February 16, 2023
On a scorching night in 1936 in southern Trinidad’s Princes Town, Emamool Deen and his wife, Rasulan Ali, found themselves in dire straits. The young couple had sold their only goat that day, and were unsure from where their next meal would come. Still, the Deens were determined to rise above the abject poverty into which centuries of colonial oppression had pushed them.
So Rasulan bought chickpeas, or Kabuli chana, from the slim profits she and her husband had made from selling their goat. She then fried them up like peanuts, serving them on a fried flatbread called bara. Over time, Rasulan switched to braising the chana the way her ancestors had cooked it — with ground cumin, turmeric, and green seasoning; a concoction of fresh herbs and chilies; and punchy Indian chutneys. The latter included an herbaceous bandhaniya (coriander) and a sweet-and-sour mango-based one.
She swapped the bara, first made from mung bean flour, with those made with maida or wheat flour, since it was cheaper and more easily accessible. Just days later, Emamool headed to town on his bicycle to sell his wife’s dish out of paper cones. With that one decision, the Indo-Trinidadian couple would change Caribbean food forever, creating what would come to be known as Trinidad and Tobago’s national snack: doubles.