Peanuts and popcorn are so overrated when you’ve been exposed to West Indian dry snacks. These snacks are mostly crunchy, sometimes spicy, and almost always delicious. I’ve dubbed these snacks “West Indian beer nuts” as they are synonymous with uncles sitting around and knocking back beers, looking for something to snack on as they impatiently wait for dinner.
I can remember my Dad putting out these snacks in anticipation of guests coming over for gatherings, big or small. But on a Saturday afternoon, when he’s watching baseball, I would always catch him munching away on his favourite dry snack, almost always to distract him from the anxiety of a close game.
But you don’t have to be an uncle to get your hands on these eats. With all the sports action happening in Toronto, these snacks are a perfect addition to your pre-game party. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try out some easily accessible Caribbean beers I found at the local liquor store.
The packaging reads “crunchy dhal sticks” but I’ve grown up with them being called salsao (saul-say-o). ‘Dhal’ is a reference to the lentils that make up the snack. The lentils are seasoned with pepper to give them a little kick, molded into sticks, and then fried for a hard, crunchy texture. Even after being fried you can still see remnants of the pepper flakes.
This snack pairs well with lagers or pale ales, to compliment the mild spice. I chose one of the most iconic Caribbean lagers called Carib. As their website puts it “Carib has been a bona fide thirst-quencher and a symbol for everything quintessentially Caribbean.” With that kind of reputation, this is definitely a fail-safe beer for any kind of crowd.
Crunchy channa (chickpeas) is the best. It’s so easy to keep popping back chickpea after chickpea, to the point where you might forget about dinner. The chickpeas are lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, and then fried to become hard and crunchy. Depending on the brand, the crunchy channa is either sold completely plain (just seasoned with salt) or extremely spicy. So be sure the read the label!
Again, a lager pairs well with this snack. Flaunted as ‘Jamaican pride in a bottle,’ Red Stripe is another iconic Caribbean beer. In the photo below I just bought a tall can, but if you buy a six-pack they come in cool glass bottles. This easy-going beer is guaranteed to compliment any pre-game fun.
As my all-time favourite West Indian dried snack, I’ve thoroughly covered plantain chips in two previous posts (what they’re about and how to make them). These addictively salty banana chips can definitely be swapped in for boring old potato chips. This snack is a game changer.
Slightly sweet, these chips pair well with the bold flavours in ginger beer. I chose ginger beer because it is an amazing non-alcoholic option for any members within your crew who want a drink just as bold as they are, without the alcohol. It is also extremely accessible and can be found in most grocery and convenient stores. I’ve also included an alcoholic ginger beer from the UK called Crabbie’s that a lovely staff member from the liquor store recommended to me. It is spot on to the Caribbean stuff – surprisingly refreshing and the alcohol is barely noticeable. Although both drinks pack a punch, they are definitely more on the adventurous side if you are looking for a new thirst quencher.
Tunnock’s Caramel Bars
Sometimes you need a sweet break between the salty snacks. Tunnock’s Caramel Bars are definitely coveted in the West Indies, as a Scottish company originally creates them. They are chewy and delicious. With “5 layers of wafer, 4 layers of caramel, and a coat of real milk chocolate,” I can see why most West Indians have adopted this sweet treat as their candy bar of choice.
In the photo I’ve paired the candy bar with a stout all the way from Jamaica. Its malty but slightly sweet coffee taste nicely pairs with the chocolate. It is not as heavy or malty has most traditional stouts. However it is light on the palette and easy to drink, which makes it a great choice for people who aren’t crazy about stouts but are willing to give this lighter version a try.
Made the same way as the crunchy channa above, split channa is the perfect for those who feel that the whole chickpea is too hard and large to enjoy between bites. The chickpea is simply split into two and then fried, resulting in smaller, crunchier bits. Just a fair warning – split channa is just as equally addictive as crunchy channa.
You don’t need Caribbean beers to enjoy Caribbean snacks! Grab any of these snacks from your local Caribbean supplier (or from a really awesome Caribbean friend), and crack open your favourite cold one (alcoholic or not) – and always rep your favourite team!