A spicy Trini breakfast: Riaz Phillips’ vegan recipe for spicy vegetable roti

February 7, 2024

The days in Trinidad start earlier than I’m used to, and it’s not uncommon for the most popular street vendors to be sold out by 10am. Of all Trinidadian breakfast foods, my favourites are the Indo-Caribbean chokas (pronounced choe-ka). Anything can be made into a choka, and these aubergine and tomato versions are classic (and vegan) options. The ingredients are usually roasted and mashed down with a few herbs and greens before chunkaying, when hot oil infused with fragrant spices is added, cooking the mash further. Chokas are usually served with a fluffy flatbread called sada roti, for dipping or stuffing.

Two vegan chokas

If you choose not to de-seed the scotch bonnets, do bear in mind that your chokas will be very hot. If you like only moderate heat, be sparing.

Prep 20 min
Cook 20 min
Serves 4

For the tomato choka
6 large tomatoes
(about 1kg)
½ onion
, chopped
1–3 scotch bonnet peppers (or to taste), stalks discarded, pith and seeds removed if you prefer less heat
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Sea salt, to taste
Spring onions or chives, to serve (optional)
Sada rotis (see below), or flatbreads, to serve

For the aubergine choka
2 large aubergines
(eggplants), tops removed
1–3 scotch bonnet peppers (or to taste), stalks discarded, pith and seeds removed if you prefer less heat
½ onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Sea salt, to taste
Spring onions or chives, to serve (optional)

For the chunkay
8 tbsp cooking oil (coconut, rapeseed or olive)
1 tsp cumin seeds

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Line two trays with foil and put the vegetables, scotch bonnets and garlic for each separate choka on each tray. Roast for 10–15 minutes, until the skins of the tomatoes, aubergines and chillies begin to blacken and char.

Remove from the oven and peel off some of the charred skin from the vegetables and chillies, leaving just a little on for taste. Decant the contents of each tray into a separate bowl or a large mortar and mash: for both, you want the consistency of a dip, but with some texture, leave some lumps of tomato and aubergine.

Now for the chunkay. Put the oil in a small frying pan on a medium-high heat, add the cumin seeds and, when the oil starts to sizzle and the seeds start to turn dark brown, run the hot oil through a sieve to remove the seeds. Carefully pour half the hot cumin-infused oil into each bowl of choka, stir gently and season to taste.

Serve hot or warm, scattered with spring onions or chives, and with some flatbreads alongside.

Sada roti

Prep 1 hr
Cook 5 min
Makes 8

600g (4⅔ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then gradually stir in 300ml warm water. Mix to combine, then knead for five minutes, squeezing but not folding the dough. When it forms a soft, slightly sticky ball, cover with a damp tea towel and leave for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into eight equal-sized chunks. Roll each piece into a smooth ball, put on a flat, lightly floured surface and cover for a further 20 minutes.

Dust a work surface with more flour and take one of the dough balls. Flatten it out with your palm, then roll it out into a 18–20cm-(7–8in) diameter circle. Put a nonstick frying pan on a medium heat. Test how hot the pan is with a splash of water – if it immediately sizzles and evaporates, you are ready to cook. Lay the dough disc in the pan, cook for 40 seconds until you see bubbles rising, then flip and cook on the other side for another 40 seconds. Both sides should have specks of light brown across them. (As an optional step, after this puff up the roti in the microwave for 30 seconds.)

Put the cooked roti in a bowl, cover tightly with a tea towel, then repeat with the other balls of dough, stacking them on top of each other and covering them to keep warm.

Serve with the chokas.

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