You'll see signs saying "roti" for sale as soon as you step off the plane on the suncrenched island of Tobago, but don't let the aroma entice you. Hold your appetite until you taste Esme's roti.
Esme sells her chicken and beef roti from an umbrella-covered beach stand under an umbrellla-shaped flamboyant tree at Store Bay, one of the prettiest spots on Tobago, the tiny, fish-shaped island, one-sixteenth the size of its neighbor Trinidad.
Of course it's possible to get a hamburger and French fries in Tobago but it's much closer to the scene to have roti, and there's something special about those that Esme makes.
Roti, you see, is a warm, spicy curry mixture of beef or chicken with bits of potato, wrapped in an Indian crepe. Esme's price is very low, slightly more than a dollar, and one roti is almost too much for one person for lunch.
You can choose a large or small roti with its generous filling and the savory mixture of island spices that only Esme seems to be able to mix together in the right combinations.
Then pick up a cold fresh fruit drink at the thatched roofed gazebo next door , a little store called the Tobago Taxi Cooperative Society.
Take your lunch a few feet across the path to the beach where a tremendous tree reaches out over the wide steps stretch of sand and aquamarine ocean.
If you're fortunate and come on the right day, you might also have a chance to try some of Esme's Souse. Souse is a familiar dish around the Caribbean islands. Made of fresh pork hocks marinated in lime juice, it's seasoned with thyme, onion, hot peppers, cucumbers, and peppercorns, and it turns out to be delicious.
But one of the best buys is Esme's roti. Here is a recipe for making a curried crepe that will be very good, maybe close to Esme's but there will actually be little resemblance in flavor to those you get on Tobago. Curried Chicken Crepes 1 whole egg 1 cup water 1/4 cup instant nonfat milk solids, 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons fat 2 tablespoons onion, chopped 2 tablespoons celery, chopped 2 tablespoons flour 1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder 1 cup chicken bouillon 1 cup chicken, cooked and cubed Chopped peanuts for garnish
Beat egg with water. Add milk solids, flour, and salt. Beat until smooth. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Preheat a wellseasoned crepe pan and grease lightly. Have crepe batter as thick as heavy cream, in a pitcher. Holding the handle of the pan with one hand, pour about 2 tablespoons of batter into center of the heated pan. Tilt and turn pan rapidly to spread batter evenly over the bottom. Set directly over heat.
cook about half a minute, until surface is set and bottom dry enough to come away from the pan with ease, and browned to taste. Use your fingers, rather then a spatula, to turn crepe, being careful not to tear it. Cook on second side 15 to 20 seconds. Slide finished crepe from pan and stack on the flat, paperlined surface of a tray. Repeat, wiping the pan with a fat-saturated paper towel before cooking each one.
To make filling, melt fat, add onion and celery, cook over low heat 5 minutes , until vegetables are softened. Sprinkle with flour and curry powder, cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Gradually add chicken bouillon and cook, stirring, until sauce is thick and smooth. Add chicken, heat. Spoon curry mixture onto hot crepes, sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Fills 12 crepes.