Taste of the Caribbean: Curry Crab & Dumpling, a True Tobago Treat
That’s the typical reaction most newcomers to Tobago have at their first sight of the island’s signature dish, Curry Crab & Dumpling, or CnD for short. I mean just check the photo… That’s about as scary-looking a collection of edible entities as have ever been set before me!
In the case of CnD, though, all that ugly adds up to something insanely yummy, and just as importantly to your visitor experience on the island, something uniquely Tobagonian…
Though united as one country under that glorious black/white-sashed red flag, Trinidad and Tobago are distinctly different places. Trinidad is way larger, and around its capital, Port-of-Spain, it’s cosmopolitan on-par with the busiest commercial centers throughout Latin America.
Tobago? That’s where you go to lime and chill-out. Totally laid-back, and very much about the beach and the sea, Tobago is in many ways the ying to Trinidad’s yang.
Interestingly enough, if history had been a bit different, Tobago might not be anything to Trinidad’s yang.
During the initial 200 years of its earliest colonial history, Tobago changed hands 33 times among the English, French, Dutch and Spanish. Eventually, the English seized control and Tobago prospered as an independent Crown Colony in its own right. By the late-1880’s, though, the island’s failing economy, as well as those of other Crown Colonies throughout the West Indies, caused the British to dramatically change the course of Tobago’s history.
Basically, the British decided to save money by consolidating the administration of a few of their islands. At the time, Tobago could’ve just as easily become paired with Grenada as it became one with Trinidad. The deciding factor: distance.
Tobago is only about 20 miles from Trinidad, while Grenada is a good 90 miles up the island chain. Naturally, the British went with Trinidad, but after all those hundreds of years steering its own development, Tobago remained pretty independent from a cultural perspective.
Actually, I should say Tobago “remains” pretty independent, as evidence of the island’s unique cultural heritage are still prevalent today. Oh sure, there are a lot more roti shops here than even five or six years ago when I first visited Tobago, a sure sign of increasing influence from Trinidad. At the same time, though, you can find and enjoy purely Tobagonian things like Goat Racing, the Blue Food Festival, Olde Time Tobago Weddings in Moriah, Tambrin music, Speech Bands and more.
For sure, one of the best pure tastes of Tobago is Curry Crab & Dumpling, and one of the best places to get it is Miss Trim’s down on Store Bay, that gorgeous beach pictured above.
Miss Trim’s is one of a number of small food stalls located back off the beach. I say it’s the best for CnD because my Dad says so. This group agrees, as did my stomach and the now curry-stained shirt I happened to be wearing the day all these pics were snapped.
Eating this stuff is an investment in time and napkins (and whatever you might be wearing). The dumplings are ridiculously filling, so you’ll want to work your way through those slowly to ensure you don’t get too full before you get at the crab meat, an ordeal in and of itself. It’s not like Miss Trim gives you a nutcracker, or a hammer, or those skinny sharp things to extract the meat. If you’re eating where you’re ordering, then you’re basically using your hands to pry the crabs limbs apart, and your mouth to suck out the meat. In some spots it’s even advantageous to crack the crab shell with your teeth, spitting out the hard bits along the way.
Unlike roti, doubles and other Trini treats available throughout Tobago, Curry Crab & Dumpling is true Tobago through and through. It’s real messy, takes a really long time to eat and is really, really good!
Don’t be put off by its appearance… If you love crab and curry and the real Tobago, this is a meal you just can’t miss!