fingers. Me, not so much. In the recipe I posted you can see her fingers stretching away.

    36. chennette on December 30th, 2007 at 6:37 pm

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Warning:!!! There are many sites (and I’m not calling names -yet-) publishing ‘traditional island recipes’ that are based in no other reality than the author’s mind. I will be featuring such recipes now and again in a ‘Best of the Worst’ series, so be on the look out. Sadly, thanks to Chenette, it looks like my own government’s tourism website (ok I called names ) may have to be the first skewered, and here that honour was gonna go to England’s Delia Smith, oh well! […]

  2. By Lifespan of a Chennette Doubles Recipe « on March 25, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    […] I found that website I mentioned earlier where someone had left a comment that the doubles he eaten were made with BAKED bara! Read to the […]

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