It's hard not to love doubles, the handheld street snack that's as ubiquitous in Trinidad and Tobago as hot dogs are in New York: they're cheap, filling, healthyish, and open to plenty of recipe improvisation at the hands of skilled street vendors. Doubles are a sandwich consisting of two pieces (hence the name) of fried turmeric-spiked quick bread called bara and a filling of curried channa, or chickpeas, optimally laced with shado beni, a West Indian herb that's a stronger cousin to cilantro. Toppings include a vinegary Scotch Bonnet-infused hot sauce and tamarind chutney, and the harder to find (but equally delicious) cucumber or mango chutneys.
In Trinidad, doubles are a popular breakfast food, but here in New York, they're on offer all day, going for the rock-bottom rate of $1-2 a pop. Bedford Stuyvesant and neighboring Crown Heights, home to many West Indians, are the places to be for a full-on immersion into Trini food, with storefronts along Nostrand Avenue touting their doubles, roti, buss-up shuts (paratha roti) and other fantastically named creations. For this trip, we're sticking with doubles, partially because they're such an integral part of Trinidadian and Tobagonian food, and partially to track the subtle differences in each vendor's approach.
While the same basic ingredients remained the same, after just two stops, I could already see some variations, and you can bet I'll be going back to explore more soon.
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About the Author: Jamie Feldmar is a Brooklyn-based freelance food writer and editor. She enjoys ethnic eating adventures and has been warned by waitresses to stop ordering or the table will collapse. You can read more here and follow her (mis)adventures here.