Sunday, June 20, 2010

Roti Roti Roti

Roti. I know I’ve described it before, but let me do it better. First, let me say that it’s delicious and eating one usually means you can skip dinner.
My favorite kind is dhal puri, when the dough is filled with dried lentils. This way, it can be served folded alongside multiple toppings or like a burrito with the toppings inside. The other kind is buss-up-shut (originally “bust-up shirt” because that’s what it looks like, but slang and time changed it), which is buttery and in pieces. Either way, you are to tear off a bit and pick up the goods with it—no silverware needed—but with the best skins (dough) you do burn your fingers a bit. The entrée plates come mounded with a variety of meat and veggies, all curried and spicy, with additional pepper (spicy sauce in the Caribbean, not the green or red vegetable) and chutneys on the side to increase spice even more. There’ll be goat, chicken, or beef, all served bone-on, from which to choose. My favorite is goat, but it’s quite rich so I alternate with veggie.
There’s a variety of vegetables: bodi (long, green beans that appear in the grocery store wrapped into twisted bundles, but are cooked down in dishes until they are soft), pumpkin (mounds of soft, sweet orange), potato (bite-size chunks in a yellow, cloudy liquid, with lentils mixed in), greens (spicy, bitter, and almost black), mango (often with thick slices of the pit and/or skin included), and sometimes tomato (salty and shiny with oil).

Eating roti doesn’t fit into the American definition of convenience; you couldn’t eat it while driving because sometimes you have to pull the chicken bones or mango pit out of your mouth. (This takes practice, and usually seems like something you should be doing alone, like flossing, but here it’s no big deal.) Instead, this meal takes time and care so you can slow down and enjoy the company around you. There’s a fast food version, sold at The Hot Shoppe, which will do for a fix, but the best roti is made from experts. Sometimes they’re found in St. James with a cart that holds the necessary five to six silver, tightly lidded secretive pots, sometimes they’re found inside small, warm restaurants with two tables, and sometimes found in friend’s auntie’s homes, where the smells come out and greets you on the porch.

On the street, when you pay, you lay your money down and take your change, but the vendors aren’t far.

1 comment:

pablo said...