On a recent Caribbean vacation to the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, imagine my surprise when I first heard about Shark sandwiches. The truth be told, the very word Shark conjures images of the movie Jaws but after this experience I have been forced to confront my socialization and attach a significantly more pleasurable association to this fish.
While liming – that’s Trini-speak for hanging out – in my guesthouse in the capital of Port Of Spain, I mentioned to the proprietor that it was about time for a light snack. She recited a few options and the word that caught my attention was Shark. She explained, in that laid-back Trini accent, that actually the locals referred to this as a Bake and Shark. The sandwich consists of a fried fillet of Shark in a fried biscuit called a bake. It turns out that in Trinidad the word bake is both a noun and a verb. She suggested that the most popular place for Bake and Shark was Richard’s Bake and Shark located at Maracas Bay, a beach about 15 miles east of the capital. It was on my To-do list to visit Maracas Bay the following Friday so I made a mental note to sample Richard’s delights at that time.
Friday morning finally rolled around and the day started with a heavy downpour that threatened to scuttle my well laid plans. As luck would have it, the sun started to peek through around noon and I was soon heading out to Maracas with the resident driver Brian. The route to Maracas consisted of a narrow two-lane road that snaked through small villages with low concrete homes on either side. We climbed upward for about 30 minutes along this winding road with occasional hairpin turns until I sensed that we had begun a steeper descent. Drivers, who were no doubt familiar with this road, navigated the turns with confidence but I kept thinking this was not for the faint of heart and certainly not to be attempted under adverse weather conditions. Even before I got to the beach, the view of the blue bay below, now visible on my left through the dense green vegetation, made up for all the challenging turns along the way.
Maracas Bay is the first and the most popular of a handful of beaches located along this main road. As we pulled into a parking space facing the beach, I noticed the row of thatch-roofed food shacks over to the right. If I hadn’t seen the Richard’s sign on one of the larger shacks, the long line of patrons waiting to be served was a dead giveaway. Although the business still carries the Richard’s name, Richard’s son now runs the enterprise and was at the helm, coordinating his staff of six that operated like a well-oiled machine. I ordered two Bake and Sharks and watched as the steaming biscuits were sliced open and the Shark fillets inserted with what seemed like one fluid motion. I paid and headed over to the fixings table where I added condiments like ketchup and tartar sauce but I also tried some tamarind sauce and one called shado beni that I recently learned is the local name for cilantro. I must say, as I savored the taste, the Bake and Shark did not disappoint and lived up to every bit of its reputation and more. I have just a few more days left in Trinidad but I’ve already started planning a return visit to Maracas Bay and the best tasting sandwich I have ever had.