Foodbuzz Challenge #2: The Classics

NOTE: you can vote for this entry here

As stated on my Project Food Blog profile, the best way to describe my foodie heritage is a combination of corned beef and cabbage along with callaloo and macaroni pie. Any guesses? I come from a mix of Irish and Trinidadian heritage. So when I read the second challenge put forth to us food bloggers, I knew I wanted to make one of Trinidad’s most popular national dishes: curry chicken and dal puri roti.

Having been born and raised in Vancouver (Canada), I was not overly exposed to this particular cuisine. There has never been a large population of Trinidadians living in my neck of the woods, especially in comparison to cities like Toronto, Montreal or Brooklyn. This made finding authentic curry powders and other Trini ingredients a challenge. Most often we would have to wait until my father would come back from a visit to Trinidad, armed with a suitcase full of the latest calypso tracks, West Indian curry, sorrel leaves, split pea powder, and even roti made fresh by my grandmother along with her famous black cake which we always saved and served at Christmas. Come to think of it, I’m not sure how my father managed to get through customs! Each time he returned home he brought with him a suitcase full of Caribbean culture and flavour.

With the majority of my Trinidadian relatives living a world away, I grew up watching my mother make dishes like curry chicken as it had been taught to her by my grandmother. There were times she would attempt to make dal puri roti from scratch, but each time it only ended in tears and a steady stream of curses. I think she is being polite when she describes the process as “heartbreaking”. The challenge with this type of roti is in being able to roll it out and avoid having the filling break through the dough. If you were lucky enough to overcome this hurdle, the next obstacle was getting the roti to puff beautifully on the griddle or ‘tawa’ in order to produce an end result that was light and fluffy. My mother’s frustrations taught me at an early age that it was best to avoid making roti. Eventually even she stopped trying.

So for the purpose of this challenge, Mr. Spock and I decided to make our own curry powder and dal puri roti from scratch. The first thing I did was dust off a cookbook. Surprised?! Didn’t think so! The particular book I chose as my guide was Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad & Tobago by Ramin Ganeshram (available online here).

Curry is a staple in Trinidadian kitchens. Locals will often say that in their country people will curry anything given a chance! But the important thing to note is the difference in flavour to East Indian curry. I find the curry powders from Trinidad tend to be milder, their flavour more rounded and slightly sweet due to the absence of hot peppers. This omission is due to the preference of most Trinidadians for adding fresh hot peppers and hot pepper sauce to taste, using heat more as a condiment as opposed to an ingredient.

The results of our efforts was amazing.

Nothing was missing. The aromas were all there just as I remembered! I’m thinking that what made the difference were the ingredients left out from a typical East Indian Madras style curry powder, including cinnamon, allspice, ginger, garlic powder and saffron. (If you have any thoughts or suggestions on the topic of curry powder, I would love to hear your comments!)

My grandmother always used to tell my mother that the most important thing to do when making curry chicken is to marinate the meat beforehand, at least 24 hours. So we found a recipe for green seasoning in Ramin Ganeshram’s cookbook and let the chicken rest overnight. Rather than a liquid marinade, green seasoning consists of a thick paste of fresh herbs and garlic.

Cooking the chicken was straightforward, most of the work having been done the day before when making the curry powder and green seasoning.

We made a curry powder paste and cooked it in some oil with chopped onion before adding the chicken, covering with chicken stock and simmering for an hour. Easy. Simple. And the taste? Devine. This was hands down the best chicken curry I have ever tasted. It was full of robust flavours, the freshness of the green seasoning in no way getting lost in the spices from the curry powder. Every flavour worked together in harmony.

There are different types of Trinidadian roti, but dal puri is the most popular by far. It just so happens to be the most difficult to make. If done properly, the roti will inflate with steam during the cooking process.

At the end of the day I’m proud to say that my initial foray into the world of homemade roti was a success! It tasted great, although there was definitely room for improvement on my technique. Next time I would like the roti to be thinner and lighter in texture. But I guess the point is that there will be a next time; because there definitely will!

I hope this post has given you an insight into the rich culinary culture and flavours Trinidad has to offer!

Follow Project Food Blog at www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog for contest updates and to find out who will be the next Food Blog Star! Oh and remember to vote. Preferably for me! (NOTE: you will need to create a Foodbuzz profile in order to vote. This just takes a minute so please don’t be deterred!) Voting begins September 27th and ends September 30th.

30 comments on “Foodbuzz Challenge #2: The Classics

  1. Food o' del Mundo on said:

    We’re on the same page, I did a T&T Roti for this challenge as well. Your homemade curry sounds DELISH! Sent a vote your way. Hope to see you in round 3!
    ~Mary

  2. Wheels and Lollipops on said:

    I saw the photo of the flag and had to click ! I’m orginally from Trinidad living in Paris so just wanted to say congratulations – well done ! Good Luck

  3. Year on the Grill on said:

    Making your own CURRY!!! OMG, nice job. Good luck in the contest. Nice job, i voted for you

  4. I loved that you tackled such a difficult dish! Great job. But I SOOOOOOO wanted you to post the recipe for that Trinidadian curry!

  5. Gina Ruiz on said:

    Nice job! Great and informative post. You have my vote and good luck!

  6. Amelia: Z Tasty Life on said:

    the roti looks wonderful

  7. Woah, that looks fantastic! Definitely going on the “must make” list, you get a vote!

    And if you like, stop by my blog too 😀
    http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/834

  8. Magic of Spice on said:

    Wow making your own curry…nice :) Best of luck with the contest :)

  9. Beautiful post, and that chicken sounds amazing! The combination of spices sounds heavenly!

  10. Deborah Dowd on said:

    Love your choice of dish and the little roti look so yummy!! I made Buss up Shut to go with my South African Bobotie (yeah, I know a mix of countries and continents) and it turned out great! You have my vote!

  11. Jacob's Kitchen on said:

    Great post! Looks delicious. And your step by step photos are so well done. I voted for you!

    Good luck! =)

    You can check out my PFB post at :http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/864

  12. Stay-At-Home-Chef on said:

    Love all of the comments from my fellow food bloggers – so wonderful to be a part of such a great community!

  13. Casey Angelova on said:

    Trinidadian cuisine is completely new to me. Way to connect with your heritage. You have my vote!!

  14. Margaret Murphy Trip on said:

    Well done! Nice post and the roti looks delicious! Great description and directions. Definitely will try your recipe. You got my vote. Good luck with the competition!

  15. Camille Cares on said:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog on curry and Trinidad. I recently finished typing a script for an upcoming recipe video of mine on curry chicken, Trinidadian style. I love Trinidadian food, but I also love putting twist on the cuisine to find more depth. Check me out on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xl0ekNaxwbs and facebook, myspace, twitter.
    Let’s exchange recipes on foodbuzz.

    CC

  16. Girl you have guts! I am a TRini living in Trini and I have never attempted dhalpuri roti..yet:) Everything looks so delicious- were you able to use chadon beni in the green seasoning? I voting for you!!

  17. riceandwheat on said:

    I can almost smell the spices! Trinidadian curry is such a unique choice and it sounds absolutely delicious. You’ve got my vote – good luck!

  18. I would love to eat this. !!

  19. Love your story and the pictures look delicious! You’ve got my vote – and I don’t say that to everyone just so that they’ll vote for me too – seriously!

  20. I think this is the only Trinidad post I read. Good luck.

  21. ClassicKitchenTwist on said:

    You’ve got one of my votes!

  22. Eve@CheapEthnicEatz on said:

    Ha, 2nd roti post I read today. I am in Montreal and there is actually a Trinidadian place near me and I love the rotis, my fave is the spicy pumpkin and shrimp. Love your entry, got my vote.

  23. Heena @ Tiffin Tales on said:

    So glad I discovered your blog. It’s so well written. You’ve got my vote!
    P.S. Would help if you give a direct link in the post so people can vote for you. (Unless I’m being blind and totally missed it.)

  24. The Trini flag was a good idea. I saw it and just had to come over for a peek. Some curries are mild yes but the duck/goat curry blends tend to be hotter. Good luck in the challenge.

  25. Stay-At-Home-Chef on said:

    Keep all of these wonderful comments coming! I love connecting with my community of fellow foodies!

    Camille – would definitely like to swap recipes…you have some tasty looking dishes on your site!

    Arlene – unfortunately I couldn’t get chadon beni so had to substitute cilantro instead. Work well though!

    Wizzy – makes sense to have a hotter curry with the rich meat of duck and goat.

    Thanks Heena – I’ve added a direct link to FB so voting should be easier!

  26. Wow, that looks great! And I really must try to make roti. You’ve got my vote.

  27. I’m glad you were able to succeed in making a delicious looking roti and chicken curry! Isn’t it great to be able to honor your heritage with delicious food! Great job with this challenge :)

  28. Stephanie on said:

    Great job on the challenge, all your food looks great! Thanks for stopping by, and good luck!

  29. Looks like you did Trini’s proud!!!

  30. Melissa Roberts on said:

    He did indeed make Trinis proud.
    I am a Trini foodie, new to blogging and am loving the representation!

    You go!

    ~Melissa

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