Trini Roti - Food Gypsy

Trini Roti – Flavour from the West Indies

Published On July 15, 2013 | By Gypsy | All Recipes, Featured, Poultry, The Mains

In a catering kitchen we’re not bound by static menus, each event we do has it’s own unique flavour, covering the globe from one side to the other.  One day I could be making a French Rillette, the next  a West Indian style curry Trini Roti from the deepest regions of the Caribbean.

Roti is street food, the West Indian answer to the sandwich, unleavened flat bread filled with a savory curry stew, also known as a ‘wrap roti’.  Curry cooked low and slow over a charcoal fire loaded with goat, lamb, chicken or seafood will wait, hot all day long, while the roti bread is cooked at the last minute and filled to make the curry equivalent of fast food.

It’s not often I shoot and share a recipe from the big, shiny commercial kitchen.  For one thing it would be something of a conflict of interest to share trade secrets and Executive Chef Devin Marhue’s recipes en mass.  But sometimes, when cooking a dish that really turns my taste buds on, I ask if I might share it with our readership and spread a little flavour joy.

This is a family recipe straight from Chef Devin’s diverse roots, in his recipe book it’s known as ‘Uncle Kalo’s Trini Roti’.   A rich blend of spices complimented by typical Caribbean ingredients like taro root and coconut, that filled the kitchen with West Indian aroma, to make Uncle Kalo proud.   Nothing like being trusted with a family recipe and asked to make it from scratch with only a flavour outline and a little travel knowledge to go on.  This challenge made my day and, with permission, I’m sharing a little taste with you.

Trini Roti mise en place - Food Gypsy

I’m no stranger to the Caribbean having explored Cuba, Jamaica, Belize, Barbados and ventured as far south as Roatan, just a stone’s throw from Trinidad and Tobago.  Each country has a distinct way of using ingredients, some add more heat, some favor salt and curing and others lean toward curry and chutney.  The cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago blends the influences of it’s peoples; Indian, African, Creole, Amerindian, European, Chinese and Lebanese to a counter balance of sweet, heat, savory and spicy.

Taro Root - Food Gypsy

In the West indies Taro is called “dasheen”; and is cultivated and consumed as a staple.  In  Trinidad & Tobago, the leaves and stem are most often cooked and pureed into a thick liquid called callaloo, the country’s national dish, quite similar to creamed spinach.   The root is starchy and mild, depending the variety, when it’s cooked it turns blue, or remains creamy white.

Taro and potato starch act as a natural thickener in most Caribbean dishes, so there’s no need for flour or cornstarch to make a thick, creamy curry sauce.   It also fries nicely and makes a terrific crisp or chip, we used taro sticks as a garnish for our Trini Roti, in the top photo.

In Uncle Kalo’s traditional version of the Trini Roti, the cumin used is roasted cumin, making the curry sauce a darker yellow-brown and lending a slightly more pungent taste and aroma.  You can pick up roasted cumin at your local Indian or Caribbean specialty store, or roast cumin seeds at home, in a saute pan over a low heat until toasty brown, then grind with a mortar & pastel or coffee grinder when cool.

OK, let’s cook us a West Indian curry!

Curry Base, oil, garlic, onions & spices - Food Gypsy Brown your spices well - Food Gypsy

Add marinaded chicken - Food Gypsy Add liquids, starches & heat - Food Gypsy

Simmer to thicken - Food Gypsy

3.0 from 2 reviews
Trini Roti - Flavour from the West Indies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A West Indian style curry, this Trini Roti hails from the deepest regions of the Caribbean. An heirloom recipe gifted to me by Chef Devin Marhue, known in his family as 'Uncle Kalo's Trini Roti'.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Caribbean
Serves: four to six
  • Marinade:
  • 1½ pounds of chicken thighs
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Curry:
  • ¼ cup cooking oil (corn or sunflower)
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin (or roasted cumin)
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 red birds eye chili peppers, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (to taste)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 12-ounce (398 ml) can of coconut milk
  • 2 large potatoes (about 2 cups), peeled & cubed
  • 2 cups taro root, peeled and cubed
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
  • Roti Wraps:
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • pinch fast acting yeast
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ – 1 cup water (see notation in method)
  • 5 tablespoon vegetable oil (for brushing as you cook)
  1. Marinade: In bowl, combine yogurt, minced garlic and spices. Season chicken thighs well with salt before adding them to yogurt curry marinade, and covering to rest in the fridge for eight hours or (preferably) overnight.
  2. Curry: Remove chicken from fridge and with hands, wipe away most of marinade and cut into good sized strips/chunks and reserve wet and cold. Heat good sized pot with about half the oil and sweat onions until tender. Add remaining oil, garlic, ginger, spices and chilies and cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning and create a thick curry paste, allowing flavors to release.
  3. Saute the chicken in hot curry paste to seal the flesh, about 5 minutes, then cover with stock and coconut milk and stir to coat and cover. Add potato and taro root and bring to a boil (add water if needed to cover) and reduce heat to a low and simmer – an hour or more.
  4. As the sauce thickens check seasoning, add additional heat (chilies) if needed add salt to taste. As roti wraps are finishing, add fresh coriander and stir, removing from heat to serve.
  5. Roti Wraps: In a large bowl sift together flour, salt, yeast and baking powder, and begin adding water, about a ¼ cup at a time. Knead in as much water as required to come to a firm dough, then cover with plastic wrap or a clean tea towel and let it rest for about 20 minutes in a warm spot. Note: depending on your flour you may need more water, dough should be springy, not tough.
  6. Knead rested dough for about 90 seconds. Divide dough into six even balls, pat or each into a round, flat disk. Move dough onto a floured surface and roll into round sheets with a rolling pin until they are roughly 10-inches wide and a ¼ inch thick.
  7. Lightly brush flat roti wrap with oil and place on a hot, flat skillet. Cook each side for about 2 minutes until brown bubbles begin to appear. Remove and cool.
This recipe performs best if chicken is left to marinade, refrigerated, overnight.
To assemble: Place a scoop of of curry (about a half cup) in the middle of the roti and fold, left over right then top and bottom, to form a rectangular bundle. Serve fold down, allowing curry to weight down the seams and seep, ever so slightly, into the folds of the roti, holding it perfectly in place.

Gypsy Quickie:  If you’re not up to mastering the art of roti wraps, pop by your local roti hut, they’re often willing to sell you a few wrappers for a roti night at home.  It’ll be our little secret.

Serve, hot with an ice cold cola and it’s just like being in the streets of Port of Spain, or the Chef’s office.

Chef Devein Marhue, quality control. - Food Gypsy

How do we know it’s good? Chef Devin says so.


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About The Author

Recipe testing and blogging about food, wine and the art of great living from her home kitchen just outside Ottawa; Cori (Corinna) Horton is a food marketing consultant, cook and real food advocate sharing all things delicious - right here.

31 Responses to Trini Roti – Flavour from the West Indies

  1. Paula Hogan says:

    Looks delightful!

  2. Elaine says:

    The roti recipe does not work. Makes a tough dough, not elastic at all. Cannot roll it out. This is a huge fail.

    • Gypsy says:

      Hello Elaine –
      Thank you for your feedback. I’m not sure what may have gone awry, we’ve used this recipe several times and never had a problem. (If your dough is a little dry just add a bit more water until it’s nice and sticky.) HOWEVER, if you’re looking for a yeast risen dough, here’s a traditional Dhalpuri recipe. A few more steps but great results.

      Also, if you’re looking for deeper inspiration on West Indian Cooking try Sweet Hands by Ramin Ganeshram. A solid resource for your kitchen.
      – Gypsy

  3. Elaine says:

    Thanks for the suggestions on other roti recipes – I’ll try those!
    Btw sorry if I sounded frustrated – the chicken curry recipe is awesome and sooo tasty! It’s what we’re having again tonight for dinner!

    • Gypsy says:

      Hi Elaine –
      I’m so glad you wrote back, thank you! I know how frustrated we can get when a recipe doesn’t work out. I try not to take these things too personally, but rather try to help readers find a solution that works in their kitchen. We are after all, professionals.

      Our readers mean a great deal to us so we do our best to be a good resource to our ever growing community of food fanatics. Let us know what you think.

      Thank you for reading, writing and COOKING!

  4. I guess this was a great a recipe without the taro root

    • Gypsy says:

      It’s a good recipe, with or without the taro. Personally, I prefer it with. Thanks for reading!

      • What if you cannot find taro in your area? Can it be left out altogether? Should I add more potatoes? Thanks.

        • Gypsy says:

          Hi Shantay –
          Taro is optional. If you can’t find it just substitute potatoes. Potatoes are cheap, this is a poor-man’s meal so don’t feel the need to fancy it up. Just keep it simple. We made a version of this last week and instead of white potatoes we used yams. Also good, but they don’t hold together as well as potatoes do.

          Thanks for reading, and commenting! Always nice to hear from readers…

  5. Katherine says:

    Made this tonight and it was absolutely delicious! The chicken curry was spot on when compared to our fave local Trinidadian restaurant. I thought the roti was more like naan but it was very yummy eitherway. We used it to soak up all the amazing curry sauce. This recipe is a keeper for us. Thank you for sharing.

    • Gypsy says:

      Thank you for your comments Katherine, and thanks for visiting Food Gypsy! I have updated this recipe (and will continue to do so) as I nail the roti – this may call for a trip to the Caribbean… oh, the pain. ;-)


  6. Mae says:

    Did you marinate & cook the thighs with the bone in? Can’t wait to make this!

  7. Deborah says:

    Good recipe.

    YOU WROTE: In the West indies Taro is called “dasheen”; and is cultivated and consumed as a staple.

    Taro is a totally different vegetable from “dasheen”. While they are both starchy and may be substituted for the other in some recipes, the taro and dasheen grow, look and taste different.

    A other tuber or root vegetable substitutions or alternatives might be cassava or yucca, malanga, white potatoes or similar root vegetables. The red birds eye chili peppers are okay, but my favorite pepper for this dish is scotch bonnet or harbanaros for the taste and heat.

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  9. Char says:

    2 Tablespoons of baking powder? Is that correct? Should it be teaspoons?

    • Gypsy says:

      Hello Char – No, indeed, it is tablespoons. I’ll be honest, the Roti Bread is not my speciality. I’ve tried both leavened and unleavened varieties, this recipe worked very well, but I’ve also had good success using self-rising flour. Takes all the guesswork out of it, just mix, rise, kneed and go. Will check my notebooks for that recipe and update the recipe above. In the meantime, here’s a link that you might find helpful:

      Drop a line anytime, I will do my best to offer what advice I can.
      Thank you for reading,

  10. cindy says:

    great chicken curry. one of the best i have tried. the roti I’m not good at making it. but i did find Some frozen roti all ready made. i used that and it was awesome

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  12. Xiomara says:

    I enjoy the efforts you have put in this, appreciate it for all the great articles.

  13. B. Maurene White says:

    This is such a delicious dish and well worth the effort. I was taught by a friend from Trinidad to make roti skins by making a hole in the ball of dough, then filling it with about tablespoon of half cooked finely ground split yellow peas. This separates the skin into two layers more efficiently, makes a richer skin flavour and adds yellow pea protein which is among the more complete plant proteins.
    I am trying t develop a gluten free version and make vegan curries for the filling. Can longer handle the cruelty of using animals as food – plants taste better on the palate and the soul!

    This gmail address is hopefully, temporarily defunct. Text works [redacted for privacy – Gypsy]

    • Gypsy says:

      Yes! I’ve seen it done but have yet to come across a recipe that gives me the flavor and flexibility of a good roti bread. I’ll drop you a line (removed phone number above as I did not want others to invade your privacy).

      Thanks for reading, looking forward to connecting!

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