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A fusion of Caribbean flavors will remind you of vacation

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Owners of the Caribbean restaurants in Mattapan estimate that about 60 percent of the clientele are from the Caribbean; the rest are mainly white and black Americans. Blue Hill Avenue in Boston's Mattapan and Dorchester neighborhoods is dotted with Caribbean restaurants and bakeries that serve almost every dish that one can find in Trinidad, Jamaica, or Haiti.

"I don't even know anyone from the Caribbean, and I am not sure which particular food comes from which island – I just like to switch up the food I generally eat and I enjoy roti and curried goat," said Nelson Thomas as he ate his roti lunch at Ali's and sipped a Jamaican cream soda.

Because of their out-of-the-way locations, many ethnic restaurants tend to remain unexplored by most city dwellers, except for those who live in the immediate neighborhood. But with millions of tourists making the trek southward in winter, even high-end Boston restaurants may feature Caribbean-influenced seafood. And in some North American cities, Caribbean food has already entered the mainstream diet.

The Caribbean food company GraceKennedy recently unveiled a new line of frozen foods, which will feature meals such as jerk chicken with rice and peas, jerk shrimp, and curried chicken. The new meals are being targeted at the burgeoning Caribbean populations in Toronto and surrounding areas. Ethnic frozen meals are one of the fastest-growing food categories, says Gary McFarlane, president of GraceKennedy Ontario, so "it is important our customers find the trusted Grace brand in their supermarket freezers," he says.

Not all Caribbean meals take all day to prepare. "Doubles" are a popular meal found on Trinidad and other islands. The name comes from the two pieces of fried dough used to make the spicy chickpea sandwich , which is often eaten for breakfast, or as a snack at other times during the day. A mainstay of the Caribbean diet is roti, which is normally considered a foundation food and comes in a variety of forms. Roti can properly be described as a thicker tortilla – it's treated like a burrito at times – that can be infused with potato or ground yellow lentils. Roti is usually filled with curried meat (goat or chicken) and vegetables and eaten like a sandwich, perhaps dipped into curry or stew sauces.

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