The ubiquitous roti is something I’ve steered clear of writing about since I started this blog. Like shark-and-bake or doubles, it’s something every self-respecting Trinidadian has an opinion on – who sells the best version of the said delicacies. But, given that the opening of a new roti shop in Port of Spain is such a rare thing, I decided to delve into the partisan world of our country’s favourite portable, eat-on-the-go, lip-licking curry wrap.
For every roti shop there is in Trinidad, there’s a gaggle of people that rambunctiously and defiantly swears it’s the best! People who love Shiann’s, for example, will almost never go anywhere else, they doh care if they have to stand doggedly in line for 45 minutes while ten people in front of them whip out their lists and recite 15 different combinations of ingredients that their entire office has ordered to the weary girls behind the counter. Other long-time favourites are: Don’s roti in Diego Martin (which, by the way, I didn’t get at all), a place in Boissiere village my friend Chris took me to (again, another huge disappointment, perhaps Chris has a nostalgic connection to the place he’s been going to all his life, so he can’t taste, in the now, how non-descript the roti is), Patraj or Hosein’s, Wings in Tunapuna, the little hole-in-the-wall shop on Belmont Circular Road that I go to for the cheapest goat roti with bhaggi, curry potato, baigan and slight pepper (no channa, mind-you, but the best $18 you’ll spend that day!), and the perennially popular and packed – though I still don’t understand why – Hotte Shoppe. (It was one of those coming-of-age experiences for me – the discovery of Dopson’s on Marli Street made me feel like I was more than just a middle class convent girl who’d gone to Bishops and thought the definition of roti was Hotte Shoppe. Once I tasted a real roti, ergo a Dopson’s roti, I understood how awful Hotte Shoppe’s version was with their insipid yellow and watery curry and perfectly white dhalpuri – not a brown spot to be found anywhere – which invariably bursts when you eat it, squirting the same watery curry all over your clean clothes, and I knew that I was one step closer to being a ‘real’ Trinidadian.) Even today, I maintain that the best paratha you can buy comes from Dopson’s (long-since relocated to the bottom of Maraval Road). It’s buttery, soft here and slightly crispy there, with lots of brown/ toasted patches. Yum!! And the best curry bodi comes from Shiann’s on Cipriani Boulevard: it’s never soggy or overcooked, and always treated like a vegetable that should require teeth and crunching to eat! As to curried meats, I’m not so polarised on the matter. I really like Wings by the highway side of Tunapuna for the fact that you can get huge portions of geera pork and paratha with a little curry pumpkin.
Anyway! I seem to have gone off on a tangent here. Back to the original subject of this post – the new roti shop, Hurry Kurry, in Royal Palm Plaza, Maraval. Firstly, it’s in a brilliant place. Considering that you can get seemingly every kind of fast food on the Saddle Road in Maraval, it took a LONG time for someone to figure out that a bright, clean and well-signed roti shop would be a good idea. So congratulations to the owners on that epiphany. (Hang-on, I’m having a vague memory that before there was Ellerslie Plaza or Mr Burger on the left, there was a roti shop. It’s way too fuzzy in my mind though!) Next, the staff are actually friendly – a kind of freakish thing when you think of the generally sullen, sour, and scowling people you normally find serving you at a roti shop. My third point is the reason I’ll go back to Hurry Kurry: it has the best relishes, pepper sauces and chutnies of any roti shop I’ve been to, AND slices of fresh cucumber with a little garlic to-boot! There’s regular pepper sauce, fresh kuchela, mother-in-law, and (the piece de resistence!) a scotch bonnet choka that is gorgeous! It’s smoky and mild when it first hits your palette, and has a wicked sting on the back end. Although neither the curry nor the dhalpuri was particularly noteworthy (still, in my mind, both were better than Hotte Shoppe) the complete package, along with cucumber slices, pepper choka and kuchela, was very satisfying. I happily recommend it.