Roast Breadfruit and saltfish echoes from a distant past, one that resonates where Trini food originated and the struggle it has endured. But, to me, it has another memory of a struggle.......
The year was 1990; a year that proved to be very trying for us as a country and also as an individual during that time. We were watching a football match on AVN TV4 when the channel went off the air; "weird we thought", so we switched to the other channel. To our dismay, on channel 2 TTT there was a Muslim man on the screen talking for a while and then that TV Channel went off the air as well.
No more TV I thought, but at least there was the radio. And soon that was getting weird too...Daddy was stationed at the radio, keeping vigil so to speak, listening to the latest breaking news. I couldn't even begin to understand what was going on in our beloved country of Trinidad and Tobago....
My vocabulary expanded overnight with new words such as Coup, State of Emergency and of course Looting. Up here in the valley (Maracas Valley) we seemed to be unaffected much and life seemed to roll on quietly for a while. That is until we saw people with extra groceries and appliances. And, there was talk of Hi Lo and other Supermarkets looted for all its worth.
Businesses in "Town" (Port of Spain) were hit the hardest. People raided businesses like wild animals, breaking window glasses and burning buildings. Men were seen single handedly carrying refrigerators on their backs while others looted the shoe and clothing stores. Daddy said he would have nothing to do with that so we stayed at home. Something bad was really happening and it was getting even more serious than I thought. .....
Then the electricity went and the tank of gas (LPG) finished. Were we to panic? Never! Daddy said that he was accustomed to nothing; came from nothing and we should not let this bother us one bit, "We will live like long time" he said. We got some batteries for the radio and in the shed we set up three stones and cooked all our meals from then on. To make matters worse it was month end and most families had not done their shopping. It was a mad rush; flour "ran out" in the groceries and there wasn't much else you could buy because everyone were panic buying. Luckily for us we eventually got a sack of flour.
From then on we survived on the little we had. Frankly, it didn't bother me at all. The daily menu was minimalistic: pot bake forever more with something like pumpkin talkari, curry seim, fry cabbage or potato choka on the side. Plain salted butter in a piece bake was a real favourite of mine when mom made it and it always hit the spot with a warm cup of cocoa tea right before bedtime.
We had a few stools of sugar cane growing down the hill. These were the black ones that were very sweet and soft; so soft that you could peel it with your teeth. So evenings were spent sucking sweet cane and chatting about the state of the country and when it will end. Evening "ole talk" stretched into night where the discourse continued under the light of a pitch oil lamp ( kerosene lamp) while a pot bubbled on our three stone "stove". Life continued like this for a while.
As children, we didn't have much to do other than sit and laze around reading a book or go to the spring to bathe because the water went with the electricity as well. But, we had health and strength and of course each other...
Breadfruit the Saviour
And then we come to the breadfruit....
We had a Breadfruit tree in the yard and it was really a blessing. We boiled and fried breadfruit and made oil down, but my favourite memories was when we roasted breadfruit. This was as simple and rustic as it got. I always remember them saying that when you're roasting breadfruit make sure to roast by the head first. So the breadfruit was laid on the stem side first on the three stone We just roasted the breadfruit and had it with some saltfish sauce or sometimes just sliced and fried it . It really went a long way to filling our hungry bellies. It broke the monotony of the pot bake and a side of whatever was available.....
Looking back now, I'm thankful for the experience. Now I appreciate this and other simple meals that I have posted already. I'm also thankful to my ancestors who passed on this and other Trini food traditions that has lived on in our minds and our very souls. Here's a part of our trini food history, roast breadfruit and saltfish. Enjoy!
Roast Breadfruit and Saltfish Recipe
1 medium breadfruit
1 cup flaked saltfish
2 tomatoes diced
2 chadon beni leaves
3 pimento peppers
4 cloves garlic, divided
1 sprig chive
½ medium onion
2 tablespoon flour + 3 tablespoon water
2 tablespoon coconut oil
½ tablespoon roucou
2 cups water
1 teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ teaspoon salt
Roast the breadfruit cut in eighths and peel.
Chop the chadon beni, pimento peppers, 2 cloves garlic, chive, and onion.
Dice the tomatoes.
boil the saltfish and set aside.
Heat the oil and saute 2 cloves of garlic for 1 minute.
Then add the seasoning mix and the diced tomatoes. Let simmer for 3 minutes.
Add the saltfish and stir.
Then add the roucou, pepper and black pepper.
Add the water and flour mixture. Let simmer about 5 - 10 minutes until a slightly thick sauce is produced.
Serve over the breadfruit.
Note: As an added step you can fry the breadfruit after roasting, then serve with the saltfish sauce.
Roast Breadfruit and Saltfish
- 1 medium breadfruit
- 1 cup flaked saltfish
- 2 to matoes diced
- 2 chadon beni leaves
- 3 pimento peppers
- 4 cloves garlic divided
- 1 sprig chive
- ½ medium onion
- 2 tablespoon flour + 3 tablespoon water
- 2 tablespoon coconut oil
- ½ tablespoon roucou
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- Roast the breadfruit cut in eighths and peel.
- Chop the chadon beni, pimento peppers, 2 cloves garlic, chive, and onion.
- Dice the tomatoes.
- boil the saltfish and set aside.
- Heat the oil and saute 2 cloves of garlic for 1 minute.
- Then add the seasoning mix and the diced tomatoes. Let simmer for 3 minutes.
- Add the saltfish and stir.
- Then add the roucou, pepper and black pepper.
- Add the water and flour mixture. Let simmer about 5 – 10 minutes until a slightly thick sauce is produced.
- Serve over the breadfruit.
Before I go I would just like to leave you with some footage of what transpired on those six days.
Ah what memories... Hope you enjoyed my roast breadfruit and saltfish; comments are welcomed.
Ah gone 🙂
Damn it!... U made my mouth water!
looks yummy 😀
OMG I want some badly pls
Looks rustic and tasty but how do you know when the breadfruit is cooked through?
I thought it would be common knowledge so I didn't mention it but I'll explain. Before you roast the breadfruit you mark it with a knife in quarters right round the breadfruit. Then you place it on it's "head" (stem side) to roast first. After it is thoroughly burnt you continue with the rest of the breadfruit. To test all you have to do is stick a knife into the marks you made earlier and make sure it goes through smoothly and easily. Easy does it 🙂
It can be funny to think how man just choosing to write something down in written form or in todays world documenting something in what's more usually known as Media can have an effect on a mind long or years after it's written by the originator and almost maybe forgotten about in time.
Because I've only just discovered and learned about what happened in Trinidad in 1990 and that was 24 years ago and I was a Northern Caribbean island neighbor from St.Kitts. And I have never heard about this until I read it here looking at the Roasted Breadfruit and Saltfish Recipe. And though I thoroughly enjoyed reading every bit of the details of the dish I very much more so enjoyed the History lesson.
I thoroughly enjoyed the backstory you told, that will make this dish lasting in memory and to your kids. Food often connect us to our pass, our history and who we are as a culture and people. Many of my fondest food memories in the islands can be traced back to events and times that my grandmother or auntie made some kind of dish that i still remember today, though less clear of the event surrounding it. This dish will always invoke a memory for you. And I know i had a similar dish like this in St.Kitts as we did have roasted breadfruit roasted over 3 triangular stones cooked by my grandmother. And many other dishes as well cooked over the stones. Yet maybe not the Saltfish the same as you made it. Yet i'm glad to learn it and make it my own.
And so I know a bit why I had never heard of this event as i thought back and wondered Where Was I in 1990 that I had never heard of this event as I grew up in St.Kitts a bit way to the north of Trinidad. In 1989 I finished High School in St.Kitts completing all my CXC's, I was just 17 and right after that moved to the U.S.V.I as i had gotten my VISA and had to use it. Much later in that year while in the U.S.V.I i decided to join the U.S. Navy and little boy from Islands wanted to see the bigger world and do other things. So in early 1990 I was now in the U.S. Navy and in Chicago in Bootcamp. In that Summer of 1990 I reported to my fist assigned ship out in California. And during that very same summer IRAQ invaded Kuwait and we all know how that went from there. Because as soon as i got to my ship we headed off to the Persian Gulf for the IRAQ/KUWAIT War. I was only just 18 years old and a young engineering hand. And for next several years I was tied up in that conflict one way or another in that region and well ended up stationed in Asia (Japan). I guess I did see the world or much of it for the next 10 years.
But for all those years I had left St.Kitts and the Caribbean region, I had no real knowledge or History of anything much that happened in the Caribbean region. Needless to say what happened in Trinidad in Summer of 1990. Its all still part of the History of my Region... The Caribbean. So I was moved learning this. And in some funny way I wouldn't quite be surprised either If sometime soon I hear about an attempted Coup on my Island with current policies of the government.
Thanks for the lesson, even if it took 24 years after event for me to hear about this, even if it occurred on a neighboring Island to the south. The last Video was awesome!
Not quite sure what "Roucou" was as i have never heard of it. And thanks for helping me learn how to cook the flavors of my region. It means much to me these days as i never head time to learn how to much as a kid obviously. But i'm trying to preserve my Caribbean Food Heritage. To me its all Caribbean Food, as we are quite mixed in heritage Island to Island.