Tomato Choka: The Caribbean Veggie Dish You Should Know

Tomato choka is known as a Caribbean dish, but it originates in India — in the state of Bihar, to be specific (via On the Gas). The dish was first brought to the former British colonies when Indian indentured laborers arrived in Trinidad and Tobago during the late 1800s (per Milwaukee Public Museum, Soaked in Soca), and the recipe has been enjoyed by the island nation ever since.

Although tomato is one of the most popular varieties of choka, it is not the only dish of its kind served in the Caribbean. On the Gas explains that there are six different types of choka: coconut, potato, salt fish, smoked herring, pumpkin, avocado, and tomato. Made from beautifully charred, fresh tomatoes that are mashed into a blend of aromatic herbs and seasonings, tomato choka visually resembles salsa — but it's typically served hot and carries a distinctly robust flavor (via Thrillist). However, to get a true understanding of what "choka" is, you must know that the name doesn't refer to the dish itself, but the unique way that it's prepared.

How tomato choka is made

Depending on the base ingredient, each type of choka is prepared using an infusion of different seasonings, herbs, and hot peppers (via On The Gas). However, one consistency across choka recipes is its signature smoky flavor because every variety was originally prepared by roasting the vegetables over an open flame. While this is still the preferred way to prepare it, there are certainly ways to recreate the charred taste in your tomato choka by using your grill.

Tomato choka is made using its own distinct blend of seasonings, herbs, and, of course, hot peppers. The dish begins with a mix of tomatoes, garlic, thyme, cilantro, sweet onions, and either jalapenos or scotch bonnet peppers (via Thrillist, On The Gas). Chef Anya Peters told Thrillist that preparing choka is as simple as charring tomatoes over an open fire or coals, smashing them into a blend of seasonings, and garnishing the mixture with a dash of acid and fresh cilantro. 

After prepping your tomatoes, place them on a hot grill them until their skin has wrinkled and charred. While they're roasting, grind the other ingredients together using a mortar and pestle. Then, peel and discard the tomato skins, add the flesh to the other ingredients, and crush everything into a thick stew consistency. Season with salt, pepper, and lime juice, and add some olive oil to a saucepan over high heat. When it's nearly smoking, pour it over the crushed tomatoes, mix, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

How to eat tomato choka

Tomato choka is a wonderful dish to serve during the summertime because it highlights the fruit in peak season and it's quick and easy to prepare on the grill (via Food Network). It's a guaranteed crowd pleaser among your friends and family, vegetarians and omnivores alike. The fresh summer flavors in this vibrant dish may also encourage you to preserve your summer tomatoes so you can enjoy this dish year round. 

Tomato choka is most commonly served with sada roti, a Trinidadian flatbread (via We Trini Food). Chef Anya Peters told Thrillist that she has also served it with shrimp or a cooked spinach dish called bhaji. Depending on what it's served with, tomato choka is suitable to enjoy at any meal time (via On The Gas). We Trini Food confirms that the satisfying dish is a popular breakfast food and often shares the plate with other varieties of choka for a well-rounded meal. 

Whatever you do, don't be afraid to pair it with your own combinations because, as Peters confirms, it goes well with just about everything.