History of doubles
The origins of this food began in Trinidad by the Deen family, Emamool Deen (a.k.a. Mamudeen) and his wife Rasulan in 1936 in Fairfield Princes Town. The name 'doubles' originated in 1937. When Mamudeen started the business the products he sold were Fried Channa wrapped in cone-shaped packs. He diversified his product line soon after by adding Curried Channa with chutney. He then introduced a single Bara with the curried channa. His customers would ask him to "double-up" on the Bara hence the name "doubles" evolved and Deen's Doubles became the pioneering brand.
As the demand for Deen's Doubles increased, Mamudeen employed his two brothers-in-law, Asgar Ali and Choate Ali to sell Deen's Doubles in 1937.
The Ali brothers launched their own Ali's doubles brand in 1938. Asgar Ali chose San Fernando for his sales district and Naparima College in particular as his historical starting point.Choate Ali remained in Princes Town while Mamudeen expanded to San Juan and Port of Spain.
One of Mamudeen's sons, Shamaloo Deen, later sold Deen's Doubles in his restaurant "Deen's Diner" on Marion Street, St. Boniface, Winnipeg, Manitoba on the Canadian Prairies where most of the channa consumed in Trinidad is grown. On June 25, 2001, Shamaloo sold the Marion Street restaurant and the 'Deens Diner' name to Kenneth Mungal, a fellow Trinidadian, who continues to serve Doubles.
Some culinary historians plausibly assume that Doubles evolved from the Indian dish Chole Bhature (also called Chana Bhatura), which is a combination of Chole (Chana masala), spicy chick peas and the Bhature (Poori), a fried puffy bread made of maida flour which is used in the making of Indian pastries, bread and biscuits.
Chole Bhature is a dish served with onions and achar and commonly eaten in northern India. It is served with one large Bhature which is eaten like chapati to scoop up the Chole and not presented as a sandwich like Doubles. The taste difference between Chole Bhature and Doubles is distinctive as the bara is made from all-purpose flour and spices and Trinidadian curries and chutneys have evolved with their own unique taste characteristics.
Vendors sell doubles out of a box. Mamudeen, the pioneer of doubles was the first to build a wooden box, painted yellow, to fit his freight bicycle from which he sold Deen's doubles. When automobiles replaced the freight bicycles the box remained to preserve the original sales image for doubles. A few vendors fry their Baras in makeshift kitchens in the back of pickup trucks; the channa however, continues to be produced in their home-based kitchens.Doubles frequently sell in Trinidad.
The evolution of Deen’s Doubles
By Valdeen Shears-Neptune (T&T Guardian)
1932—Emamoul Deen, nickname “Hatty Hat,” works on an estate bathing cattle for 24 cents a day. He is a resident of Fairfield, Princess Town, and a father of twin boys, Cabil and Habil, and Hollis.
1933—He enters the food industry by frying channa, packaging it into small funnel-shaped wrapped packets for sale at Cinemas. The price then was one cent or a penny (two cents).
Realising that the channa business was more lucrative he left his job bathing cattle.
1934—He then decided to experiment and came up with seasoned boiled channa. He was now selling wet or dry channa.
1935—Experimenting led to him adding curry to boiled channa. He realised it was too soft to package and took the advice of friends to sell it with “bara”—a traditional Indian soft bake which was brought over by the indentured Indians and was called “patura.”
The first official pot of curried channa was turned by his wife Raheman (Rasulan) Deen.
1936—His two sisters married two Ali brothers—who are also into the doubles business. The Alis, claims Shamaloo, were students of his father.
1955—The business carried on for years until familial conflict led to him moving to San Juan, where seven stands were established. Deen’s Doubles soon became a household name.
By this time all nine children, particularly the four older sons, including Shamaloo, were all involved in the business.
1956—The business was then passed on to Jamaloo, the oldest son, after the death of his twin sons a year apart.
1975—Deensway International Ltd formed by Shamaloo in Canada in order to establish Deen’s Restaurant at 205 Marion Street, Winnipeg Canada.
1978—Shamaloo migrates to Canada to run the business full time. The establishment is featured in several magazines and newspapers, including EnRoute, the in-flight magazine on one of Canada’s airlines.
1979—Emamoul Deen dies. Shamaloo returns to T&T, makes suggestions to brother about maintaining standard after complaints from local customers.
Shamaloo takes over production in the kitchen for a while then returns to Canada. Years pass then oldest brother dies and the business is taken over by Shamaloo.
2001—Shamaloo establishes an NGO called Emamoul Deen’s Self-Help Society. The organisations is intended to encourage and support locals who wish to buy into the trade.
2004—The business now operates solely at Santa Cruz Old Road. It is manned by Shamaloo, his current wife and three stepsons.
Little doubles on the prairie
The red and white sign outside the family’s humble wood and concrete house in Santa Cruz boldly proclaims them pioneers in their field.
Deen, though, is not just into keeping the business alive locally.
In 1978 he migrated to Winnipeg, a city on Canada’s prairies, where he established Deen’s Restaurant at 205 Marion Street.
Part of his promotional gimmick when he first arrived, was convincing people that doubles was not only the most economical meal, but also it was more popular than a hamburger back in Trinidad.
His pitch worked. Eventually Deen’s was chosen by the Manitoba Restaurant Association to represent the Caribbean.
Like his father, Deen liked experimenting. It was there that the bite-size doubles was introduced. He recalled an article by a local newspaper, noting that the writer had likened his invention to the Canadian coin called a “loony,” which is about an inch in diameter.
He did not allow the criticism to deter him and went on promoting his father’s legacy, as well as the land of his birth.
Deen remembers his father as being one of the first persons to have recognised doubles-making as a viable trade for people who wanted to be self-sufficient but did not have much education.
His mother, too, believed in being independent, so much so that she refused to accept a Government pension.
“She said she had been self-sufficient all her life and didn’t think she deserved any entitlements from the State,” he recalled with pride.
Deen’s return has also seen the introduction of an average-size chicken roti for $5, served from 6 am.
Customers are greeted with a big smile and Deen’s competent services behind the traditional doubles box. The glass case to the right of the counter contains bags and napkins.
“We want to keep it as traditional as possible. My father sold from a box similar to this on his trusted bicycle for years before he set up his first stall,” he remembered.
Way past selling from a bicycle, Deen’s Canadian establishment — which has been franchised to partners who have committed to maintaining Deen’s standards — invites patrons to have a doubles with the choice of a cold Carib beer, mauby or even a red Solo.
Live music every Saturday, roti and some Canadian short-order dishes complete the package.
This is promised at the cost of no more than Can $25.
Doubles dynasty seeks new heirs
Fear that his family’s doubles dynasty may be dying has led to Shamaloo Deen giving up control over a thriving business in Winnipeg, Canada. He has returned, he said, to continue his father’s legacy.
Deen is the proud owner of Deen’s Doubles on the Santa Cruz Old Road, San Juan.
It’s a trade learned from his late father Emamoul, who, Deen claims, was the first person to have commercialised the traditional East Indian delicacy in T&T.
His father’s achievements may soon be forgotten as his family is slowly dwindling.
Of his nine siblings, only four are alive, none of whom is involved in the trade. Deen’s three children have also chosen different career paths.
Three years ago, recognising that he was the only one left still interested in the family business, Deen established a self-help society in his father’s name.
It has not proven to be as successful as he had hoped.
“We haven’t gotten the response we had hoped. This trade calls for people willing to commit at least five years to train and learn to maintain consistency, not only look at mass producing and capitalising on how much profit could be made,” he noted.
The intent of the society, he said, is to promote doubles-making, as well as assist people interested in buying into the trade.
“I am simply taking a page out of my father’s book. He believed in teaching others to help themselves. I also see it as an avenue to get young people into the idea of self-sufficiency and probably keep them away from idleness and crime,” said Deen.
He recalled that his father encouraged a close friend to learn the trade. His father, he said went on to teach his friend, Raymond, to make doubles, so he too could take care of his own family.
His father’s pioneering spirit, he said, resulted in the setting up of seven doubles stands in the San Juan area, making Deen’s Doubles a household name.
When the business was first established in Princess Town back in the early 1930s, Emamoul encouraged the involvement of his first-born sons, twins Habil and Cabil.
However, they died a year apart in their early 20s, leaving Deen’s older brother, Jamaloo, to take charge.
“Once you could wrap a doubles you were employable, so to speak,” Deen said.
Several years later, Jamaloo, too, passed away.
Now Deen’s staff is down to his common-law wife, three stepsons and himself.
“If it eventually means training complete strangers, people who are willing to uphold the family’s standards of making and selling our product, then I am all for it,” promised Deen.