You’re probably wondering what that might be, that thing that is better than than sweet and sour. Let me tell you: it’s sweet and spicy. Sweet and hot!
It’s an unusual mix, at least for me and probably also for most other Austrians. I don’t know about you, maybe where you’re from that’s normal, but I was very surprised and, I’ll be honest, a little sceptical when I first heard about this and then saw it for the first time. Until I first tried it. Then it was over. No more doubt, no more question.
I was hooked!
On what? I know, I still haven’t told you what exactly it is I’m talking about. Sorry, trying to be mysterious and build up some suspense before making the big revelation.
Chow in Trinidad is not only a name for dog food (which I believe should be renamed to avoid confusions and gross comments). It is also the name of a snack that is typically eaten at the beach, but can also often be found at limes, or in any kitchen on a random afternoon. Because it’s actually not limited to sunshine and sand kind of days, you can have it anytime you want. It’s always refreshing and good.
It’s when fruit is marinated in a spicy marinade that carries flavours like lime, salt, garlic and chadon beni – among others. The main, most important and most prominent ingredient is the finely chopped chadon beni. It’s what gives the chow the bulk of its flavour and it also accounts for its colour: green. Also very important – and responsible for the little kick you get from eating chow – hot pepper.
Chow is most often made from mango (mostly green, sometimes ripe) and pineapple. The mango is cut in stripes and the pineapple in slices, then the fruit sits in a jar full of the fiery and spicy sauce to take in all the flavour and make the transition from regular pieces of fruit to a delicacy that you probably won’t find anywhere else. At least, I haven’t. Don’t worry, though. It’s not extremely hot, so if you’re not a pepper-lover you won’t suffer at all, you’ll still be able to enjoy a piece of two of chow before you have to take a break and let the taste buds on your tongue breathe for a while before continuing.
Those who don’t make chow at home, all by themselves, will usually buy it on the road that connects the city of Port of Spain with the northern coast of Trinidad, the one from Maraval to Maracas (and then on all the way to Blanchisseuse). Once you pass through the mountain range and come out on the Caribbean side, there are a few roadside stops that not only offer beautiful views over the ragged cliffs and lush forests on that coast of the island, but also a wide selection of snacks and treats. You can buy all sorts of things there, like salt prunes and milk toffee and crunchy peanut or sesame bars – and chow.
Usually, a bag of chow costs five dollars, ten dollars for pineapple. You get a bunch of pieces of marinated fruit in a little plastic bag, complete with some of the sauce to intensify the flavour until you finally get around to eating it. That’s assuming you’re actually bringing the treat to the beach with you.
But I’d understand if you can’t, I’m among those who munch right away. Waiting impossible.