Central America and the Caribbean is home to probably the widest variety of peppers perhaps in the world. From jalapenos to serranos, habaneros to to scorpions, there is truly something for everybody if they like any extra kick to their taste buds.
Tasting hot sauces from this region can give you just about any kind of experience you want in their gourmet.
From Puerto Rican Pique sauce, which is all flavor and very little spice, to the Scorpion Sauces of Trinidad, made from a pepper so hot, it comes with an “at your own risk” warning label (and a crazed look from your server), you can go from having a relatively safe dinner, to one that is potentially dangerous to the heart.
Most sauces, as you will see, come from two countries: Belize and Costa Rica. Both relatively small countries, they have relatively low populations, and plenty of farmland in which to cultivate plenty of different peppers.
Countries like Cuba, that have plenty of land, have populations that are just not that into hot sauce, even though the Habanero pepper is named after its capital city. It really is the melting pot of diverse foods and spiciness throughout that this area, which makes it a really cool place to explore in a culinary way.
In order to make sense of the list I am about to present, I’ll give one flat explanation. Instead of going country by country as I did with South American hot sauces, I will instead go in terms of heat, starting with the mildest pepper first, and working my way up to the second hottest sauce in the entire world (even hotter than the ghost pepper sauces widely available in the US now).
The journey begins in Puerto Rico:
Don Ricardo Original Pique Sauce is the salsa of choice for Puerto Ricans. Made with crushed hot peppers, vinegar, and pineapple, this salsa is mild and adds a lot of flavor to any meat especially. The addition of fruit makes it light and gives it a Caribbean taste. A must-try.
Howler Monkey is a brand from Panama, but is popular all over Central America. Similar to hot sauces from Louisiana, but with more texture and less vinegar. Adds a nice kick to any dish without overpowering anything you make. They make several different types, the original is still my favorite.
Iguana is a very popular hot sauce from Costa Rica, and as shown here, they have four main flavors, varying a little in the hotness of each. The green salsa is the mildest, light-medium, and fuego is a solid medium. I recommend getting all four if you want to find the perfect match just for you.
Lizano Chile Salsa is the pride and joy of Nicaraguan hot sauce, and the heat truly steps up a bit with this one. Especially tasty on eggs, steak, and pork chops, it is also my favorite. It maintains its heat without losing any of the pepper's natural flavor. This sauce is also extremely affordable.
When it comes to Belize, they do NOT mess around with their hot sauce. This one, Marie Sharp's, is the most popular there and for the rest of the world that likes seemingly intolerably hot salsa. In small amounts, it actually tasted pretty good on starches like potatoes and rice.
Here it is, Scorpion Hot Sauce from Trinidad. At over 2,000,000 on the Scoville level (Jalapenos are about 100), these sauces are required to carry a warning on them that warns of potential heart problems. This is for the ultimate daredevil. I have not quite worked up the nerve.
Join me next time, where I share some of the hot sauces I’ve tried from West Africa.
#hotsauce #hot #salsa #foodtoppers #spicy #food