Double or Nothing

Unfortunately, on my winter visits, none of Singh's homemade ice creams were available. When it gets warmer, look for flavors like coconut, mango, or soursop (a creamy fruit that looks a bit like an artichoke). In the meantime you'll have to content yourself with soursop soda ($1.50).

Sadly, the Cedar Avenue incarnation of Singh's doesn't have a beer license or a vestibule; recent visits left me, paradoxically, freezing in my coat from the comings and goings of people arriving for takeout and wishing I had a beer to quell the fire of Singh's famed hot sauce. (If you're getting takeout, make sure Singh doesn't think you're a snooping chef--I must have seemed too snoopy and suspicious once, and got takeout that was so hot it was inedible.) The story with hot sauce, for those who aren't devious spies, is that Singh asks what level of spiciness you're up for, tempers that with a bit of impromptu psychological evaluation, and keeps the seasonings a tad below what he figures you can handle. A little cup of his homemade hot sauce is then served alongside the food so you may jazz things up yourself.

With all my talking and eating, I never did find out exactly what doubles were, so I turned to Callaloo, Calypso & Carnival, a 1993 book on life in Trinidad and Tobago, from which I learned that they are "both double-sized drinks and doubled-up snacks" like a sandwich of channa (a chickpea spread) and hot sauce on fry bread made from a mixture of pea and wheat flour. The book paints Carnival as a combination of party, heaven, and stage musical during which the island becomes revelry incarnate and costumes, dancing, and partying are the very air. According to Callaloo, Calypso & Carnival, Tambu, a contemporary soca (soul and calypso) singer gives the following carnival advice: "Whenever you lose your energy/We have a good remedy...To put back what you lost/Try a beef roti or a glass of seamoss/Then it is back to party!"

Kristine Heykants

I'm not sure that I'll be ringing in Carnival 2000 in Trinidad with Harry Singh, but at least I know where to get my beef roti for 1999: After all, this Sunday the 14th is Dimanche Gras (Fat Sunday), Monday the 15th is Jour Ouvert (Carnival Monday), and Tuesday the 16th is Mardi Gras.

 

TABLEHOPPING

ROTI A GO-GO: In other roti news, The Roti Shop--open for the past eight months on the corner of Bloomington Avenue and 38th Street--can provide you with some interesting comparison shopping. The Guyanese roti here ($1.79 each) are vastly different from Harry Singh's, so oily they're translucent, and so full of those ground yellow peas they're a pretty cornmeal color. I'm a little ambivalent about whether this is a good place to eat, though it certainly is an interesting one. The curried chicken ($4.99) is probably the best dish; it consists of hacked chicken pieces served in a cereal-sized bowl with a ladleful of thin, very flavorful spicy broth and a big plate of rice. Other dishes I tried, like the stewed beef and rice ($5.50) were tough and not particularly appetizing, and the deep-fried mashed-potato balls ($1.20) are definitely to be avoided.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the restaurant is that it's connected, through an interior doorway, to Amand's Exotic Food Market. This little store, obscured from the street by a bunch of bleached South American pop-star posters, is a real find, featuring more than a dozen pan-American hot sauces (most priced around $2), exotic soda pop (champagne flavor!), and all the hard-to-find root vegetables (taro, cassava, true yams) you need to tackle your South American cooking projects. The Roti Shop is located at 3765 Bloomington Ave. S. in Minneapolis; (612) 721-0264. Amand's Exotic Food Market is at 3759 Bloomington Ave. S., Minneapolis; (612) 724-8696.

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