What to eat
Seafood is what it’s all about in Tobago. You’ll see the fishermen casting their nets in the morning, see the catch being slashed and sliced in roadside stalls at lunchtime – and you’ll be quite happily eating fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s easy not to get bored with such an abundance of species – battered flying fish fillets, meaty barracuda steak, spiced mahi mahi, smoked herring and chili, giant grilled prawns, snapper and grouper… you’ll run out of mealtimes before you run out of seafood.
The local dish is known as crab and dumpling – though opinion on the island is divided. The blue crab is undeniably tasty – especially drizzled in curry sauce – but you’ll be wrestling with the claw for a miniscule amount of meat. The dumplings are cooked, mashed and flattened breadfruit – a stodgy yet tasty companion.
Pork and chicken are also popular. “Stew” is the usual way of serving them – slow cooked, heavily spiced (though not hot), and served with rice and root vegetables, this is a hearty, traditional meal that goes down surprisingly well in this hot, humid climate. Most dishes are cooked in coconut oil, giving even the heaviest, heartiest recipes a nostalgically tropical aroma.
Full vegetarians will find things tricky – the option may only be a typical dish without the meat, although the “side dishes” callaloo, rice and beans, macaroni or breadfruit pie and various vegetable fritters are incredibly filling, and still filled with rich West Indian flavour.
Cassava, dasheen, plantain, sweet potato and breadfruit are heavier, starchy veg options cooked in an impressive number of ways – boiled, mashed, fried or as crisps. The avocado is divine, aubergine is stewed and spiced as a flavoursome “eggplant relish” for the main dish, and salads are becoming more adventurous. Kariwak Restaurant in particular grows its own leaves, and has a fabulous selection of in-house dressings, all outlined in the Kariwak Cookbook.
Fruit is the other big treat out here – who needs pudding when the sweetest mangoes you’ve ever tasted are dropping out of the sky? Starfuit (also known as carambola or five-finger), guava, pineapple, passionfruit, watermelon, papaya and coconut are abundant when in season. You’ll likely get a plate for breakfast and maybe for pudding – or perhaps a freshly made sorbet.