‘Doubles’ are a vegetarian street food from Trinidad that consists of two pieces of fried, usually golden, flat, palm-sized pieces of quick bread, served with chickpea curry, called channa. Doubles’ likely originated as a Punjabi dish called chole bhatura, brought to Trinidad between 1845 and 1917 by Indian contract laborers imported to work on plantations after slaves were emancipated in 1834. Today, Doubles are food for the everyman, both vendor and customer. They’re quick and cheap to buy (averaging $3.50 in Port-of-Spain and $1-2 in New York) and relatively inexpensive to make. Anyone can be a Doubles vendor; one of the reasons recipes, and serving-style can be contentious—depending on the vendor, they can resemble a soft-taco, a sandwich, or a mini-burrito.
There are four condiments which usually accompany Doubles: a hot pepper sauce made from Scotch Bonnet peppers, shado beni chutney (shado beni being a leafy herb which grows in Trinidad also known as culentro, Japanese saw leaf or Mexican coriander), tamarind sauce, and kuchela (a green mango chutney). All four can be found in most East Indian grocers or delis. You can make your own passable substitutes if you have trouble finding the prepackaged versions. For instance, for the hot sauce: blend Scotch Bonnet peppers with vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. For shado beni chutney, blend: 10 shado beni leaves, one garlic clove, ¼ Scotch Bonnet pepper, ¼ cup water and salt to taste (use cilantro if shado beni is unavailable).
Some argue for the use of cumin and curry in the bara dough, others argue against it. Similarly some cooks contend that split pea flour is essential to an authentic “skin.” To make your own Doubles at home, follow the instructions below, adapted from several recipes under the guidance of veteran doubles-maker, Ms. Uclan Fermin, of the famous Fermin Doubles from Holy Cross College, Arima in Trinidad.