By Fernando Franco
International pop star Beyoncé Knowles Carter made attention-grabbing headlines earlier this year when she released a new song that included the phrase “hot sauce in my bag swag” in her lyrics.
It simultaneously set the music world and Twitter on fire but here in the Caribbean, the concept didn’t seem that unusual.
That’s because pepper, and hot sauce, are integral parts of our culinary experience.
Both trained chefs and home-cooks use Scotch Bonnet and Chili peppers in the seasoning process and hot sauce is an expected table-topper in many local restaurants.
One resident told me soon after I arrived that, “pepper is eaten with everything in Trinidad – even on eggs at breakfast.” I quickly realized she wasn’t joking.
In a country that held the Guinness World Record for having the hottest pepper in the world for three years – the Trinidad Scorpion pepper – adding spicy heat to food for a greater explosion of flavor is the norm rather than the exception.
I’ve tasted several pepper sauces while working and living here and the flavors range from tangy to spicy and sweet, with varying degrees of acidity and heat. Store-bought varieties like Berties, Chief and Matouk are some of the local favorites but there is no denying that the best concoctions are home-made.
We developed our own hot sauce recipe at Hyatt Regency Trinidad for you to try at home.
You can use it in marinades for your meats or for basting ribs and chicken on the grill at your next family barbecue. For persons who prefer to manage their own heat index personally, the great news is it works well as an ‘add only what you can handle’ side condiment, too.
TRINI PEPPER SAUCE RECIPE:
20 Hot Peppers (Scotch Bonnet)
5 cloves Garlic
10 Pimento Peppers
6 Leaves of Shandon Beni
¼ Ripe Pineapple
2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Cups White Vinegar
2 Cups Warm Water
2 teaspoons Salt
Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until you get thick smooth consistency. Store in an airtight container and serve to taste.
Fernando Franco is executive chef at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad.