The taste of Tobago in one dish

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“It’s beach food,” she added. “If you go to the beach [event]or after the harvest at church, if you want to celebrate something that is essentially Tobagonian, you will eat crab and dumplings.”

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 had pointed out a few small hollows in the sandy ground: these were crab burrows, near a stream. As he set the traps, squeezing mangoes picked from a nearby tree around the burrows to lure them in, he told me that early evening was the best time to trap land crabs, when he could sometimes catch dozens at a time. When we returned later that evening, we found six manicou crabs in the traps, which he showed me how to hold securely, avoiding their foreheads, telling me “their bites are like knives” .

To cook them, we headed to Clark’s yellow latte restaurant, At Marguerite’s, located just behind the beach in Castara, a remote Tobago village that prides itself on its authentic Caribbean cuisine. Marguerite’s is one of the best places to eat crab and dumplings 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 also have restaurants. His grandmother taught him the recipe, he told me, and he’s been catching crabs since he was a kid.

In his yellow-painted kitchen, with pans hung on the walls and lace curtains on the windows, Clark showed me the batter he had made for the dumplings, a mixture of cornmeal, wheat flour and ‘water. He marinates the crabs in ginger and garlic, and starts the sauce by pouring a ladle of vegetable oil to be heated with a clove of garlic, then adds curry powder mixed with a little water, which sizzles in the oil, giving off a scent of mixed spices. Once the sauce was bubbling, Clark added the crabs and a squirt of ketchup, followed by a quart of coconut milk.

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