Doubles: A Fried Caribbean Secret You Should Know About
They're always called "doubles," never in the singular. They're deep-fried and hearty, yet totally vegan. They retail for less than a fast-food soda. And they're the best Caribbean sandwich you've never heard of.
Doubles are a staple in the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, a street food snack often eaten for breakfast. Like so many foods in Trinidad, where a substantial chunk of the population is of Indian descent, doubles have clear Indian roots. The filling is a spiced chickpea curry called channa, kicked up with a hot pepper sauce, pickled green mango, and a tart tamarind sauce. All that is sandwiched in hot, fried flatbread, and then rolled up in wax paper, because these little beasts are as sloppy as they come. (They're generally served as takeout street food, although eating them out of hand is a mean feat indeed. Get extra napkins.)
The best part? Most doubles will only set you back a buck or two, max—so a breakfast's worth of fried bread and chickpea sandwiches will ring in at under $5.
The bread. A round flatbread called bara, it's slightly squishy, pliant, and best when fried fresh. Ground turmeric gives it a distinctive yellow hue.
The filling. Hearty chickpea curry, called channa, scented with garlic and onion, curry powder and cumin fills out the sandwich. Pepper sauce, mango pickle, and tamarind are the condiments of choice. Ideally you’d use them all at once; a balance of heat, sour, and sweet.
Where to get them: American communities with sizable Trinidadian populations, including parts of Florida and the New York metro area, will likely have doubles, sold either at stand-alone doubles shops or at roti shops (another popular Caribbean fast-food). Here are two to try in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn—though if you walk down Nostrand Avenue, you'll find a dozen more.
A & A's Bake and Double. Hardly bigger than a closet, this diminutive shop specializes in doubles—the ladies at the counter fling channa into bara and roll it all up in seconds. There's a sign apologizing for a recent hike in prices: doubles are now $1.50, up from $1.25. (A filling meal for $3 is still a deal in our book.)
Ali's Trinidad Roti Shop. Just around the corner from A&A, Ali's is a larger venue, with a cheery yellow interior and plenty of room to sit. Expect to wait a little longer, but it's worth it to get your doubles fresh, with a nicely spiced channa and still-warm bara.