One tiny island, one huge street food culture.
Whether you’re craving sweet, salty, or spicy food, you’ll find Indian-inspired curries, tropical Caribbean fruits, and African flavors to whet your appetite on Trinidad. There’s street food for breakfast, to cool you off in the afternoon sun, or in the wee hours after a night out. More than just a few food trucks in parking lot, Trinidad’s street food is a huge part of the culture. Trinidad has it all, from healthy to artery clogging and vegetarian to carnivorous. Come to Trinidad hungry and get ready to dig in.
What America calls a smoothie, Trinidad calls a punch. Look for a roadside cart where a “punch man” whips up delicious blends with banana, peanut, beet, or tropical fruit like soursop or babadeen. Add granola, flax (called linseed), or royal jelly for an extra boost (Trini men add bois bande because the bark is believed to be an aphrodisiac). Want to know the real secret to why this punch tastes better than any smoothie back home? It’s made with condensed milk.
INSIDER TIPLook for Harry’s or Brown’s in St. James and you can’t go wrong.
If you enjoy pickled meats and have an adventurous palate, you’ll like souse. Souse is king of “cutters,” the Trini word for salty, savory eats to have while drinking. This cold brined delicacy is made of pickled animal feet and tails, the most popular being chicken and pig. You can guess why they call them scratchers and trotters.
There are no better mangos in this world than the Julie varietal grown in Trinidad. But don’t worry, if those aren’t in season, try soursop, sapodilla, star apple, custard apple, chennette, portugal, cashew, cocorite, pommerac, or pommecythere—all local fruits you won’t forget. Trinidad also grows the perfect banana, guava, and papaya (called pawpaw).
INSIDER TIPThe water on the island is safe, so you won’t risk a sick belly by eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Unless of course, you just eat too much.
Need to take a break for something sweet? Skip the Haagen-Dazs shop (way overpriced thanks to the import tax) and eat local. Trini’s make great ice cream and you’ll have to go more than once so you can decide if passion fruit, sapodilla, rum raisin, Guinness, or peanut is your new favorite frozen flavor. St. James has a number of good spots for an afternoon cool down, like B&M or JnJ.
Roti might be everyone’s favorite street food in Trinidad. Think of it as an Indian burrito served two ways: wrapped or deconstructed. Dhalpourie style wraps up the curry, while buss up shut (called this because it looks like “busted up shirts”) serves the bread on the side. Choose your meat (go for the goat) and it will come with chickpeas, potato, veggies, pumpkin, and mango.
INSIDER TIPYou’ll see vendors making it on the sidewalk at night. If you want it during the day, every Trini has a favorite roti shop and you can get into a heated debate about which is best (it’s Ali’s in St. James). Had enough chicken, goat, or beef? Head to Santa Cruz for a lobster version.
Between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., on nearly every street corner, you’ll find a doubles vendor. Probably the most ubiquitous street food, doubles, like roti, is an Indian-inspired treat seasoned with madras curry, roasted cumin, and local love. Two fluffy and pillowy flatbreads called bara are covered with savory chickpea curry and chutneys like mango, cucumber, and tamarind. Ask for it without pepper, or, if you insist, just “slight.” This is the on-the-go breakfast for half of the island.
INSIDER TIPSome vendors also sell potato pies (called aloo pie) and saheena (a sort of healthier cousin to doubles).
Corn, Three Ways
Roasted, boiled, or in soup, corn is a street food superstar in Trinidad. Look for the massive 20-gallon aluminum pots and the savory steam escaping their lids. Have straight boiled corn or go for the corn soup, a thick, well-seasoned, split-pea based soup with dumplings. Black cast iron coal pots mean roasted corn is nearby, a nod to Trinidad’s West African roots.
Trinis are nuts about nuts. You’ll see vendors carrying big bags and calling “Nuts, salt and fresh.” If you don’t specify, you’ll get peanuts, either salted or without (“fresh”). You can also get them with raisins or honey roasted. Ask for cashews—sometimes warm and always fresh off the local fruit, you’ve never had ones that taste like this before.
INSIDER TIPYou’ll want to take these home for your friends, so ask the nuts vendor if they have larger bottles. If they don’t have one, go to a grocery store. And buy two because you’ll be sorry you gave it away.
Coconuts (The Other Kind of Nuts)
To escape the bustle of the capital city Port-of-Spain, take a walk around the Savannah, where you’ll feel like you’ve arrived in the prototypical island paradise. There, you’ll find coconut vendors, who sell from the back of their ornate trucks. Machete skills here are worth admiring as much as the sweet liquid. Don’t forget to ask them to chop it open when you are done drinking so you can have the coveted jelly. The vendor will make you a spoon from the husk.
INSIDER TIPAsk for an ice cold nut and as you sip, don’t go strolling through the park for safety reasons.
Ready for a deep fried savory donut hole? Pholourie is a crowd favorite because who doesn’t like fried dough deliciousness covered in mango curry? Buy them by the dozen and walk away with a bag for a dollar.
A Home-Cooked Meal
Want to feel like a Caribbean auntie opened her door and invited you in for a home-cooked meal of callaloo, macaroni pie, and stew? Breakfast Shed has all the flavors of the island under one roof with multiple vendors. And Veni Mange is where you can have a sit-down version of Trinidad’s favorite street foods with local art, brightly colored walls, and a great bar. Both have true local spirit and authentic flavors.