Roti, nectar of the gods

... old Indian recipe in Trinidad

By Len Dalton

When I was in Trinidad in 1951, I noticed Indian people, largely women, had roadside stands where they were selling "roti". On the Naval base they advised us not to buy and eat roti as there was no health supervision. However, the locals enjoyed them and even while taking Battoo bus from the base on the ten mile trip in Port of Spain often the driver would pull the bus to a stop, get out and take a few minutes to buy himself a roti. At the time I had no idea what was in a roti or how it was made. The women had a charcoal pot and a hot griddle on top upon which they cooked the 'bake' and in a separate pot, the meat and vegetables. The curried meat and veggies with gravy went onto the bake and the whole thing was wrapped up so as not to leak.  

After a start among locals over the years roti came to be the most popular dish in Trinidad. With so very many West Indians now living in the U.S. and in Canada, roti is available in the cities. Actually, roti is the Indian name for the bake part but that has morphed into a name for the whole thing. Recently I drove to Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan to a place called "Ali's Restaurent". I ordered 20 individual rotis at $7.49 each. Ali was delighted to get the business and made some lovely curried chicken rotis for me. While I was waiting Ali fed me a whole dinner of pelau; made of curried rice, chicken and veggies. No charge! Ali said, "You have to eat!" I brought them home. Son Bill took two, sister in law Margaret took four, daughter Kathie will take two or more. Joyce and I ate two that night but had to put fully half of ours in the fridge as they were that large! As time goes by I am sure the others will want some of the dozen or so we have left and everybody will be happy. The roti is made with chick peas, boiled potato, curried chicken and maybe other stuff I know not. But, it is filling, delicious and healthy! Ah! Life is good!

September 1, 2006

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