We’ve all been there: you get that sudden craving for a particular dish that you just can’t ignore, and the only way to cope is to get off your butt and make for yourself the Trinidad tomatoes sauce (also known as tomato choka) you so desperately desire.
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That was my case, at least. It sounds super specific, and well, that’s because for me it is; I grew up with it and it’s considered a traditional dish in my family. But since most people probably haven’t heard of it, rest assured that it is something you will begin to crave after the first time. I’ve come up with my own recipe that is partially a look back to my past as well as an accessible introduction to the dish that is tomato choka.
In this post, I will show you my own special recipe for the tomato choka, how to properly prepare it and some interesting tips you should keep in mind when preparing it.
What is tomato choka?
To fully understand what tomato choka really is, you must first acquaint yourself with the term “choka”. It is less a food than a method of preparing food, and it most closely resembles a stew or sauce. Most commonly, it is a dish that consists of vegetables or dry fish that are usually roasted over an open fire to add a sort of distinct smoky flavor. Though grilling won’t produce the precise flavor for a real choka, it’s still a serviceable way to prepare it.
The origin of Choka is related to Indian cuisine. It’s actually a common dish consumed by the people in Bihar (a state in East India), making it a true representative of the multicultural cuisine of the Caribbean, heavily impacted as it has been by countries like Africa, China and especially India.
The vegetables which compose the base of the choka are usually heated by an open fire, then combined with seasonings like garlic, onions, cilantro and hot pepper. This mixture is then pureed.
It may also interest you to know that the seasonings for preparing this dish vary depending on the type of ingredients you are using and also the type of choka you intend to make. For instance, cilantro is used when preparing the tomato choka but sometimes it can be added to potato choka. Speaking of potato choka, let’s get into the different variations of choka.
Basically, there are six varieties of choka and they include the following:
The coconut choka is made with coconut and an infusion of onion, thyme and hot pepper sauce. It’s probably not as sweet as you might think! There’s also the aforementioned potato choka, which is made with a foundation of vegetables combined with green onions, cilantro and hot pepper sauce. Others include salt fish Choka, smoked herring choka, pumpkin and avocado choka.
You should be starting to form an idea of what tomato choka is supposed to be.
The tomato choka or the Trinidad tomato choka (since its origin is related to the beautiful country of Trinidad) is one of the most common varieties of choka. It consists of tomato roasted over heat (open flames, preferably) with the addition of garlic, onion and hot pepper like jalapenos or scotch bonnet peppers. The use of sweet onions is usually encouraged for this variety of choka.
As you can probably already tell, preparing it is pretty easy and it uses very few ingredients. I am sure that when you start cooking yours, you will realize how generous this combination of easiness and flavor is.
Fast and easy to prepare Tomato choka recipe
Tomato choka is very easy to prepare, but there are a few things you should pay attention to if you want the signature smoky flavor common in choka, which of course I will show you as we proceed. To prepare this tasty sauce you will need the following tomato choka ingredients:
- 4 medium to large tomatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- 3 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 small onion, peeled
- 2 hot pepper (remove seed)
- Freshly-chopped cilantro for garnishing
- Freshly-ground black pepper
Remove the stem and carefully wash the tomatoes with clean water in a medium bowl. Drain off the water with a clean towel.
Set your grill to about 350-400c and gently lower the tomatoes onto the grill. Allow to cook and flip occasionally so that they are evenly cooked. This is very important: handle with care so you don’t crush the tomato. You can also roast the pepper if you want. Cook for about 10-15 minutes until the skin of the tomato is wrinkled, then remove from the grill and let cool for a few minutes.
In a mortar add the rest of the ingredients (onion, garlic, and pepper), crush gently using a pestle and add a little salt while you are at it. The addition of salt helps with breaking things down.
Get the roasted tomatoes and peel off the burnt skin and carefully add them to the already-crushed mixture of onion, garlic and pepper. Further crush the mixture until a thick sauce is formed. Next up, add some nicely sliced onion to the surface of the mixture.
You are about to finish making the perfect tomato choka.
Finally, in a medium saucepan over high heat, add some olive oil and heat for a few minutes until almost smoky. Quickly remove from heat and pour over the tomato mixture and stir thoroughly so the sauce is properly mixed with the oil. Garnish with cilantro or serve with roti.
There are a lot of other different ways you can prepare this dish. As you will notice in my recipe I used the grill, but if you can’t, you can use a broiler to roast the tomato. Failing that, you can also roast them in the oven or better still in a frying pan. Some prefer to wrap the tomatoes in aluminum foil to bake the tomato in the oven; this method allows for easy removal of tomato skin.
There are also cases involving the use of a microwave.
Related article: What Are Mealy Tomatoes?
Use very ripe tomato as it will produce sweeter sauce for the choka. To get a more intense taste of pepper, you can grind the seed of whichever pepper you are using and roast the pepper alongside the tomato to give the sauce an all-around smoky flavor. You can also use the above method to prepare something like a tomato and garlic sauce but in this case, the garlic is roasted instead of the tomato.
How to eat the tomato choka
So, you successfully prepared a decent tomato choka, and the the following question popped into your mind:
What dish do I eat the tomato choka with?
There are a number of dishes that go perfectly well with the tomato choka. Some of them include the following:
- Roti, a type of flatbread, and chicken roti.
- Italian or French bread goes perfectly with tomato choka
- With rice and dhal (a spiced lentil soup)
You can have tomato choka as breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s such a versatile dish!
The tomato choka has always been a traditional dish in my family. The full, thick tomato sauce is one of the purest pleasures to be found on this planet. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to prepare this special kind of tomato sauce. Get on over to the grocery store; with the help of this recipe, you might have a new dish to add to your repertoire by the end of the day!