Though we often lump the entire Caribbean together into one big region – it’s a bunch of tropical islands, right? – the reality could’t be further from the truth. The long stretch of islands from Cuba in the north to Trinidad and Tobago in the south have a huge diversity, from their native cultures to their colonial past to their modern economies and ethnic breakdowns – and of course their food.
Anthony Bourdain visited Trinidad and Tobago to film season 9 (episode 8) of Parts Unknown; it was his only visit to this island nationl (though he explored other parts of the Caribbean), and he used the screen time to dig into those three unique aspects of life on the islands: the industrial economy, the strong influences of African and Indian “immigration” during colonial times, and how this is all reflected in the foods he ate.
If you’re considering a trip to the “Land of the Hummingbird,” it’s worth noting that these islands are not oriented toward tourism – but don’t let that stop you! There are still good reasons to visit, not the least of which is to enjoy local food at these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Trinidad and Tobago. Some dishes will be familiar if you know the Caribbean well; others will surprise you. Let’s dig in.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Taíno and Kalinago (Island Carib) peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Ta’am Faqat – Jus Foods
Tony’s first stop is at Queen’s Park Savannah, a popular spot for street food in Port of Spain. There, he’s joined by La Shaun Prescott, the founder and artistic director of Elle NYTT dance company and an assistant professor of modern and contemporary dance at University of Trinidad and Tobago.
The pair sit down to enjoy fried snapper on rice from one of the food stalls, Ta’am Faqat – Jus Foods, and Bourdain learns about the difference between “liming” (hanging out) and “wining” (suggestive dancing without any commitments).
When seeking out food recommendations in Trinidad, it’s apparent that Bourdain’s location scout knew there was one essential food: doubles. This Indian-style fried flatbread is served with curried chickpeas, hot sauce, and mango chutney.
You might wonder: why Indian food? As he explains in voiceover, some 150,000 indentured Indian servants were brought over during Britain’s rule of the island. While the conditions of their treatment were abhorrent, their culture survived and is reflected in Trinidadian cuisine today.
In terms of location, I’ve seen a few different spots suggested as where Tony ate, but some research and Google Street View confirmed that it was U-WEE Doubles.
Local Dining Experiences Tony Had in Trinidad
In addition to these two restaurants, Tony also had a number of local experiences I thought worth mentioning. While you might not be able to replicate these exact meals, you can try these foods if you find them.
- At the Phase II Pan Groove steel orchestra practice, located in a “pan yard,” Tony is joined by Lennox “Boogsie” Sharpe, a renowned Trinidadian steel pan musician and composer, and Kim Johnson, a local journalist and historian, to enjoy corn soup (split pea broth, dumplings and corn) while learning more about local culture and history.
- With the Singh family, a Trinidadian family of Indian descent, Bourdain tries “cutters” and beer (the cutters being snacks that cut the alcohol), and Trinidad Paratha Roti (locally called “Buss up Shut”).
- In the most controversial scene of the episode, Tony next joins the Sabga-Aboud family, Lebanese-Syrian immigrants who represent the 1%, for a meal of Middle Eastern dishes including raw kibbeh, fried kibbeh, hummus, muhammara, falafel, garlic wings, and fish in tahini. They discuss the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ from their perspective, while…
- Tony also sits down with investigative journalist Mark Bassant for drinks and to discuss the other side, and how radicalization is seeping into the younger generations, in part because of the cultural dynamics of the country.
- He continues this conversation about radicalization with Muhammad Muwakil, a writer, musician, and the lead singer of Freetown Collective, over red snapper with lime juice, shadow beni, and pepper, oil down (Breadfruit, salted meat, coconut milk, spices), and pastelle (mince beef in cornmeal dough).
- Toning things down a bit, Tony ends with two main scenes showing other parts of Trinidadian culture: he has souse (pigfoot) soup after trying his hand at Calinda with King David, a champion stick fighter, and visits Tobago for a meal of cornmeal cou cou, calaloo, crab, and dumplings with famous singer Calypso Rose.
Hopefully this list gives you additional ideas for what to eat in Trinidad! Have any other questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Trinidad, or what he ate there? Let me know in the comments below!