Homesick Guyanese head to Sheiks Bakery & Café in Pembroke Pines for a fix of roti and cook-up, a one-pot meal of rice and beans with salt fish or chicken. Soft island music plays in the background, and food is served steam-table style. Roti are made to order, and other breads are baked fresh throughout the day. Folks from other Caribbean countries also gather in the cheery spot with golden walls and a glass case filled with cakes, pastries, fudge and bags of savory “chicken feet” snack twigs.
Owner Najibe “Bibi” Baksh opened Sheiks a few years ago after her two oldest children were off in college (her youngest will finish high school this year). Twenty-eight years ago, she came from rural Guyana to South Florida, where she met her husband, Allen, who hails from the Guyanese capital of Georgetown. He does the books for the eatery named for his father, who had a bakery back home.
Guyanese cuisine has more in common with the Caribbean than South America, reflecting its diverse mix of people and colonial past. African, East Indian, Chinese and European (mostly British, French, and Portuguese) influences are evident. Bibi’s great grandparents came from India, so the menu has tandoori chicken, goat curry and roasted mashed eggplant. On weekends there’s lamb biryani and shrimp curry as well as pepper pot seasoned with cassareep (cassava molasses), bakes (fried bread dough) and salt fish.
Start with phulouri fritters made from yellow split pea flour or fried potato balls with tamarind sauce. Butter flap is soft bread folded in half over a mixture of butter and cheese. Tennis rolls are flavored with lemon oil, and plat is braided bread. Roti “skin” is just the flat bread. Roti wraps can be had with any number of fillings from mashed pumpkin to beef curry. There are also egg rolls, fried rice and chow mein noodles. Satisfy a sweet tooth with salara cake (coconut jelly roll), pineapple tart or cassava pone.