The second you step inside the door of Hot on D Spot Roti Shop you’re transported from Hamilton, New Jersey to Trinidad’s white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and a warm, tempered sun.
The mouthwatering sound of hot oil frying home-made roti dough and sizzling chicken is immediately audible. Beef and shrimp being tossed together into vats of hot peppers, chickpeas, potatoes, pumpkin and spinach – all prepared in mere minutes after ordering.
Relax and wait comfortably watching a cricket match on the screen above a large Trinidad flag.
The taste of cold, sweet mango juice lingers on your lips as you eagerly await the man who brings you your food from behind the counter, a confident smile dances across his face because he knows the second you take a bite, you’ll be coming back for more.
Alwas in the pursuit of odd flavors and spices, Hot on D Spot is a wonderful tropical destination for local foodies. Located at 1469 Nottingham Way in a strip mall, the restaurant blends the flavors of India and Africa in handcrafted and authentic Trinidadian cuisine.
Here, the food tells the story of its journey from across the seas to your plate.
The owner and manager, Ramesh Hayban, or Roy, as he is known to his customers, was born in Trinidad. He grew up eating the homemade food he serves today. His ancestry can be traced back to India, and Roy infuses Indian flavors into traditional Trinidadian cuisine.
“In Trinidad we have no dairy, so what we use in here comes from that,” he says.
Afer a bite of Aloo pie he says “We use the Roti and Dhal Puri and put some meat maybe. Many of us are even vegetarian or vegan, so we make food for the people who are too.”
The restaurant offers a diverse selection of both meat and vegetarian dishes. Hot on D Spot only uses vegetable oil in their cuisine. Most of the food is comprised of a Roti, a type of flatbread made of ground yellow split peas; a staple in many Trinidadian diets.
The bread can be made several different ways: fried, tossed or patched, the latter of which involves a turning process to create a savory layer in between the sides of a Roti where some loose patches of whole-wheat flour remain after cooking.
Roy serves your filling of choice over the roti. A curried blend of meats and vegetables is a popular choice. The most popular choice is Channa; the blend used in other foods like Aloo Pie or Doubles. Channa is a chickpea-derived curry made for the sole purpose of entertaining the palate.
A sprinkle of hot sauce containing the legendary Scorpion pepper, the hottest pepper on the planet, crowns the entree. According to Roy, the pepper is so hot he only needs one per gallon of hot sauce, and even then he only applies it sparingly.
“Most of the ingredients I buy from Brooklyn and Queens because of the great Trinidad population there,” Roy said. He will pile on more of Scorpion pepper hot sauce and offer you to try some if you’re feeling daring.
“I can get all the fresh foods I need there and bring them back here for you and my other customers,” Roy said.
The preparation process for creating such authentic cuisine doesn’t come easy, though. “It usually takes us about 2-3 hours to make a batch of roti,” said Seeta Hayban, Roy’s wife. Seeta works everyday in the restaurant, preparing and compiling the homemade cuisine.
“Where I come from, after school, women come back home and help their mothers make food for the rest of the family. It is not easy. It takes time and practice to do well,” Seeta said. “Usually, my mother would expect me to be able to cook something perfectly after only three times of practice. My mother loved to cook for festivities, and I always by her side to help.”
For the patrons it is worth every second. The combination of homemade roti, curry and spices tossed in lightly with precision creates an authentic Trinidadian dish you won’t soon forget.