Trinidadian Roti – An Overview (video)

Roti. Four little letters that have the power to put any Trini into a smile-infused stupor :) Along with pelau I consider it one of Trinidad’s national dishes. East Indian in origin Trinidad roti has now become its own entity with several variants offered to the sidewalk or fast food consumer.

So, what exactly is roti?

Wikipedia to the rescue! Never mind that they spell tawa with a ‘v’??? Then again we spell Divali with a v and I see it everywhere else with a ‘w’ …. lol

Roti… features prominently in the diet of many West Indian countries, especially Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname. West Indian roti are primarily made from wheat flour, salt, and water. They are cooked on a tava. Certain rotis are also made with butter. There are several types of roti made in the West Indies:

* Sada Roti: Similar to naan. It is cooked on a tava, therefore the bottom is not crisp like that of a naan. Because it is the easiest one to make, it is the most commonly consumed roti in Trinidad. It is a popular breakfast option in Trinidad, in combination with tomato choka, baigan choka (aubergine/eggplant/melongene), and other vegetable dishes.

* Paratha Roti: A roti made with butter, usually ghee. It is cooked on a tava. Oil is rubbed on both sides, then it is fried. This gives the roti a crisp outside. When it almost finished cooking, the cook begins to beat the roti while it is on the tava, causing it to crumble. It is also called ‘Buss-Up-Shut’ because it resembles a ‘burst up shirt’.

* Dosti Roti: A roti where two layers are rolled out together and cooked on the tava. It is also rubbed with oil while cooking. It is called dosti roti because the word dosti means friendship in Hindi. This type of roti is not made in Guyana.

* Dhalpuri: A roti with a stuffing of ground yellow split peas, cumin (geera), garlic, and pepper. The split peas are boiled until they are al dente and then ground in a mill. The cumin is toasted until black and also ground. The stuffing is pushed into the roti dough, and sealed. When rolled flat, the filling is distributed within the roti. It is cooked on the tava and rubbed with oil for ease of cooking. This is the most popular roti. Another version of this is aloopuri, which is made from potatoes.

Oh dear, just cutting and pasting these has my stomach grumbling! But let me soldier on :P Here in Trinidad roti is the ultimate hearty fastfood. In local parlance it doesn’t just refer to the breads listed above though. In essence when you say you’re going to ‘buy roti’ you mean you are going to buy a dish of curried vegetables/meats wrapped up burrito style in one of the above breads (except for buss-up-shot which is served on the side). Roti breads by themselves are referred to as ‘roti skins’. Everyone has their favorite roti shops and is on the lookout for the next ‘rising star’ of roti establishments. I remember when everything ’round town’ (the capital) was ‘Hot Shoppe’, then it was ‘Patraj’ that was the rage. Me I’m most indiscriminate, I love them all :) Growing up I used to see people making roti skins at sidewalk stands, especially in St. James. This does not seem as prevalent these days though. I loved watching it being made!

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Passionate foodie, founder of Trinigourmet and Caribbean Lifestyle Maven. Author of "Glam By Request: 30+ Easy Caribbean Recipes"

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  • http://www.jumboempanadas.blogspot.com Brilynn

    I go to a place called Jerk Spot for roti, I love it! I would love to see it being made at sidewalk stands…

  • http://www.jumboempanadas.blogspot.com Brilynn

    I go to a place called Jerk Spot for roti, I love it! I would love to see it being made at sidewalk stands…

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

    Wow a jerk spot :) Jerk is a synonym for Jamaican :D well Jerk as in food, not jerk as in obnoxious person :D but you knew that :D lol Watching it being made live is quite a treat! Roti is love :D

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

    Wow a jerk spot :) Jerk is a synonym for Jamaican :D well Jerk as in food, not jerk as in obnoxious person :D but you knew that :D lol Watching it being made live is quite a treat! Roti is love :D

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

    Wow a jerk spot :) Jerk is a synonym for Jamaican :D well Jerk as in food, not jerk as in obnoxious person :D but you knew that :D lol Watching it being made live is quite a treat! Roti is love :D

  • http://mlaurels.blogspot.com Marsha

    Girl I could go for a roti right now! Too bad I am doing the low carb thing because Buss Up Shot is my drop dead favorite. Some curry pumpkin, bodi, mango, chicken…
    Why allyuh so? Why yuh had tuh post dis ting?!!!!!!!!!

  • http://mlaurels.blogspot.com Marsha

    Girl I could go for a roti right now! Too bad I am doing the low carb thing because Buss Up Shot is my drop dead favorite. Some curry pumpkin, bodi, mango, chicken…
    Why allyuh so? Why yuh had tuh post dis ting?!!!!!!!!!

  • http://mlaurels.blogspot.com Marsha

    Girl I could go for a roti right now! Too bad I am doing the low carb thing because Buss Up Shot is my drop dead favorite. Some curry pumpkin, bodi, mango, chicken…
    Why allyuh so? Why yuh had tuh post dis ting?!!!!!!!!!

  • http://mlaurels.blogspot.com Marsha

    If you get good at making the roti let us know what to do!
    I tried buss up shot..it came out like little bakes but I felt I was close to success because it TASTED like buss up shot!
    I love Hosein’s roti BTW

  • http://mlaurels.blogspot.com Marsha

    If you get good at making the roti let us know what to do!
    I tried buss up shot..it came out like little bakes but I felt I was close to success because it TASTED like buss up shot!
    I love Hosein’s roti BTW

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

    marsha- to make your belly growl :D
    what yuh low carbing fuh? you saucy already :D
    yes yes ,, isn’t it annoying when it tastes right but the feel just isn’t that ‘roti’ feel.. aiaiaia i’ve had that happen too… i’ve gained some tips since then and i’ll try them, and if they work you know i’ll pass them on :D

    yes yes hosein’s is good too! … there’s some new people in Diego Martin too.. but i forget the name now … :P

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

    marsha- to make your belly growl :D
    what yuh low carbing fuh? you saucy already :D
    yes yes ,, isn’t it annoying when it tastes right but the feel just isn’t that ‘roti’ feel.. aiaiaia i’ve had that happen too… i’ve gained some tips since then and i’ll try them, and if they work you know i’ll pass them on :D

    yes yes hosein’s is good too! … there’s some new people in Diego Martin too.. but i forget the name now … :P

  • http://mlaurels.blogspot.com Marsha

    I just watched the video. Man I think that girl may just WASTE that roti!

  • http://mlaurels.blogspot.com Marsha

    I just watched the video. Man I think that girl may just WASTE that roti!

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

    She picking at it like is scabs or something… STEUPS :P

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

    She picking at it like is scabs or something… STEUPS :P

  • Lilandra

    red solo?

    • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

      meuh? :)

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

    meuh? :)

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

    meuh? :)

  • Craig

    I love Roti skins with Dahlpuri !! Could someone please list a step by step way of making them (with all ingredients); pictures would be awesome !! Furthermore, is Trini Curry when used in a Roti filling, different from Indian Curry? If so, what do I look for, what is it called? How do I make a good boneless curried chicken and potato filling?

  • Craig

    I love Roti skins with Dahlpuri !! Could someone please list a step by step way of making them (with all ingredients); pictures would be awesome !! Furthermore, is Trini Curry when used in a Roti filling, different from Indian Curry? If so, what do I look for, what is it called? How do I make a good boneless curried chicken and potato filling?

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

    Hey Craig, thanks for dropping by! I love dhalpuri a ton but making it is a major stress :lol: I have been meaning to get some pics of the process taken so do stick around! Trini curry formulae are based on madras curry so that is the type you wanna keep an eye out for. Even better depending on where you are based you may want to get your hands on some local brands of Curry, namely Chief, Turban and Chatak. The trick to making a good curry is to always cook/fry the curry in some oil (or water if you are being healthwise) for several minutes before adding other ingredients ;) Hope that helps :) If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to ask! :)

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

    Hey Craig, thanks for dropping by! I love dhalpuri a ton but making it is a major stress :lol: I have been meaning to get some pics of the process taken so do stick around! Trini curry formulae are based on madras curry so that is the type you wanna keep an eye out for. Even better depending on where you are based you may want to get your hands on some local brands of Curry, namely Chief, Turban and Chatak. The trick to making a good curry is to always cook/fry the curry in some oil (or water if you are being healthwise) for several minutes before adding other ingredients ;) Hope that helps :) If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to ask! :)

  • Craig

    Thanks Sarina. My exposure to “Roti” is from Caribbean restaurants in Toronto. My ex-wife and family are from Trinidad, and I will assume that the “Roti” I have been exposed to is the Trini variety. Some I have found are better than others, but the Roti skin with Dahlpuri is pretty consistent in Toronto, the curried filling is the think that changes a bit from place to place.

    I currently live in Houston, TX and I can’t find “Roti” anywhere. Hence my desire to learn how to do it all myself, even if I have to import ingredients from Toronto…lol.

    Thank you for replying to my comment.

  • Craig

    Thanks Sarina. My exposure to “Roti” is from Caribbean restaurants in Toronto. My ex-wife and family are from Trinidad, and I will assume that the “Roti” I have been exposed to is the Trini variety. Some I have found are better than others, but the Roti skin with Dahlpuri is pretty consistent in Toronto, the curried filling is the think that changes a bit from place to place.

    I currently live in Houston, TX and I can’t find “Roti” anywhere. Hence my desire to learn how to do it all myself, even if I have to import ingredients from Toronto…lol.

    Thank you for replying to my comment.

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

    Hey Craig :) Houston has a very strong active Trini community, my friend used to be on the board of this association -> www.trinbagotex.org/ I’m sure if there are any rotishops they would be able to hook you up, or at least let you know where you can get ingredients in the city :D

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

    Hey Craig :) Houston has a very strong active Trini community, my friend used to be on the board of this association -> www.trinbagotex.org/ I’m sure if there are any rotishops they would be able to hook you up, or at least let you know where you can get ingredients in the city :D

  • andre

    hey craig gives us a shout CARIB TEX ROTI SHOP. we are in houston. 832 724 7617. 832 524 1431.

  • andre

    hey craig gives us a shout CARIB TEX ROTI SHOP. we are in houston. 832 724 7617. 832 524 1431.

  • April

    Can’t find a roti recipe with chickpeas in the bread anywhere!! That to me is the best. There aren’t many places in Michigan to find roti so I am trying to find a recipe to make it myself. Any good tips? How about for the curried chicken & pototoes? THANKS!

  • April

    Can’t find a roti recipe with chickpeas in the bread anywhere!! That to me is the best. There aren’t many places in Michigan to find roti so I am trying to find a recipe to make it myself. Any good tips? How about for the curried chicken & pototoes? THANKS!

  • WitchWillow

    Had a hankering for roti, googled, ended up right at your site.

    Now I’m gonna have got go buy some tomorrow. Oh curry and chana and split peas and hmmmmmm yummy.

    Roti and Bake & Shark are two of the things I miss most about Trinidad. Obviously my tongue and stomach will never, ever, forget their nationality.

  • WitchWillow

    Had a hankering for roti, googled, ended up right at your site.

    Now I’m gonna have got go buy some tomorrow. Oh curry and chana and split peas and hmmmmmm yummy.

    Roti and Bake & Shark are two of the things I miss most about Trinidad. Obviously my tongue and stomach will never, ever, forget their nationality.

  • WitchWillow

    Had a hankering for roti, googled, ended up right at your site.

    Now I’m gonna have got go buy some tomorrow. Oh curry and chana and split peas and hmmmmmm yummy.

    Roti and Bake & Shark are two of the things I miss most about Trinidad. Obviously my tongue and stomach will never, ever, forget their nationality.

  • Kelvin

    Does anyone know where I can get Trini style black pudding in Toronto? I found a few Guyanese style (with rice), but I really prefer the one with bread.

    Thanks,

    Kelvin

    • Bobby J Hobson

      Hi Kelvin,

      I ive in winnipeg and I have been making Trinidad and Guyanese style Black Pudding since 1977. I have been told that my black pudding taste just as good or maybe better as the top guy that makes black puding in Trinidad, I really take that as a big compliment. Most of my customers in Winnipeg are from Trinidad. Right now I am in the process of getting my company registered, and soon will be processing and packaging my black pudding professionally. I will be selling it on line with shipping same day or next day. to most cities in Canada, for now. If you care to give me a call and give me your address, I would be happy to ship you out a sample of my black pudding the next time I make it- I just made a batch last week, unfortunaltely, it does not last very long. Please watch for the name of my company "Bobby's Tradional Caribbean Foods" I am hoping to get in the Toronto market, so maybe if you try my pudding and you like it, you can spread the word around. I will be looking for a distributor in Toronto, so please keep your ears open for me. Please give me a call 866-357-5334- my name is Bobby

  • Kelvin

    Does anyone know where I can get Trini style black pudding in Toronto? I found a few Guyanese style (with rice), but I really prefer the one with bread.

    Thanks,

    Kelvin

    • Bobby J Hobson

      Hi Kelvin,

      I ive in winnipeg and I have been making Trinidad and Guyanese style Black Pudding since 1977. I have been told that my black pudding taste just as good or maybe better as the top guy that makes black puding in Trinidad, I really take that as a big compliment. Most of my customers in Winnipeg are from Trinidad. Right now I am in the process of getting my company registered, and soon will be processing and packaging my black pudding professionally. I will be selling it on line with shipping same day or next day. to most cities in Canada, for now. If you care to give me a call and give me your address, I would be happy to ship you out a sample of my black pudding the next time I make it- I just made a batch last week, unfortunaltely, it does not last very long. Please watch for the name of my company "Bobby's Tradional Caribbean Foods" I am hoping to get in the Toronto market, so maybe if you try my pudding and you like it, you can spread the word around. I will be looking for a distributor in Toronto, so please keep your ears open for me. Please give me a call 866-357-5334- my name is Bobby

  • http://none Cynthia

    hi all, I went to Trinidad this summer and a local friend made roti. She gave me the recipe and I am now going to try to make it but there is an ingredeient I’m unfamiliar with. Does anyone know what she may have been referring to when she said “kristophene” my spelling could be wrong? Or does anyone have a recipie for Roti sada?

    Thank,

    Cynthia

  • kissingurami

    Cynthia,

    The “kristophene” ingredient you’re looking for is spelt a number of different ways, and even has many different names depending on where in the world the person who is describing it is from (e.g. Cho-cho, Chayote, etc.), so I wouldn’t worry about the spelling too much ;)

    To see what it is that you’re looking for, check out this website link:

    www.foodsubs.com/Squashsum.html#chayote

    The second image from the top that looks like a large, more rounded pear with some Jlo booty is the one that you want.

    I buy this item quite a bit (my family is Vincentian), and have had the most success finding it at Chinese supermarkets if I can’t find a local West Indian Grocery store to buy it from. For reference, in a West Indian grocery store if you ask for Cristophene or “Cho-Cho” (the Jamaican term, I believe) someone should know what it is and be able to point you to it. I forget what it’s called in the Chinese supermarkets though (I usually recognize it on sight), but the next time I go there and buy some I’ll post the name that I get from the package on this site.

    And as an aside – Thanks Sarina so much for this site! Your recipes are some of the ones that I’ve been looking for for years but I couldn’t find authentic versions of anywhere else. That Naparima Girls High School Cookbook is going to be the dream Christmas gift for my Auntie (she had a similar cookbook when she was growing up from her school, but unfortunately lost it).

  • kissingurami

    Cynthia,

    The “kristophene” ingredient you’re looking for is spelt a number of different ways, and even has many different names depending on where in the world the person who is describing it is from (e.g. Cho-cho, Chayote, etc.), so I wouldn’t worry about the spelling too much ;)

    To see what it is that you’re looking for, check out this website link:

    www.foodsubs.com/Squashsum.html#chayote

    The second image from the top that looks like a large, more rounded pear with some Jlo booty is the one that you want.

    I buy this item quite a bit (my family is Vincentian), and have had the most success finding it at Chinese supermarkets if I can’t find a local West Indian Grocery store to buy it from. For reference, in a West Indian grocery store if you ask for Cristophene or “Cho-Cho” (the Jamaican term, I believe) someone should know what it is and be able to point you to it. I forget what it’s called in the Chinese supermarkets though (I usually recognize it on sight), but the next time I go there and buy some I’ll post the name that I get from the package on this site.

    And as an aside – Thanks Sarina so much for this site! Your recipes are some of the ones that I’ve been looking for for years but I couldn’t find authentic versions of anywhere else. That Naparima Girls High School Cookbook is going to be the dream Christmas gift for my Auntie (she had a similar cookbook when she was growing up from her school, but unfortunately lost it).

  • Jihudi

    I can’t tell you how excited I was to discover your website. I live in California but went to college in New York where I discovered the wonderful array of Caribbean cuisine. Roti though, hands down became my all time favorite. I went to college in Manhattan–on the upper east side–yet I would make daily excursions to Brooklyn to feast at my favorite roti joint. Gloria’s.

    Needless to say, living on the West Coast leaves one devoid of the sights, sounds and tastes of Brooklyn. There are a few spots here that make–well what they call roti–but they pale in comparison with what my palate is accustomed to.

    I tried my hand at making roti but as you point out, practice makes perfect. I tried using whole wheat flour to make dhal puri but I think the whole wheat made the dough too thick and the roti turned out tasting more like fried bread than a scrumptious blending of flavors. I’m going to try again this time with half whole wheat and half white flour. Hopefully I’ll have better luck. take care and thanks for your website.

    • dula

      Ali, Ali, Ali roti shop on bedford and nostrand beats gloria any day..and its halal!

  • Jihudi

    I can’t tell you how excited I was to discover your website. I live in California but went to college in New York where I discovered the wonderful array of Caribbean cuisine. Roti though, hands down became my all time favorite. I went to college in Manhattan–on the upper east side–yet I would make daily excursions to Brooklyn to feast at my favorite roti joint. Gloria’s.

    Needless to say, living on the West Coast leaves one devoid of the sights, sounds and tastes of Brooklyn. There are a few spots here that make–well what they call roti–but they pale in comparison with what my palate is accustomed to.

    I tried my hand at making roti but as you point out, practice makes perfect. I tried using whole wheat flour to make dhal puri but I think the whole wheat made the dough too thick and the roti turned out tasting more like fried bread than a scrumptious blending of flavors. I’m going to try again this time with half whole wheat and half white flour. Hopefully I’ll have better luck. take care and thanks for your website.

    • dula

      Ali, Ali, Ali roti shop on bedford and nostrand beats gloria any day..and its halal!

  • Carol

    I live in New Jersey reading this blog has made me hungry and homesick. When I go to Trinidad Patraj is a must and my very talented neighbor Audrey keeps us supplied.

  • Carol

    I live in New Jersey reading this blog has made me hungry and homesick. When I go to Trinidad Patraj is a must and my very talented neighbor Audrey keeps us supplied.

  • anarosa

    I life in Cali and am trying to find a place where I can order Dhal-puri Roti. Do you know where I can order some good Dhal-puri roti packaged and sent to me.
    Thank you.

  • anarosa

    I life in Cali and am trying to find a place where I can order Dhal-puri Roti. Do you know where I can order some good Dhal-puri roti packaged and sent to me.
    Thank you.

  • Maurice Lloyd

    Please, I would like the recipe for Trini roti.
    Thanking you

  • Maurice Lloyd

    Please, I would like the recipe for Trini roti.
    Thanking you

  • Chataigne

    Anarosa,

    Lucky Oriental Market in downtown Oakland sells packaged locally made dhalpourie roti.

  • Chataigne

    Anarosa,

    Lucky Oriental Market in downtown Oakland sells packaged locally made dhalpourie roti.

  • Chataigne

    Anarosa,

    Lucky Oriental Market in downtown Oakland sells packaged locally made dhalpourie roti.