We’ve reached Labor Day weekend, which, along with barbecues and beach trips, brings with it the annual West Indian Day Parade along Eastern Parkway. If you want to taste some Caribbean culture in celebration, seize the weekend to sample a West Indian curry.
While you might be more familiar with Indian or Thai curries, meat and vegetable dishes cooked in heady spice blends became an integral part of Caribbean gastronomy in the mid to late 1800s. As slavery was gradually abolished around the region, the British started to bring large numbers of South Asian laborers to the islands as indentured servants–curry, and the spices necessary to make curry, traveled with them. Today, Caribbean curries vary much less than the many curries of the Indian subcontinent, and the main spices usually found in them include allspice, coriander, cinnamon, fenugreek and clove. These dishes, and others from the region, sometimes feature the Scotch Bonnet, a very hot Caribbean pepper, whether cooked in with the curry or incorporated into a sauce that goes on top–or on the side.
Prospect Lefferts Gardens, the neighborhood on the east side of Prospect Park, hosts a plethora of curry joints. Goat is always going to be the meat of choice in a Caribbean curry spot, but many of these restaurants also make delicious chicken curries. Here are three favorites to check out on your next trip to the neighborhood. Or, if you’re more interested in doubles–a Carribbean dish in which curried chickpeas are sandwiched between two roti (a fried flatbread), check out our Nostrand Avenue doubles round-up. In any case, you could sit down for curry at any of these restaurants, take a restorative stroll through the park with a sorrel juice–a sweet hibiscus drink–then go back for doubles, coco bread or another Caribbean treat.
De Hot Pot: 1127 Washington Avenue, 347-240-1180
Trinidadian ex-pats, Christine and Andy, cater to the West Indian community, as well as a growing number of curry-loving newcomers to the neighborhood, in their small café close to Prospect Park. Their goat curry offers tender, fatty pieces of slow-simmered shoulder, accompanied by a flaky roti. The sauce is mildly spicy and glistens with oil and be sure to accept should they offer you a little mango kuchela (a piquant, sweet and spicy chutney) on the side, it makes the dish even more delicious. It should be noted that although the goat curry is a succulent delight, doubles is the restaurant’s most popular dish. Customers fill the small space from breakfast through lunch–traditional doubles time–to fill up on the Trinidadian street treat and the delicious spicy sauce De Hot Pot serves alongside.
Trinidad Ali Roti Shop: 589 Flatbush Avenue, 718 462 1730
Fritz, an ex-pat Trinidadian and long-time Prospect Lefferts Gardens resident (and my neighbor) recommended Trinidad Ali Roti Shop, which also has another restaurant on Fulton and Utica in Bed-Stuy. The specialty here is curried chicken and goat, the latter comes enveloped in a thickly textured sauce, along with a side of tender potatoes and chickpeas. Definitely try the tamarind chutney along with your curry–or whatever else you might want to sample. Its sweet and sour tang really complements heat and spice.
Errol’s Caribbean Bakery: 661 Flatbush Avenue, 718-469-6078
There are only a couple of seats at this popular Jamaican spot, so take-out, to your home of for a picnic in the park, is the way to go. Baked goods like beef patties and coco bread are the specialty, but Errol’s also serves fantastic hot food, and you shouldn’t pass up the tangy goat curry, served with rice and peas and a side order of coleslaw. Like any quintessential goat curry, the meat is on the bone, the ratio of fat is high and the flavorful sauce is generously portioned. If you want it sweat-inducingly spicy, have them ladle hot sauce over your dish. All you need now is a little sorrel juice, another one of Errol’s many specialties.