Plantains: often a side dish or an ingredient in the main course
Rice: a common base to meals or simply a side dish
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Pelau: the national dish; consists of rice and is generally
spicy, but little else is consistent as it can be fried, curried, or served with
Souse: animal feet (pig, chicken, or beef) cooked with
onions, garlic, and spices
Dining in Trinidad & Tobago is an event
that has a primarily purpose of socialization, not eating. This doesn't mean
you won't be fed well, but rather means meals can go on for hours and you are
expected to join in on the conversation.
When meeting locals for a meal, dress a bit more on the formal side and try to arrive
a few minutes late (up to 15 minutes). Once inside, let your host show you your
seat as a seating arrangement may already be made, but don't sit until you are
invited to do so.
Once the meal begins, which may begin with drinks, eat in the continental style
(knife in the right hand, fork in the left) and keep your hands within sight by
resting your wrists on the edge of the table. Your napkin should be on your lap
and if eating in a home, don't ask for a second helping of food, although your
host will likely offer you one and accepting is fine.
As you finish eating, place your fork and knife together on your plate to indicate
you have finished. If eating in a restaurant, call the server over by making eye
contact; don't wave or call his/her name. Most restaurants will include a service
charge in the bill, but if not, add up to 10% for good service.
Celebrations & Events
Carnival takes place just prior to Lent in Trinidad
& Tobago and this is the best time to meet the people and try the local
foods. Since it seems everyone is out in the streets, it makes sense that fatty
street foods rule the day as creole and curry dishes of deer, iguana, and opossum
are offered during this time; these meats are rarely found during other times of
Another important food holiday in Trinidad & Tobago
is also a religious holiday, Christmas. Ham, turkey, beans, pork, pastelles,
and fruit cakes are all consumed on Christmas, but this is truly a family event
and it is difficult to partake in this holiday dinner without having a local friend.
Other occasions that merit unique foods are other official holidays, which are times
when the people generally get outside to celebrate with family and friends. On some
of these occasions street vendors take to the streets in droves to help you try
the local cuisine and, if you're fortunate, some of those meats served during
Trinidad & Tobago offer all the world's
most common non-alcoholic beverages although not all are significantly popular.
Numerous ethnic minorities drink differing drinks based upon their cultures and
traditions, but none are extraordinarily unique to the country. The most authentically
local drinks are local soft drinks like "Chubby" or "Solo."
Other common drinks that are primarily limited to the Caribbean includes malta,
which is a drink flavored with barley and molasses. Coconut milk/water is also commonly
If you are seeking out alcohol in Trinidad & Tobago,
rum is the easiest to find and the local favorite. Rum is often used in mixed drinks
and numerous flavored rums are available in the country. Beer is also common, most
notably international beers, while wine and other hard liquors aren't as popular,
but are available.
The tap water is generally safe to drink in Trinidad
& Tobago, but in some areas, particularly in rural areas, it might not
be safe. The most cautious course of action is to entirely avoid the tap water and
items that could be made from or with the water, such as ice, fruits, and salads.
If you do decide to drink the local tap water, first check with your local hotel
or guesthouse to learn the cleanliness of the water in that area. If the water is
safe, remember that many people may have trouble adjusting to the local tap water
as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to if you are
not from the region.