The taste of Tobago in just one dish

“It’s the food of the beach,” she added. “If you’re going to a beach lime [event]or after harvest at the church, if you want to celebrate anything that’s essentially Tobagonian, you will eat crab and dumpling.”

I was eager to try it myself, and luckily Clark and I caught six crabs using his homemade wooden boxes with trapdoors. In the forest, he’d pointed out some small hollows in the sandy floor: these were the crab burrows, close to a stream. As he’d set the traps, squeezing mangoes plucked from a nearby tree around the burrows to lure them, he told me that early evening is the best time to snare land crabs, when he could sometimes catch tens at a time. When we returned later that evening, we found six manicou crabs in the traps, which he showed me how to hold it safely, avoiding their fronts, telling me that “their bites are like knives”.

To cook them, we headed to Clark’s yellow-slatted restaurant, Marguerite’s, located just behind the beach in Castara, a remote Tobagonian village that prides itself on its authentic Caribbean cuisine. Marguerite’s is one of the best places to eat crab and dumpling in Tobago. Sherwin comes from a long line of cooks: his parents run one of the village’s open-air ovens and two of his brothers have restaurants, too. His grandmother taught him the recipe, he told me, and he has been catching the crabs since he was a child.

In his yellow-painted kitchen, with saucepans hanging on the walls and lace curtains at the windows, Clark showed me the dough he’d prepared for the dumplings, a mix of cornmeal, wheat flour and water. He marinated the crabs in ginger and garlic, and began the sauce by pouring a ladle of vegetable oil to heat with a clove of garlic, then added curry powder mixed with a little water, which sizzled in the oil, sending up a fragrance of mingling spices. Once the sauce was bubbling, Clark added the crabs and a squirt of ketchup, followed by a liter of coconut milk.


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