Sunday, September 26, 2010

my taste of taste t&t

this year, taste t&t took a different direction. instead of what i considered an irrelevant display of all the pricey restaurants this side of the lighthouse plus benihana, tdc took it to the communities. well, kinda at least. for three consecutive sundays, taste t&t issued culinary challenges that intended to name the best fish broth, the best curry duck and the best doubles. now that is what we talkin bout, so we made some trips to check out the scenes.

i didn't go toco for the fish broth competition (but baidawi went, and took some video), so my pics start from the curry duck session in tunapuna. big space. easy layout. i heard the food ran out in toco and there were only two or three stalls. this wasn't the case in tunapuna.

the ever popular jennifer benjamin was there with her range of tasty local products. her tamarind anchar is the shiznit! she has some innovative stuff, like a pumpkin paste that's a great addition to a pelau, or a nice veggie solution to top some pasta. pepper sauce, original chip chip sugar cake and more, made with secret ingredients and techniques handed down to her from generations. we forgot to pass back for our mango mango juice concentrate sample. next time fuh sure jennifer.

fish broth was in the mix. very tasty broth with heaps of shadon beni, and the fish of the day was fresh blue marlin.

a party ain't a party without a corn soup too. just the way i like it. all natural. no golden ray and heavily processed razzle dazzle. ital business.

provision with curry duck and curry rabbit.

and we're not going to forget the blue waters tent that was like an oasis in that blisteringly hot savannah. free water for all. bless these thy gifts blue waters. bless these thy gifts.

the actual competition happened in the competition zone. teams had to submit their recipes then they were given a time period to create their meals. the judges sampled their dishes and gave their final results based on authenticity, technique, presentation and most of all taste. pretty standard.

lots of spices were presentt.

lots of spices.

and the usual suspects like onion and garlic and these fellas.

some not so usual ingredients were present as well.

and of course the star of the show... duck.

the presentations were cool too.

they covered down the judges portions, but i took the damn shots anyway.

some had their spices on display. i think it created huge appetite appeal.

some went the route of creating custom utensils...


the food though. well the people didn't get to sample the competition dishes, so it was all judges' say. but there was tasty curry duck to enjoy, and enjoy we did.

well, on to the next one. the next one being the taste t&t doubles edition in penal. we made the trip to see what was the scene. traditional doubles making utensils sent the message that this scene intended to honor authenticity.

again, the competition area was full of action. barra fryin left, right and center.

the judges commented that they saw a lot of different methods. some used saffron in the barra...

some used curry in the channa... all of them smelled delicious though.

plus, all sorts of chutney, pepper, kuchela and what have you, served with real flair. doubles probably never looked so good. could be because there was none for us too. once again, the competition plates were only for the judges.

we did however have a wide variety of food that didn't necessarily conform to the doubles theme. one place sold doubles and pies etc, but i bought a curry duck buss up shut from this tent. somehow, i just can't say no to a good curry duck.

so what is my verdict? well, let me start by saying again that i think the idea was a fantastic one. doing away with the expensive ticket method opened it up to a wider crowd. though they had a VIP section (picture above) which i saw no need for in an event like this, it felt like a much more welcoming event. i also like the fact that local food took the spotlight this time.

the "kitchen stadium" feel with teams preparing their offerings on spot was also an exciting feature.

however, there were a few things that i think could have made a better event for me:

1. not enough attention was given to the competition. i was expecting all activity to stop while a ball by ball of the competition cooking was going on. instead, i think the real showdown for the best items went a little unnoticed. i had to ask to find out that the dude pictured above won the doubles competition. who won the duck and the fish broth is still a mystery to me.

2. i would have preferred to see more competitors, not necessarily in that competition zone, but just booths of competitors that the people could walk around and purchase samples or full meals. let the judges call a time and walk around. that way there would be room for a people's choice award. people like to feel like they have a say too. that would have boosted the experience.

3. and talking about more, i heard that food ran out at the fish broth competition. probably had to do with the fact that they had about 3 food booths or something like that. unfortunate i guess.

4. on a similar note, a lot of people said they didn't know how, when and where to enter. and i mean people who had booths at the event. some expressed that they would have entered had they known. so i had to wonder, how were the people who competed selected? how do i know the doubles that won is actually the best doubles? i think it could have been a little more credible. even if it was by district.

5. i appreciate consistency and themes. for that reason, i'd prefer not to see oil down at a doubles competition. give me a curry duck competition that serves curry duck all around maybe with other items that compliment that experience. in other words, not a fish broth.

6. personally, i hate "cultural performances" at things like these. especially when one of them is a chutney band that would select a song about "beating pum pum" (analogy to playin a bass pan) at a family event. how about some cooking demonstrations or give me some info like the history of doubles. something to make me appreciate the food experience. if you're bent on having song and dance, well maybe hire the mighty trini to sing "curry tobanca", or the youths who put out "doubles with slight" for the doubles competition. but that could just be me and my fete phobia.

anyway, it was still a fairly enjoyable series of events and i will look forward to them next year. hopefully with some upgrades.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

can a crab be soused? NOW WITH EXTRA PEPPER

remember these? got them on an a spur of the moment lobster hunt that took us to mayaro. well, i was trying to find something to do with them. didn't want to do something regular like curry. crab and callaloo sounded kinda tempting, but that would require making other elements to create a meal... well for me at least. crab sushi came up, but who goin to crack open all dat crab and take out the meat to make sushi? that's what the tin is there for. then i heard something that made me pause a bit... crab souse. WHAT?! can a crab be soused? it doesn't look like a sousy kinda critter. but then, i thought... that really might work though. lime... seafood... seasoning... nothing strange about that. why not?

one problem though. i never made souse with anything before. actually, the first time i ate souse wasn't too long ago when my friend jo told me to sample his souse. after that experience, i understand how crack addicts can chase a high. whenever his souse is available, i will partake. i am also on a constant look out for a souse comparable. nothing has presented itself as yet. anyway, i asked jo what he thought about a crab souse and he agreed it was an interesting idea. then came his recommendations.

so he said the key to souse is lime. considering we're dealing with seafood, that might be twice as true. so after washing and scrubbing these pieces as if my life depended on it, i soaked the crab in water, salt and about 5 limes. oh yeah... about them shells. well when they kill and clean the crab for you, they should cut off the tops of the gundy and the top of the legs for reasons such as these. sauce and seasonings can soak in through the little holes and your crab meat can get flavour.

i left it covered in the fridge overnight.

the next day, i passed through the garden up morvant to get some of that fresh stuff. shadon beni, chive, celery, parsley, big leaf thyme, hot peppers and garlic. i went heavy on the chive as directed by jo, followed closely by shadon beni. also grabbed 2 cucumbers. what's a souse without cucumber right? i also grabbed some more limes. well, he did say its all about the limes.

chop up, dice up, slice up... yuh know the drill. at this point i remembered the onions. looked in the fridge. not an onion in sight. oh well! hope the chive steps up.

with all that going on, i didn't think i needed much more spices. so i just took out some salt and some black peppercorns to grind in.

poured everything into the pot, salt... black pepper... fire fuh dat!

i put in a few cucumber slices to cook with the sauce so they could lend their flavour and probably get a little pickled in the process. the other cucumbers went in after the cooking so they could stay crunchy. by this time, the kitchen was smelling good. it's crab, so it doesn't really take long to cook. i let it bubble for about 15 minutes or so. but hey! this is bring it to the table... who's countin anyway?!

so after taking it off the fire, letting it cool and putting it back in the fridge to bring it up to souse temperature, this came out. the consistency of the sauce wasn't like that of a pig foot or cow heel. and rightfully so. crab is not as fatty, so it wouldn't do the same thing. but it did smell like the real deal. but being a novice souse eater and even less experienced souse maker, i called in the jury to decide.

juror number 1 was chinyere. she said it was good, but it was no souse. more like a crab soup with a souse flavour. so much so, she was wondering what it would taste like hot. from the hissing i knew it had good pepper. not for chinyere who doesn't really eat pepper, but the fact that she was hissing but not stopping said something. so i got a pass mark there. maybe not for a souse though. for something that tasted good.

juror number 2 was kesi. more of a pepper man, so he was comfortable with the heat. after establishing that this was nowhere close to jo even on his worst day, he said it was way better than he expected. still not a convincing souse, but a nice tasting thing. he even suggested that i treat it like a broth (similar to what chinyere was suggesting), buy some crab meat, make some crab cakes and serve something like that. a damn good idea if you ask me.

not keeping it refrigerated for more than a night, so i have 3 more jurors to pass judgment. a souse expert, a crab lover and a souse lover. so until then, the jury is still out on this one. but for this creation...


leh we bubble!


the crab lover's comments (iz a facebook link so...)
"Was a lil iffy when I heard crab and souse in the same sentence but I love crab, so I had to try it. Well, when I smell it all hesitancy went out the door and meh mouth start to water. Ah delve in wholeheartedly. It was bess! You can te...ll from the smell and the taste that it was souse, different texture and consistency, but souse nonetheless. I find it coulda do with a lil more pepper... for me, souse have to burn, i need to hissing like a snake. While the sauce was a tad spicy, the crab - not so much. The cucumber had all the pepper. Would eat it again blind-folded (which is hard to do with crab)..."

the souse lover also endorsed it and said it tasted like what a crab souse would taste like. BUT, i think the next one would be a boss souse. think i have it worked out now. hahaha!!!