Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Trinidad Corn Soup


We are in full swing for the annual Carnival celebration which culminates in a two day explosion of colour and music as masqueraders take to the streets in sequins, feathers and glittered splendor.  It is indeed something to be experienced. Even if you can't be here, you can still have a taste of Carnival if you make this soup which is sold by street vendors at most carnival fêtes.

corn on cob

Until now I hadn't given much thought to the fact that this is actually a healthy, high fiber, vegetarian meal.  But who really has time to contemplate nutritional value when you are  in a pan yard  listening to the sweetest rhythm of steel drums and craving a cup of corn soup?  At 4:00 am,  tired and hungry after the party, you make a beeline past the guy grilling burgers, the jerk chicken , the fries, and head straight for the corn soup man. Get to the line late and you will find yourself nervously eying the ladle casting about the bottom of that deep silver pot, trying your inebriated best to figure out if you'll secure your Styrofoam cup of soup before the goodness runs out! If you are lucky and make it to the head of the line before the soup is finished, you will gratefully burn your tongue because you can't wait for it to cool off sufficiently before 'nyaming' it down.

bowl of corn soup

The fact that Trinidad corn Soup is vegetarian seems fitting for a festival whose name according to one source derives from the Latin carne vale which means farewell to meat. However the deprivation associated with diet food is never on my mind when I indulge in this meatless dish. For carnivores like myself, if there is a meal that can satisfy without meat - this is it.  Soup the West Indian way is a heavy and hearty. This one is thickened with split peas, chuck-full of potatoes, corn, carrots and dumplings. Trust me this fuels thousands of party goers until the wee hours - you won't run on empty after a bowl of this.

Corn on cob

A final note,  the corn used in this soup is not the American variety of sweet corn that comes in cans or the frozen food section. It is a variety that is starchy more than it is sweet. Also I recommend making this in a pressure cooker to cut down on cooking time. Please follow your manufacturer's instructions for cooking the split peas safely.

Trinidad Corn Soup
Serves 6


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 lb potato, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, diced
1/3 cup chives, chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh thyme, chopped
3/4 cup yellow split peas
2 pimento pepper (optional)
8 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 scotch bonnet pepper,  left whole
1/2 cup coconut milk
6 ears corn, cut into 2inch pieces
8 dumplings (or more) *omit if making it gluten free or swap out for any other root vegetable
1/4 cup culantro, chopped (substitute cilantro)
1 tsp salt
black pepper

In a large soup pot heat oil. Add the onions and garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the celery, thyme, chives and pimento peppers and culantro. Saute for one or two minutes .

Add the stock and the split peas to this herb mixture.  Add salt and black pepper to taste. Add the coconut milk if using. Pressure cook 10-15 mins or simmer in a covered pot  for about an hour until peas are soft. Use an immersion or ordinary blender and puree soup to a thick and creamy consistency and return to the pot.

Add corn and cook for about 20 mins. Add the potaotes and scotch bonnet pepper carrots and cook for 10 mins or until the potato is cooked.

WARNING! Keep an eye on that pepper. You do not want it to burst while cooking. You want to keep it whole to get the flavour of the pepper but NOT the heat. This is a seriously hot pepper so if it bursts your soup may very well be ruined unless of course you are a fire-eater.

Finally add the dumplings and cook until they float to the surface. If soup is too thick at any time, add water.

2 cups flour
1 tsp butter
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and rub the flour into mixture until it is grainy. Slowly add enough water to knead to a stff dough. Roll dough into a long rope shape. Cut into 2 inch lengths and drop into boiling soup.



  1. You know I am going to hunt down some hard corn to make this soup. A vegan dish just for me huh? Thanks! Just kidding. I didnt know that was a street food in Trinidad. I always see them with soup containers but I assumed it was a stew or something.Tell me what is culantro? Is it bigger and greener than the cilantro?
    Since when you are a carnivore are you a cat? You are an omnivore:)
    Those dumplings look too cute!

  2. Hi Wizzy! I really enjoyed your description of your Carinval celebration (and wish I were THERE!)

    I want to make this soup SOON!

    Thank you so much for sharing the recipe. It sounds delicious, and how can I resist with such gorgeous, colorful photos? They are beautiful.

    Have a happy celebration! I'll be thinking of you having fun.

  3. Oh cool! I wish I could be there to celebrate the carnival!! I totally forgot that that is going on...in Brazil, too. Gosh! How did I forget? Darn grad school and work distracting me from what's most important haha.

    Anyway, this soup looks fantastic; it is truly hearty as you said. YUM!

  4. Tay - Technically I suppose I am an omnivore but a grudging one. I used carnivore to convey just how much I love meat. I'm a meat mout girl:-)

    culantro is what we call 'shadow beni' you might know it as chardon bení. Whst is it called in Barbados?

    Yes this is the soup selling on the street but you would need to ask if the stock used is vegan? Some make it 'ital' some don't.

  5. Yum!! Your recipie is a bit different from my brothers - he incudes 2-3 fingers of ginger, but doesn't have the coconut milk. I shall try the combo next time I am making this!!! If I feel up to it -Maybe I'll make some this weekend!

  6. PS -my pressure cooker says specifically not to use with split peas -so you might want to include a CYA disclaimer

  7. Ah. I love all things corn. Our corn, not always the super sweet American one. :-) Delicious photos. I have always been a bit wary of buying corn soup on the road because of the possibility of meat additions, but good tip to ask for the ital version :-D

  8. Oh the colours.....pure sunshine to my soul, and the minus degress temperature in the Netherlands!

  9. No disrespect to the vegans....I'm putting some salt meat in there!

  10. Dee-the coconut milk is optional. I make it with or without. Depends on the brand cooker I guess. Mine has instructions for peas and beans but I edited to say follow your cookers instructions for safety.

    BTW - your mom was the one years ago who gave me her secret for corn soup. Remember when she would make a big pot for her Lion's Carnival lime? Never tried ginger before. Now look how you giving away your brother's secret. LOL

    Kitchen Butterfly - a little scotch bonnet pepper and this will warm you right up I promise

  11. What fun, I can imagine what carnival is like - lots of color flavors and sounds, whether the reality matches up to those visions I'll have to see for myself someday. This soup is perfect to me for carnival with the explosions of color in the bowl. What a wonderful filling and tasty looking dish you've provided.

  12. That soups sounds delicious! I didn't know anything about Trinidad cooking until I discovered culantro...which is an herb I now love! :)

  13. I have to say that just looking at the picture made me want to have some of this soup! Are you using a studio light?
    I have a hard time with split peas in my pressure cooker too. I generally burn the soup! They take on SO much liquid!
    Enjoy the Carnaval!

  14. That looks so satisfying and colourful.

    Oh, yum. I want a bowl now. x

  15. I agree with everyone. the colors make me happy. I am glad to find your blog!

  16. Oh this looks really good ...I like soups with corn. heck i like corn with anything..I tried a carribbean dhal pithee once,,,its on my blog form someones blog and It was pretty good. I think ill try this...i like the ingredients u used...they sound really delicious...m bookmarking this for sure...!! TQ

    btw ..i love the rhythms of those drums too!!!:)))

  17. Love this recipe of corn soup. Brilliant!

  18. oh, how i miss fresh corn. we froze oodles, but it's just not the same. 'tis a gorgeous soup, wizzy!

  19. I have photographs of a Trini corn soup I made last year, haven't decided when to post it yet... I LOVE yours though. I really like fresh corn.

  20. I love corn soup! This look fantastic. The Carnival sounds really interesting too.

  21. I love corn and corn soup and this looks wonderful. I'm sending this onto a friend too who I think would adore it! :D

  22. I love how delicious it looks and how healthy it is. The soup is such a pretty bright color too. Thanks for joining in Souper Sundays this week!