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One Doubles, Plenty Sweet Sauce, Medium Pepper and a Red Solo Please!


Amazing Trinidadian Street food Doubles Recipe @Chillibibi
Trinidad's most popular street food: Doubles!



So, as I am writing this, I found out that Anthony Boudain is no more. It’s so sad, I had mentioned him in my last blog post because he had come to Trinidad and Tobago for an episode of “Parts Unknown” in 2017. He had said in that episode that the first thing people said to him when he came to Trinidad was “Did you try the doubles?”!.

I really loved his show. He had the unique ability to become one the locals despite being in the country for a short time. He delved into Trinidadian food culture unlike any journalist who had come before him. Foreigners who come to Trinidad usually focus on Port of Spain our capital and don’t go outside of that area. He had curry duck at Caura, ate callaloo in Tobago, and even ate Syrian food. He came to Trinidad and limed like a trini. There was certainly a magic in the way he interacted with people he met regarding the food culture of their country. He got people to open up and speak in ways I believe few journalists have. He was a unique combination of journalist and chef; a global culinary ambassador and adventurer if you will. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us and the culinary world is poorer because of it. RIP Anthony Boudain.

So doubles is a Trinidadian street food that is extremely popular here in Trinidad and Tobago. How popular you might say? Well let’s just say when in Trinidad and Tobago, gas price goes up, nobody complains (a little grumble but that’s it), flour and sugar price go up, nobody complains, butter and milk go up, nobody complains, you could hear the crickets, BUT when you see the price of doubles go up, big bacchanal, people vex like dat! The poor doubles-man ha to go into hiding! Let’s just say yuh doh mess with ah trini and dey doubles, yuh looking for trouble!


Doubles has Carnival status in Trinidad and Tobago. Why is that you say?  Let’s just say, it’s the apocalypse, zombies are everywhere, sea level rise and there is a foot of water in Port of Spain (the capital city of Trinidad and Tobago). Its hurricane season and a super storm is headed for Trinidad despite it being early February. The government dare not say that dey canceling Carnival! Dey looking to get remove outta office one time.

Trinis are a pretty laid-back people who love to lime and have fun and who will use any excuse to party, but there are certain things you do not mess with, if yuh know what good fuh yuh!

The components of a good trini doubles are two fried bread called bara sandwiching a healthy spoonful of curried channa (chickpeas). Usually a good doubles vendor will have a hot mango sauce and a sweet tamarind sauce to add to the doubles at least, or if you are lucky you can also get grated cucumber with bandania and some anchar to top your doubles
 
Bara Dough @Chillibibi
Bara Dough

So back to the famous trini street food that is doubles. Doubles according to a Trinidad Newsday article I found actually originated in the southern Trinidad town of Princes Town. The name originates from the fact that two grandsons of Queen Victoria, princes Albert and George visited the town in 1880 resulting in the town being renamed Princes Town.  

The article suggests that Emamoul and Rasulan Deen were the ones responsible for bringing doubles into the world in 1936 and sold the doubles in small wooden boxes that we still associate with doubles vendors today. Initially the Deens who were of east indian descent sold one fried bara topped with the curry channa and later were prompted by a customer to add two bara to make it a “doubles” thus, the doubles was born (cue heavenly music).

I always thought before I read the article that doubles originated with a doubles vendor who was located in front of Naparima Boys College in San Fernando, Trinidad, but according to the Newsday story, that vendor was related to the Deen family. I have also heard a suggestion that the origins of doubles may be ‘chole and batura’ a channa and fried bread dish from India. 

So, what do I think of doubles? I absolutely love them. They are vegan and vegetarian and high in protein and fibre, since they are made from channa. The frying of the bara does make them high in fat, so eating a doubles everyday would not be good for your waistline. If you can get a hot doubles with bara that has just been fried, slathered in sweet sauce with (for me) plenty pepper, cucumber and mango anchar; it’s a very happy bite of food. It’s also good on your wallet as one doubles retails right now in Trinidad and Tobago for around TT$5, which is less than US$1. Ah the days when doubles used to be only TT$1, yes one dollar. That was around fifteen years ago. Still though, with the price increase, it’s still the cheapest breakfast in Trinidad and Tobago.

How does a doubles taste; the bara is crispy, the channa is soft but not falling apart and is typically very mildly curried. The addition of the pepper in the form of a hot mango sauce adds zing and spice while the sweet tamarind “sweet sauce” adds a sweet and sour note that keeps you coming back for more. If you are lucky enough, a doubles vendor may also offer you some grated cucumber seasoned with bandania (chadon beni) and anchar which is a sort of indian spicy pickle made from green mango. 

If you are wondering why I keep calling chickpeas channa, it’s because that’s the name my indian ancestors called this bean and they are still called channa in india today. Doubles is just one of the food contributions people of east indian origin made to the callaloo that is Trinidad and Tobago’s culinary heritage. Others include, dhalpourie, curry chicken and duck, dhal, bhaji, coconut chutney, chokas, buss-up-shot (burst up shirt) and “mother-in-law”.
Along the way indian food that was brought from india has taken on some hilarious names. For example, a type of indian ‘bread’ that is cooked on a hot griddle called a tawa and then literally shredded apart which was originally called paratha now goes by the name buss-up-shot. This is because it literally looks like a ‘burst up shirt’. 

Another one that may get you in trouble if you didn’t know is a hot pepper sort of relish which is a combination of finely minced karali, carrots, onion, garlic and hot named ‘mother-in-law’. Why? Well long time in Trinidad, indian mother-in-laws were really terrible; treating their daughter in laws horribly, hence the name mother-in-law for a very hot, ‘you feel like you will die’ condiment. Nowadays some people joke that ‘mother in law’ should be changed to ‘daughter in law’ as daughter in laws have begun to behave more bad. 

So where in Trinidad to get the best doubles? Well to be honest the best region to get the best doubles is south Trinidad (not just because I am from south Trinidad). That is where doubles originated. Forget Curepe and Port-of-Spain, those places have nothing on Debe and Princes Town. If you are in Trinidad, drive south towards the end of the Solomon Hochoy Highway and take a left at Debe; you will be a few minutes away from not one but around 5 ‘doubles sheds’. A ‘doubles shed’ is a small sort of kiosk on the side of the road that sells doubles, aloo pies, saheinas and other indian delicacies. Some even sell indian sweets such as jalebi and kurma. Debe is famous for this group of ‘doubles sheds’ that are located next to each other. So, you can pick and choose which one to buy from. Personally, I love the ‘Green Shed’ but Krishna’s is also good too. 

If you are going to order a doubles, be aware that its very customizable. There are three things that the doubles vendor needs for your order; the amount of doubles, pepper, sweet sauce and if available any condiments that you want.

A typical doubles order would go like this:
3 doubles, some sweet sauce, medium pepper and anchar

Below is my take on the soon to be internationally famous doubles! I like my channa more heavily spiced but typically the channa for doubles is lightly curried. That’s not universally true as I have tasted doubles from a vendor just outside Princes Town whose channa was so good, I could have eaten it on its own. 


RECIPE FOR DOUBLES

Doubles is a combination of curried channa betwwen two fried bara.


CURRY CHANNA (CHICKPEAS)

Cuisine:        Trinidadian Indian 
Good for:      Breakfast, Lunch
Category:     Protein     
Time:            6-8 hrs soaking time + 2 hours prep and cooking time
Serves:         10
Skill:             High
Suitable:        Vegetarian, vegan
Heat:              mild (adjustable)

Ingredients


4 c                               cooked small chickpea (also called channa, garbanzo beans,                 chickpea or gram) (See Tips for cooking from dry beans)
3 tb                              vegetable or coconut oil
1 c                               chopped onion
3                                  pimentos chopped
1 tsp                            or more minced hot pepper (to taste)
2 tb                              minced garlic
½ tb                             minced ginger
2 tb                              or more minced bandania/chadon beni ( See Tips)
½ tsp                           or more salt taste
pinch                           black pepper
                                    hot water as needed

Curry Powder
½ tsp                           turmeric powder (haldi)
½ tsp                           whole cumin (geera) seeds
½ tsp                           ground cumin (geera) seeds
1 ½ tsp                        ground coriander (dhania) seeds
or
1 ½ tsp                        Chief/Chatak or other brand of curry powder


Procedure

1.    Heat a heavy bottomed pot with high sides to medium heat add the oil and let this get hot.
2.    Either mix the ground coriander (dhania), both types of cumin (geera) and the turmeric (haldi) with 3tb of water or use 1 ½ tsp of prepared curry powder mixed with 3tb of water and add to hot oil, being careful not to splash on yourself.
3.    Cook this curry mixture until it has deepened in color.
4.    Once the curry has been cooked, add the onions and pimentos and cook for several minutes.
5.    Once onions have cooked till translucent add the garlic, ginger and pimentos and hot pepper and cook till ginger and garlic have been cooked. (not long)
6.    Make sure you have at least a few cups of hot water ready for later.
7.    Add the boiled cooked chickpea (also called small channa or garbanzo beans, or gram) and stir.
8.    Stir this for a few minutes making sure everything is coated.
9.    Add hot water to cover everything and add 1 tb bandania or chadon beni (use more if using cilantro; see Tip c)
10. Add the salt.
11. Leave to cook for 30-40 minutes, adding hot water if necessary.
12. Just before taking off the stove add the rest of bandania or chadon beni (or substitute cilantro) and black pepper.
13. Make sure the mixture is not dry but not soupy either, so either add water or leave to cook longer to get this consistency.
Tips

For smart people who remember to soak their bean:
·         Pick through beans looking for and discarding any stones and funny looking beans.
·         Gives beans a good rinse.
·         Soak dried chickpea for 6-8 hours or overnight.
·         Rinse chickpea after soaking.
·         Place in a pressure cooker and fill with water till it reaches at least 2-3 inches above beans.
·         Bring to pressure and cook for 30 mins until beans are tender. Be careful to either cool the pressure cooker completely before opening or let pressure out slowly.

For people who forget to soak their beans or for lazy people who just too lazy to do it.
I admit it, I am one of these lazy people, that’s how I know this works.
·         Pick through beans looking for and discarding any stones and funny looking beans.
·         Gives beans a good rinse.
·         Place them in pressure cooker with at least 3-4 inches of water covering and cook for 55 minutes at medium to low heat.

Substitution for Chadon beni (Bandania) using Cilantro
·         When I went to England my aunt bought cilantro which smelled and tasted like the herb we call dhania or chadon beni in Trinidad. They don’t look the same but can be substituted for each other as I believe they are related. I saw online that another name for bandania is culantro so if you really want to be authentic, you may look for culantro. The plant has long leaves with jagged edges.
·         However, do note that herbs grown in the tropics (where I am located) have more flavor due to the heat, so you can add extra cilantro if you are substituting for bandania/chadon beni.



BARA (FRIED BREAD)

Cuisine:        Trinidadian Indian 
Good for:      Breakfast, Lunch
Category:      Starch     
Time:            1 hr rest + 30 mins cook
Serves:         10
Skill:              High
Suitable:        Vegetarian, vegan

Ingredients
2 ½ c                     flour
1 tsp                      yeast
1 tsp                      ground turmeric
1 tsp                      ground geera (cumin)
1 – 1½ c                water (warm)
                              oil for deep frying

1.    Mix flour, yeast, salt and geera and turmeric.
2.    Add water to make a very soft dough.
3.    Leave to rest for 1 hour.
4.    Heat oil in a pot with high sides. A cast iron pot works best.
5.    Pull a lemon sized piece of dough and gently stretch it to form a rough circle.
6.    Drop in hot oil and fry till golden, puffy and crisp.
7.    Keep warm covered with a kitchen towel.




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