Obsessions: Trinidadian doubles
March 5th, 2014
10:45 AM ET
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Cara Reedy is an Executive Assistant at CNN. She previously wrote for Eatocracy on being a small cook in a big kitchen, St. Louis' Provel cheese and her family's soul food traditions. She caveats that doubles aren't pretty (as pictured above) but they sure are delicious.

The Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn has been home to a vibrant Caribbean and African American community since the great migration of the twentieth century. African American people moved to northern states to escape the racial segregation of Jim Crow laws, while at the same time Caribbean people moved to New York for better employment opportunities. The slow Southern charm mixed with the warmth of the Caribbean people make it a neighborhood unlike any other.

When I arrived five years ago, I was a Caribbean food novice. I soon caught up and caught on to the wonderful flavors. My favorite discovery is doubles, a Trinidadian street food that is a Bed Stuy breakfast tradition.

Despite its plural name, a double is a singular sandwich made of two pieces of fried bread (bara) filled with curried chickpea stew (channa) and then topped with tamarind chutney, kuchela (chutney made of green mangoes) and pepper (a vinegary sauce made from scotch bonnet peppers).

Channa and bara are direct descendants of chole bhature, a Punjabi dish of crisp, puffed bread served with a heavy chickpea stew. During the late 1800's Trinidad and India were both part of the British empire. Indian people emigrated to Trinidad as indentured workers to farm the land. They brought with them their food and culture.

The legend goes that Emamool Deen was selling channa and bara in Princes Town, Trinidad, when the customers started asking him to double the bara. He named the creation "doubles."

My personal love affair with doubles started on my way to the subway my first full day in the neighborhood. I noticed a tiny shop with a line out the door. The windows were opaque with steam, making it impossible to see inside. But the smell of hot oil and curry was wafting through the air.

The sign said "Doubles" but at the time I had no idea what that meant. What I did know was whatever it was, it was going to be dinner.

Because most of the little shops in my neighborhood close early, I raced home from work to catch the mysterious food. At 5:30, the shop was shuttered and the smell of oil and curry was long gone. I was absolutely determined to have this curry goodness, so I got up early the next morning and waited on line.

Stupidly, I didn't bother to Google "doubles," so when it was my turn to order, I was lost. There were no menus, just a steam table of items I couldn’t make sense of through the steam. I panicked and stood there with my mouth open. The entire staff of the shop was staring at me. I could feel the impatience growing from the people behind me in line.

After what seemed like an eternity, (it was probably only a few seconds) one of the staff broke the awkward silence and said "Yes."

I blurted out "I'll have a double." That seemed to be sort of correct, because then she asked “You want tamarind and pepper?” I said, “Sure.”

Then she quickly laid two round pieces of bread on some wax paper, spooned out something on top of one, spooned some sauces on top of that and stuck the top piece on, twisted the wax paper around it and dropped it in a brown paper bag, which I immediately stuffed in my purse.

Unfortunately, the grease bled through my purse by the time I got to work. My disappointment over my ruined bag soon disappeared after I bit into the creation. The soft fried bread filled with chickpeas, sweet tamarind and spicy pepper chutney is quite possibly the perfect food.

At that moment doubles became an addiction. I got up early every day, to stand in line. I tried out all the extra toppings on the steam table. (salt fish, herring, spinach, potatoes and more). Every morning as I ate my doubles, the pungent smell of curry and oil flowed through the newsroom. Some of my co-workers started begging me to bring them Doubles. Once I did, they too were hooked and I became a one-woman doubles dealer. I was transporting large bags of doubles on the A train from Bed Stuy to Manhattan every day.

Unfortunately, I started to gain weight after a couple of months, so I had to quit cold turkey. I walked to the subway on the other side of the street, to stop myself from getting in line. I’m OK now and have limited myself to once a month, but If I ever leave Bed Stuy, I will have to make them myself.

Try this recipe from Epicurious.com

Got a food obsession? We'd love to hear all about it in the comments below.

Previous obsessions:
Clementines
Provel cheese
Ice chewing

Posted by:
Filed under: Breakfast • Carribean • Cuisines • Dishes • Obsessions • Regional Sandwiches • Sandwiches


soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. DoublesMan1

    Check out article on Doubles in Maco Magazine: http://www.macocaribbean.com/trinidad/restaurants/doubles-trouble-street-food-with-the-highest-street-cred/

    March 24, 2014 at 7:05 pm |
  2. JHanson

    the picture looks like burnt vomit

    March 10, 2014 at 7:30 pm |
  3. Charles

    Of course, out of the doubles addiction, here are one of the many songs about the ever-so-loved doubles. :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maXYW86FAuQ

    March 10, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
  4. neepsandtats

    I'm glad to learn about this treat, it's the first I've read/heard of it. The article content is a little shaky, though – I think Ms. Reed could benefit from some mentoring by Ms. Kinsman. :)

    March 10, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
  5. Aleem Ibrahim

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Doubles-Plus/374942865867935?ref=hl

    March 9, 2014 at 11:57 am |
    • Erin

      What a happy accident this is! You used to be at the Seaport market,...and then one saturday you weren't! I was wondering for so long where you went, I even asked Michael!. I'll see you saturday at Alderney Market! :) YAY

      March 13, 2014 at 1:20 am |
  6. Aleem Ibrahim

    I am a Trini and live in Halifax NS, Canada. I sell doubles at Alderney Landing Farmers' Market every Saturday. You should check out my Doubles Plus/Facebook page for a much more appealing photo of my Doubles.i

    March 9, 2014 at 9:39 am |
    • Fred

      Send us the link please

      March 9, 2014 at 9:43 am |
      • Aleem Ibrahim

        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Doubles-Plus/374942865867935?ref=hl

        March 9, 2014 at 10:39 am |
  7. Marci

    I was not born in Trinidad,however both of my parents are Trini's.I am very very proud of my ancestry! I wanted to post this on FB so that my friends who don't know what doubles is and never saw it,had a chance to do so being that the story was from CNN...Sorry to say, but your pic did the delicious treat nooooo justice.Disappointed :(

    March 9, 2014 at 9:07 am |
  8. jani

    Being a trini born and bred I can tell you a doubles is one of the best east indian cuisines in Trinidad and Tobago. No lie. The best doubles are made on the spot. Doubles are practically a staple in Trini. If you don't eat doubles, sorry yuh eh no trini to d bone. Lol. Don't talk about when roasted pepper is added to the mix. Though if u are a newbie to doubles and pepper I suggest u refrain from the roast as you would be meditating on the toilet after as d roast is out of the world hot. Glad to see my culture on display, though the article does not quite do the doubles justice. It was a good read.

    March 7, 2014 at 9:55 pm |
  9. Stanley

    WORST doubles picture ever....unbelievable!

    March 7, 2014 at 9:15 am |
  10. DoublesMan1

    See a better picture that does photogenic justice to Doubles on : http://www.outofthedoubleskitchen.com

    March 6, 2014 at 1:44 pm |
  11. Trini girl

    The pic of the doubles is actually a turn off.I'm also a doubles lover and I was like what D!! If you're NY try Singh's Roti shop on Liberty Ave. or Sandy's on Liberty Ave. for any and everything West Indian including doubles and it don't look like that pic posted!! When people want to write about Caribbean food and culture they need to do justice to it. Half the time things written or said is never how it is..

    March 6, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
    • Name*

      You have bad taste ,yuck ,go to places that have the lines

      March 6, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
  12. Randal

    As a family proclaimed doubles addict, first off, there are better pics to be had if you just Google doubles, secondly thank you for giving doubles a shout out, but I live in doubles, and I have had doubles from everywhere available, from Sangre Grande to Port of Spain, Debe & Princess Town to La Brea and most places in between, and any real doubles eater will tell you that once you start adding extra dressing beyond Channa, Tambrand sauce and cucumber it stops being a doubles and starts becoming a speciality roti. I have eaten doubles in Brooklyn and Queens, and while ok, it lacks flavour and that Caribbean love that can only be found in the sweet isles of Trinidad & Tobago!

    March 6, 2014 at 8:18 am |
  13. StopIt

    Couldn't get past "she caveats" in the intro. Seriously, CNN?

    March 6, 2014 at 7:27 am |
    • neepsandtats

      I agree.

      The modern use of "caveat" as a verb meaning "to qualify with a proviso" is often considered awkward or improper. (en.wiktionary.org)

      March 10, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
  14. Theresa

    Leave it to CNN to get the nastiest picture of something ethnic. It just shows the lack of respect for other cultures, and clearly they sent a low level staffer on a field trip to the "hood." This article was disappointing and the picture is even worse.

    March 5, 2014 at 11:41 pm |
    • JellyBean

      LM AO! That is quite a leap there from a nasty photo.

      March 6, 2014 at 9:38 am |
  15. Name*

    Go to Trincity on Leffers blvd betwen 111 ave and Linden blvd ,or Anils on 125st and Liberty ave for the best Tasting doubles ,for anything else is Trincity bake and shark is good too

    March 5, 2014 at 11:00 pm |
  16. Thinking things through

    Just looking at that photo, I had a hard time figuring out what it was. Fortunately the article explained. From the article description, I'd give it a try, but also from the article description, it won't be a major player in my diet...

    March 5, 2014 at 5:56 pm |
  17. Marion

    I'm Trini and that picture could really scare the hell out of anyone. Doubles don't look that disgusting and as a matter of fact, there are a lot of very mouthwatering pics of doubles everywhere. Not every Trini can make tasty doubles, not even in Trinidad and from my experience we have the most delicious doubles in Toronto, Canada. I just had a couple and were they the best!!!

    March 5, 2014 at 5:36 pm |
  18. Ashley

    My mom is from Trinidad and I go down there to visit family almost every year. What a shame that the photo used makes doubles look like the most foul thing on earth and if I didn't know what they were I'd be disgusted too.
    But they are truly very delicious and they're one of the things that I look forward to the most when I go down there.

    March 5, 2014 at 5:30 pm |
  19. txgeekygirl

    I KNOW !
    ITS A PSA!
    This is your brain on drugs !

    March 5, 2014 at 5:17 pm |
  20. PS

    As someone rightly said above, the photo of this dish looks exactly like lung cancer, especially the type caused by years of smoking! May be you authors should let someone else edit your articles once in a while! Encourage them to tell it like it is – as in this case lung cancer. May be even poo.

    March 5, 2014 at 5:14 pm |
  21. Fred

    Love this article. One thing to note though, the plural name "doubles" is used for the singular and plural. "A doubles" as opposed to "A double" which would be two shots of whisky or something. Also, don't go asking for "3 pairs of doubles ok?" "3 doubles" is correct.
    – from a born Trinidadian

    March 5, 2014 at 5:08 pm |
  22. TheSadTruth

    For one thing, this great item is not going to catch on until you stop showing pictures of something that look like an undeveloped conjoined twin carved it out of the elephant man.

    March 5, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
  23. randoid1234

    I live in Minneapolis, MN and Marla's Caribbean Cuisine or Harry Singh's is about the closest you'll get around here. I've had both places and they are both pretty good. Be careful about the spice level you ask for though.

    March 5, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
  24. mike

    This is the kind of person Spike Lee was ranting about. Foodies...ugh.

    March 5, 2014 at 4:21 pm |
  25. fj

    looks like after-birth

    March 5, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
  26. JL

    I seriously thought that was a picture of a malignant tumor.

    March 5, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
  27. Smith

    I think I shat out something like that, this morning!!!!

    March 5, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
    • txgeekygirl

      I think all of the above atrocious mistaken ID's are perfectly acceptable errors.I was quite appalled myself that this was something EDIBLE!

      March 5, 2014 at 5:12 pm |
    • Dennis

      That is actually a picture of a woman being treated for a sexually transmitted disease.Maybe a herpes cluster?

      March 5, 2014 at 10:37 pm |
  28. The Enlightened Restauranteer

    "... filled with curried chickpea stew and then topped with tamarind chutney, kuchela and pepper (a vinegary sauce made from scotch bonnet peppers)."

    What a mess!

    March 5, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
  29. fallen angel

    It looks like something you would find under your refrigerator...NASTY

    March 5, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
  30. Frip Williams

    I'm sorry but that looks like a cross between poo and brick weed, gross~ =(

    March 5, 2014 at 3:18 pm |
  31. Phil

    Is it the good Carribean Curry? I bet it is, not like that nasty Indian curry. BIG DiFFERENCE.. The stuff Pakis eat is nasty.

    March 5, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
    • RedskinsFan

      First off.... they are called "Pakistani"... not Pakis. Second, there is a fair difference between curries from everywhere. Pakistani curries are different from region to region. Its the same with Indian curries: Vindaloo is far different from Korma. Then you have curries from Thailand, Burma, China.... everywhere really.

      But hey, you got your point across that Indian curry is, in your opinion "nasty" (it's not mine, but hey... I like the taste of cardamom, cinnamon, and fenugreek). But the whole "The stuff Pakis eat is nasty." is just small-minded nastiness, and has no use in the modern world. At least get your ethnic slurs right before you plaster it on the internet bufoon.

      March 5, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
      • randoid1234

        Look man, knowledge and cultural awareness have no place on internet forums.

        March 5, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
  32. prousaud sahu

    actually doubles don't look that bad as shown in picture. this food racism

    March 5, 2014 at 3:02 pm |
    • txgeekygirl

      no this is international digestive system differential comparison comments!

      March 5, 2014 at 5:14 pm |
  33. Brian

    I really feel sorry for those who won't try someting based upon its appearance. They miss so much of the wonderful things that life has to offer.

    March 5, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
    • another View

      Agreed! Just look at the female Taco! ;)

      March 5, 2014 at 3:47 pm |
      • Lovehurtaco

        Steamer filled tacos are the best!

        March 5, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      As I always say to people, chili ain't pretty, but it sure tastes good.

      There's a lot of food that looks like hell, tastes like heaven.

      March 5, 2014 at 4:28 pm |
    • Fred

      So true, they should see callalloo

      March 5, 2014 at 5:05 pm |
  34. SixDegrees

    Looks awful. Sounds great.

    You know what would be really great? A recipe.

    March 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
    • Nagrad

      There's a link to the recipe at the very bottom of the article. "Try this recipe from Epicurious"

      March 5, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
      • SixDegrees

        Interesting; not seeing it. Probably because the ancient browser we still inexplicably use at work won't display it properly.

        Thanks, though. I'll check when I get home.

        March 5, 2014 at 2:49 pm |
        • randoid1234

          "Get to work, loafer!" – Your boss

          March 5, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Linked at the bottom, but here ya go: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Doubles-234097

      March 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
  35. Jonny Zuhalter

    Looks like ass

    March 5, 2014 at 2:24 pm |
    • trilly3807

      If your ass looks like that, you have bigger problems than what to have for breakfast.

      March 5, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
      • Lovehurtaco

        Maybe that is what he had for breakfast!

        March 5, 2014 at 4:07 pm |
  36. mtony

    I grew up in Trinidad and love doubles. Fun to see an article about them, but intentionally using a gross looking picture comes off as calculated in a bad way.

    March 5, 2014 at 1:44 pm |
    • Dennis

      That's what it looks like after it comes out on the other end!

      March 5, 2014 at 10:43 pm |
  37. Ah Trini

    Cara, the article was well written but maybe you should used a different picture. I just love doubles and you should try some other foods from trinidad

    March 5, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
  38. emm003

    Oh look, venereal disease.

    March 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
    • Lovehurtaco

      Oh Oh! Looks like we have an expert!

      March 5, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
    • txgeekygirl

      ROTFL ! BEST ONE !

      March 5, 2014 at 5:15 pm |
  39. cali girl

    looks like a moldy mess, ew

    March 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
  40. moldybfast

    OMG why would you post such a horrific picture??

    March 5, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
  41. mdubuya

    Had these when I was in Trinidad. They're amazing.

    March 5, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
  42. Kain

    The minute I got to the scotch bonnet peppers part, my stomach started to churn. That pepper is deadly in AND out.

    March 5, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
  43. mgcady

    I'm actually interested in trying one if I'm in the right area to get one. Just because doesn't look like what you think is pretty, doesn't mean that it isn't good.

    March 5, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
  44. Steve

    I think my cat threw that up on the floor this morning.

    Who the f is their photographer?

    March 5, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
  45. Aaron

    Martha Stewart is your new photographer?

    March 5, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
  46. Milton

    Not the least bit Interested

    March 5, 2014 at 12:23 pm |
  47. Jen

    Aren't pretty!? Looks like it has mold on it!

    March 5, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
  48. Steel On Target

    Sorry that looks and sounds disgusting.

    March 5, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
  49. Redeye Dog

    Pic looks like lung cancer! YUM!!

    March 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
  50. knormb

    Where's the beef?

    March 5, 2014 at 11:56 am |
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