History Brings Chinese, Creole, and Indian Food to Hot Peppers' Menu
At Hot Peppers restaurant in Pembroke Pines, a pretty and super-friendly Asian woman -- full red lips, sleek black hair -- brought me a plate of Caribbean food: stewed bone-in chicken, macaroni pie, and lentils. Then a motherly black lady -- older, with warm brown eyes and an apron tied around her waist -- offered me fried rice and lo mein.
CandaceWest.com Chef's Badal's Pepper Shrimp at Hot Peppers in Pembroke Pines.
With the country all worked up about race relations as the Trayvon Martin case played out in the news, it was a little awkward for me -- a pasty-white, strawberry-blond Jewish New Yorker -- to ask about their ethnicity. Surely, I would sound ignorant, racist, or just dumb.
But June Ali could not have been more chill about it.
"I'm mixed with Spanish, French, Caribbean tribes, Indian, a little Negro, or black -- I don't know what they're calling it these days," said the older woman. "We are so mixed." Her family didn't keep track of which grandparents came from where or who married whom beyond a generation or two.
June; her husband, Badal (who identifies as Indian but grew up in Trinidad eating Chinese food); and their daughter Khadine (who technically is not Asian but Trinidadian) are a beautiful microcosm of the cultural mashup of Trinidad and Tobago. And their restaurant is a culinary reflection of it.
Here, amid the floral-pattern tables and royal-purple and bright-green walls, you'll find a mind-blowing array of savory international flavors, from Indian curries to slow-cooked Creole-style meats to shell-on shrimp in a tangy, spicy Chinese-style sauce. It's possible to eat dinner here every night of the week without ever getting bored.
Yet it's the two-island nation's sordid history that makes the food so awesome.