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Quick food made with chickpeas and curry: Trinidad's national dish
Curry sauce instead of ketchup: Rotis in Trinidad are like hamburgers in the USA. The island’s unofficial national dish consists of a delicious curry meal wrapped in thin pastry; its prototype was brought to the Caribbean by Indian immigrants some decades ago. The handy little packets of food have turned into a top seller for a quick snack. But at Siriam Patraj’s, Trinidad’s uncrowned roti king, the popular dish is treated as a true delicacy.

By Bernhard Grdseloff
Roti pope Patraj: handy packets of food
Roti pope Patraj: handy packets of food
Behind the scene: roti in the make
Behind the scene: roti in the make

Connoisseurs won’t hesitate to travel all the way to San Juan, a suburb of Port of Spain, just to get hold of a roti at Patraj’s. At carnival, people queue up at the inconspicuous little restaurant as though there was food to be given away. "Actually there are three types of rotis," the 67-year-old restaurant owner explains. "Sada Roti is served as a side dish, Bussup Shot resembles a cut up pizza, and only for Dhalpouri are the ingredients wrapped up in the dough."

For the latter popular variety, a ball of dough is filled with ground, split chickpeas, kneaded and rolled out very thinly, and finally baked on a hot stone plate. There are countless different curry fillings to choose from: shrimp, chicken, beef, lamb, mango, pumpkin or capsicum in any combination, mixed with potatoes.

"We use fresh, local ingredients only," says Patràj, revealing the secret for success of his family-run business. "And despite this, you’ll only pay around 6 TT dollars (about 1 US-Dollar) for a roti at my place".

  Dhalpour Roti: the recipe to make your own  

Mix two cups of flour with two teaspoons of baking powder, and rub in one tablespoon of butter. Add ¾ to 1 cup lukewarm water, kneading well until the dough is elastic. Shape into a roll and cut into 6 pieces.

Roll out thinly on a floured surface, brush with oil and dust slightly with flour, then fold in half and in half again. Shape into a ball again and fill the ball with crushed chickpeas.

Leave to rest for 10 minutes Roll out thinly once more. Fry the sheets of pastry on a griddle or in a Teflon pan. Brush with oil and fry on the other side.

As soon as they’re ready, shape into a cone or envelope and fill. Use any curry of your choice, mixed with potatoes.

Roti with chicken or beef curry are the most popular in Trinidad. Seasoned mango vegetables add a special taste.
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