Monday, August 26, 2013

Bygan Chunkayed in Choka!

 
 
Bygan is the hindi word for eggplant and this is a really short relatively easy dish that is staple in an indian household in Trinidad. Other vegetables can be made into a "choka" such as tomatoes and potato (alloo).
 
What's a bit strange about this is that you actually cook the spices and garlic in oil till it gets really black in a process called "chunkaying". This identical process is used to flavor dhal. Somehow getting the garlic and geera to this blackened stage makes bygan taste really good.
 
When made right and eaten hot, this is really delicious eaten with some sada roti with butter and if you have on hand some kuchela or anchar.
 
Cuisine:        Trini-Indian
Type:             Vegetable
Time:             30 mins
Serves:         4 
Skill:              Easy
Suitable:        Vegetarian, vegan
 
 
Ingredients:
 
 4                eggplants whole
½                onion sliced
1tb              garlic minced/chopped
¾ tsp          whole geera (cumin)
¾ tsp          salt
¼ tsp          pepper minced (optional)
2-3tb           oil
 
 
Procedure:
  1. Roast eggplant whole on an open flame on your stove until the outside is a bit charred and the inside is soft.
  2. Peel off skin of eggplant and scoop out flesh and put into a bowl.
  3. Add sliced onions and half of garlic and mix.
  4. Get a sufficiently large pot spoon that can hold all the oil. Have the geera and the garlic ready. Put the pot spoon with the oil over an open flame on your stove top and wait till oil is hot.
  5. Add the reserved garlic and geera. Cook until at least most of it gets black.
  6. Pour this hot mixture over the eggplant in bowl being careful since this is hot oil.
  7. Add salt, pepper and mix.
 

 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Best places to get Tofu in Trinidad

Tofu in Black Bean Sauce from Chinese Dragon, Debe, South Trinidad

 
Being vegetarian is more prevalent these days and the options in Trinidad have much improved over the past two decades. I used to be vegetarian for over 10 years and I can vouch for this fact. One of the best vegetarian ingredients that I love is tofu. I love it in Chinese sauces and I also love it barbequed. I have a recipe for barbeque tofu on this blog.
 
There are many great places that I have had tofu that I would like to share with you. I can't really chose an absolute best from these, each is unique.
 
 

1.    Chinese Dragon, Debe (South Trinidad)

 
 
Pepper Tofu Special from Chinese Dragon, Debe
 
Contact: 647-8139
Directions: Starting in south Trinidad, Chinese Dragon is located along the S.S Erin Road, about 10 mins after Debe if you're coming from San Fernando.
 
What I love about them: is the taste and the price which is an average of $35-40 per person. You can get a "Tofu special" which is rice or noodles, tofu in a sauce of your choice and vegetables for $35 TT ($6US) and it tastes really good and will serve around two people. If you want portions you can get a 1/4 portion of tofu for the same $35. I recommend their tofu and broccoli in black  bean sauce, it was sooo good and their sweet and sour and pepper tofu are great also. If you're not vegetarian, their chicken and broccoli is my favorite and I think that retails around the same. Their pepper shrimp is a must try if you like seafood. I had a lime with four friends and the bill came up to $200TT which really was a bargain as some of that bill was take out.
 
I usually only do take out at Chinese Dragon, I have only eaten in three times. The interior is clean and spacious, suitable for a lime with friends but not say for a very special occasion. The service is decent and the food when I ate in the restaurant was delivered quickly.
 

2.      Valpark Chinese Restaurant, Valpark

Vegetarian Platter, Tofu in Black Bean Sauce, Rice, Vegetables
 
Contact: 662-4540
Directions: Valpark Chinese Restaurant is located at Valpark Shopping Plaza in Valsayn along the Churchhill-Roosevelt Highway.
 
What I love about them: is the taste, the ambience and the price is not bad, although not as cheap is say Chinese Dragon. The vegetarian platter (around $70 TT) consists of tofu, rice or noodles and vegetables. These are some of the biggest cubes of fried tofu that I have ever been served. The pepper tofu was my favorite, but the black bean is one of my friend's favorite. They are good for a special occasion or a date. The service was very good
 

3.0    Jenny's Wok & Steak House, San Fernando

Contact: 652-1807
Directions: Is situated on Cipero Road in San Fernando. At the light at Cross Crossing in San Fernando turn right. Keep driving for 10 mins, Jenny's is on your right. There is parking available on your left.
 
What I love about them: Their food tastes amazing, their vegetarian and the meat items as well. The price is around the same price range as Valpark. I ate there with my family and had a few limes as well and the food was always fantastic. I like their vegetarian platter which has tofu as well as their tofu portions. They are good for a date, a special occasion, take out or a lime with friends.
 

4.0    Sincere's Chinese Grocery, San Fernando 

Contact: 652-0688
Directions: Drive up Cipero Street, Sincere's is on your left.
 
What I love about them:
Yes, you didn't read wrong, I said Sincere's Chinese Grocery. Its a little known gem in a south vegetarian's culinary universe. Don't be fooled by the Grocery exterior, they sell a variety of vegetarian food, all totally vegetarian and with decent prices. There is a dizzying array of tofu and soya choices and also vegetables in Chinese sauces. Three dishes make a small box for $25 and four make a $35 box. What I love is their variety, to me more than a regular Chinese restaurant and they only sell vegetarian food. There are only a few table available inside the grocery and not much parking outside so this is really better for takeout. And you can get your Chinese soy sauces and prunes on your way out!
 

5.0   WOK 'N ROLL, Grand Bazaar

Contact:  674-2697
Directions: Grand Bazaar Mall, inside Pizza Boys
 
What I love about them:
They have a vegetarian special with either tofu or gluten for $35TT that tastes really good. They also have a vegetarian thai option for around $50.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Amaretto Chocolate Fudge (Review)



This Amaretto-Chocolate fudge is from the CafĂ© Caribbean Sweets kiosk. It is located at the bottom of High Street San Fernando on the left hand side of road after KFC at the entrance to a food court. The kiosk sells a huge variety of fudge in addition to the amaretto-chocolate; mint chocolate, amaretto coffee, orange chocolate, guava and others and retails between $4 to $5TT (less than $1US).

These are some of the best fudge I have had. I have sampled the mint chocolate and amaretto chocolate and they don't survive more than a few minutes after purchase. The one pictured was lucky to arrive home in one piece. I don't know how they do it but it was soft not rock hard like fudge normally is. Once you taste it you just keep eating.

The kiosk also sells other types of sweets, kurma and toolum. I have tried their kurma though and I wasn't impressed but the fudge is a definite hit.

 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

To Tobago, with Love

 
Location: Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago

I love Tobago, its just not just Trinidad's much better looking smaller sister, its also has a much more relaxed vibe. Its makes Trinidad look all uptight and fast paced in comparison. There were a few places I loved when I took a recent trip with my family to Tobago that I'd like to share.
 
FOOD

 
The Original House of Pancakes

Location:        Crown Point, Tobago
Cuisine:          Pancakes and Omelets
Meal:              Breakfast, starts 7:30am
Price:              $45-$50 TT per person
Verdict:          Very good
Service:          Good
Website:         Could not find a website, this a link to the TripAdvisor Page
 
 
Chocolate Pancakes
 

We went to The Original House of Pancakes for breakfast based on the recommendation of my cousin and it was amazing. I had the basic breakfast the first day which consisted of pancakes, bacon, eggs, tea and a fruit cup. It was really good. My sister had the coconut french toast which was a hit; french toast made with flakes of coconut and a choice of pancake syrup and nutmeg syrup. My cousin had one of their many interesting omelets which got the same rave reviews. The next day, I had the chocolate pancake pictured and although I was a bit apprehensive that the chocolate flavor would be a bit overpowering, it was just the right intensity and sooo yummy.

I would definitely recommend this restaurant. Next time I will try their English Breakfast; it was not available the day I went.

La Cantina, Tobago

Cuisine: Authentic Italian Pizza
Location: Store Bay , 639-8242
Meal: Dinner, but I believe they are open for lunch as well
Price: $80-$100 TT per pizza (feeds between two and three people)
Verdict: Very good pizza
Service: The best service we encountered in Tobago
Website: http://lacantinapizzeria.com/
 
I scoured TripAdvisor and this really cool Tobago site called MyTobago for reviews of the best restaurants and La Cantina was on top of many a list so my family and I headed over. I had initially tried to make a reservation a few hours prior but was told that they were not taking any. I think that was probably because I called them pretty late and when we arrived I understood why; they were packed.
 
We wanted to be seated inside as it was rainy and so we had to wait till the room inside was vacated. Our party was pretty large, about nine people. The staff was courteous, and kept us informed of the table's status. Apparently the people inside had paid the bill but were still sitting and ole talking and the staff. A while later to our amusement, we saw a huge battalion of trinis walk out, still ole talking. We were then promptly ushered into a small room with a wooden “U” shaped table and wooden chairs.
 
We ordered four pizzas; Quattro Formaggi (four cheese), Funghi (mushroom) pizza, Marinara pizza without cheese, and Italia. Sorry for the lack of pictures again, but we were really hungry and the pizza was really good and the service before, during and after was exceptional. I definitely will recommend La Cantina in Tobago, but you should make a reservation.
 
Store Bay, Food Court
Cuisine: Typical Tobagonian fare
Meal: Lunch
Price: $45-$50 TT per person
Verdict: Very good, especially the Curry Crab and Dumpling
Service: Decent
There is a nice little food area with chairs at Store Bay, and about four or five food kiosks all lined up next to each other. I had the crab and dumplings from the second kiosk from the right (can't remember the name) and it was fantastic. The price was I believe $50 for crab and dumplings and $45 for chicken with rice or lentils etc. Sorry I don't have a picture, the crab and dumplings finished that fast!
There was also a lady selling sugar cake and fudge that was divine. To me the sugar cake we bought at Store Bay was better than the sugar cake I bought at Crown Point when we were leaving. I paid around $5-8TT for a bag.
 
BEACHES
 
Pigeon Point

 
 
Even though I had to pay $20 for the right to bath at Pigeon Point, which initially I thought was ridiculous, the benefits made up for the cost. A clean beach that was not overcrowded, beautiful sand and crystal clear calm waters.
 

 

Store Bay, Beach



Store Bay was a few minutes from the house we had rented. It was beautiful, the water clear albeit not as calm as say Pigeon Point where we went later but no where near as rough as Maracas Beach on Trinidad's north coast.


 

 




 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Good Coffee Icecream

Coffee Lover's Only, at Cold Stone Creamery, Price Plaza

What is it about ice-cream, that makes it so irresistible on a hot day. Emancipation day holiday was no exception, the sun seemed to have been invited to the celebrations and was beaming down with an exuberance; perfect for icecream.
 
I had the Signature “Coffee Lover's Only” at Cold Stone. It was coffee icecream with a Heath bar, almonds and caramel in a waffle cone and it was divine. What I loved was the the fact that it was sweet but just enough. The heath bar was chocolate and caramel and together with the nuts adding a nice crunchiness and pops of flavor which complemented the coffee icecream. And the caramel sauce just tied it all together. The waffle cone was a nice addition, adding another dimension of flavour with a mild nutty accent to the creamy icecream. Lets just say, coffee is not my first choice but this was so good, I will definitely have this again.

Another good place for really good coffee icecream is More Vino. They have a lunch special for $100 which is a soup, sushi and icecream. The coffee icecream below was part of that lunch special and it was a great end to a good meal. More Vino has two locations, one in San Fernando and one in Port of Spain.


 



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