In honour of the season that has currently taken over my country, have a bit of Trinidad to go with your evening.
Doubles is the most popular breakfast and street food in Trinidad. It is a sort of sandwich, made of two soft, fried pieces of dough called ‘bara’, and with savoury seasoned chickpeas called ‘channa’ between them. The channa will have sauces added on top when you order it, such as pepper sauce (hot sauce), ‘sweet’ sauce (usually a sauce made of curried and sweetened mangoes or tamarind), and with chutneys made out of mangoes or cucumbers. It is an essentially vegetarian food, and I have yet to meet a foreigner who didn’t like it immediately.
There are rules to enjoying doubles. You must eat it with your hands, preferably hot, right after ordering it from the vendor, and very early in the morning (doubles vendors serve the early riser–many are serving by 4am, some serve all day starting before 6am). Vendors do operate in the afternoon or at night, but only in certain areas.
You cannot order one doubles. It’s a waste of time and they’re really cheap anyway. You’ll want at least two, so just do it. If you are eating doubles by the vendor, you should have your fill, then pay for the entire meal. Most people eat their doubles with either a Coke, or a red kola champagne Solo soft drink (a local soda pop – also the preferred drink with a roti), or an Apple J (another local soda). Also, nobody make doubles at home unless they sell it for a living. It’s entirely a street food, and requires a certain expertise that Trinis are totally willing to cede to another.
Ordering a doubles means telling the vendor how many you want, what sauces/chutneys to put on it, and how strong the pepper should be. For a foreigner, I’d recommend two, with everything, slight, or no pepper. Said just like that.
And this is what this lovely, tasty treat looks like:
This is what a doubles vendor looks like when it’s a good one. Never approach a doubles vendor if he or she is not crowded. Only the good ones will have customers. And you will be fascinated by how quickly they put these things together. It’s really amazing.
Finally, have a laugh with this ad made for a doubles vendor in the capital city of Port-of-Spain. It must be the first time ever a doubles vendor has advertised. They simply don’t do that. I have never eaten from Hotbox (they are far out of the way for my morning commute) but this is enough to convince me to give them a try, if I ever pass their way. Just so you understand the slang, ‘what the jail’ means ‘what the hell’; ‘and dem’ is an addition that pretty much means ‘all of them’ or ‘those too’; ‘real bess’ means ‘really good’ or ‘the best’.
Hope you enjoy it!