Gail Alexander and Joel Julien
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‘Roly-poly’ with dragon sauce will heat up your life
When someone says, “Ah want ah roly-poly with everything,” by Nagim and Sons Doubles, it does not mean he’s asking for trouble, like Mr Killa—unless he wants it with dragon sauce. The “roly-poly” is a creation of Shawn Saddnagim, better know to his loyal customers as George. He works at the popular doubles outlet on Chacon Street, Port-of-Spain. It is a mini dhalpuri roti filled with channa (chickpeas or garbanzo beans); the dragon sauce is the fiery pepper concoction intrepid customers can ask for. The “roly-poly” is but one example of the evolution of doubles, the popular, iconic T&T street food.
Nature abhors a vacuum—and jaded palates—so enterprising vendors saw an opportunity, and filled it with channa, wholewheat doubles, ital doubles, chubbles (Chinese doubles), gourmet meat doubles, cheese doubles, alloo (potato) pies stuffed with cheese, chow mein, liver, gizzard, and smoke herring, along with a dizzying array of condiments. The Sunday Guardian interviewed Saddnagim on Wednesday, while he was dishing out his delectable fare of doubles, aloo pies, channa and “roly-polys,” ably supported by his family—brother Bunty and their aunt Sheffina Bruce, affectionately known by customers as “Granny.” There is no sign advertising the “roly-poly.” Its popularity and tastiness are spread by word of mouth; only regulars and foodies know about it, and it usually sells out very fast in the morning.
Saddnagim said, “We had the dhal pie in the 80s and sold it with mango chutney and pepper sauce. “After Carnival 1985, we took the mini dhalpuri, changed it up, rolled it out with a bilnah, filled it with channa and called it the ‘roly-poly.’ That’s how the evolution came up. “I wouldn’t say I invented the dhal pie, but I invented the ‘roly-poly,’ it’s our name for it and it has taken town by storm.” He said he carried all the condiments, including pepper, cucumber, tamarind, chadon beni, coconut and roast pepper.
Wholewheat doubles for the health conscious
Other vendors offer other innovations, including wholewheat doubles cooked in palm oil to cater for the health conscious, who may also buy channa alone, without the bara. Tru Valu supermarkets now have in-house doubles vendors who also sell wholewheat doubles and pepper roti. Gourmet doubles may include meats like chicken, goat, beef, lamb, seafood and even alligator, while other vendors are experimenting with dressings which can be more readily found in a bake and shark at Maracas. Doubles purists and traditionalists say it is sacrilegious to add anything other than channa and pepper between two bara. There is even a smartphone app to locate good doubles to eat in T&T.
New generation of doubles
Saddnagim said the “roly-poly” and other vendors’ interpretations of doubles were a new generation of the doubles’ humble origins; so, too, the wide array of condiments which now included kuchela, kachourie, anchar, pommecythere and pineapple. He said doubles have become a staple in various Carnival fetes and all-inclusive parties and can now be found at political rallies, weddings, functions and birthday parties. Saddnagim said his father started selling doubles back in the days of Woolworth and Kirpalani stores. Now, George also sells doubles at the Aranguez Savannah, opposite Fitness Planet Gym, on afternoons under his own brand name, Chatter Box. He said he even catered for boat cruises, while the patrons were dancing, he was moving with his doubles. Saddnagim said his customers have even included a friend whose wife had left him: the friend held a party and hired him to serve doubles at the celebration. Saddnagim said these new trends and innovations were good for the doubles industry, as it was the natural progression in the evolution of doubles—which can’t remain stagnant and boring.
Ali: We invented doubles, chaloo and Moruga scorpion pepper sauce Araby Ali, the owner of Ali’s Doubles in Barataria, is a third-generation doubles maker from the Ali family lineage, who claim they invented the doubles in San Fernando. Ali said he invented the “chaloo,” an aloo pie with channa in the 80s, which he considered patenting but never did. He also said he had the hottest pepper sauce in the world, for which he was famous; it contained Moruga scorpion peppers. Araby said it was his relatives, Ali’s Doubles on the Hill on Vistabella Road in San Fernando, who were the first to introduce chicken doubles in Trinidad.
Ali said doubles making had come a long way since the days of his parents Anwar and Korisha in the 50s, who had to get up at midnight, risk getting stung by scorpions, centipedes and bitten by snakes while foraging for maura and guava wood to cook the bara and channa. He said the acrid smoke produced from the burning wood fires stung his parents’ eyes. Today, Ali uses industrial-strength mixers and gas ovens to make doubles. He said some vendors used shrimp or chicken as their secret ingredient to flavour their doubles and this can be problematic if a customer was allergic to seafood or meat. Ali said all his food was traditionally vegetarian because of his wide range of clients, especially those of the Hindu faith and also taking into consideration those who were allergic to certain meats. He said at home he would put chicken, and maybe curried sheep in his doubles; he mentioned that avocado and mango talkari also tasted nice in doubles—but customers would not want to pay extra for them.
Sauce Doubles: First to introduce assortment of condiments in Curepe
Amar Hosein and his brother-in-law Jimmy are part of another famous doubles institution, Sauce Doubles in Curepe. According to Hosein, Sauce Doubles was the first in Curepe to introduce cucumber and the other assortment of condiments in doubles. His father Omar said a long time ago, doubles came with only pepper. Hosein said his grandmother Hosofina, who had nine boys and five girls, started selling pholourie with a little pepper sauce and mango chutney in Curepe.
He said when the family started selling doubles, they gradually came up with more condiments such as sweet mango, kuchela, pepper chutney, tamarind, chadon beni, and chadon beni pepper.
Hosein said the doubles variations were a good idea and would appeal to foodies, once they tasted good, such as the meat doubles. He said Sauce Doubles will stay the original way—with bara, channa and condiments. Hosein said his father built the name which was known for its distinctive doubles taste. He quipped: “Once they taste well, they will sell!”
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