Don’t be fooled by the laid-back
attitudes found in many of the Caribbean’s sleepy beach towns -- it’s a competitive
place. From rum to cricket to carnival costumes, each country claims
superiority in a variety of areas.
Island-to-island rivalry for the Caribbean’s
best hot sauce is similarly heated, and the diversity of the condiment, often called
“pepper sauce”, ranges from a chutney-like mash to smooth, liquid fire,
depending on each island’s tastes and traditions.
But no matter what your temperature
threshold, this guide to the region's spicy goodness will keep you from getting
Like the Oaxaca region in Mexico or Italy’s
mortadella mecca Emilia Romagna, the islands of Trinidad and Tobago arguably hold
the Caribbean’s gastronomic grail. Culinary claims to fame include six consecutive
wins at the annual Taste
of the Caribbean cooking
competition, plus the islands are home to the indigenous
moruga scorpion pepper, named
the world’s hottest by New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper
Institute in 2012.
The islands’ vinegar-driven, mustard-spiked
pepper sauce -- made with incendiary local peppers like moruga red, bejeucal, West
Indies red and the superlative moruga scorpion – pairs perfectly with hearty
island specialties like bake and shark, a sandwich that serves up deep-fried
shark filets on a freshly baked round roll, or callaloo, a stew of leafy greens
and coconut milk. Commercial brand Matouk’s is available at grocery stores across the islands, but in general, locals’
home-bottled pepper sauces reign supreme. Some of Trinidad’s hottest home brews
can be found at the roving monthly culinary market UpMarket, or the weekly farmers’ markets in the Trinidadian towns of Port of
Spain and Rousillac.
St Kitts and Nevis, another top
Caribbean culinary destination, produces what might be the region’s best commercial
Greaux Hot Pepper Sauce. Only 2,500 bottles of the
addictive blend of local West Indian red peppers and curry leaves are produced each
year, so savvy shoppers often grab several at Nevis’s outdoor City Market, near
the ferry dock in the capital Charlestown, or at grocery stores
across both islands.
In Jamaica, hot sauces need little more
than garlic, vinegar and native scotch bonnet peppers to achieve their heady,
heated tang and vibrant red, orange or green hue. Look for the delicious fiery blends in everything
from mason jars to repurposed water bottles at the recently expanded Negril Farmer’s Market, now selling products from 35 nearby farms.
Pepper sauces in the British Virgin
Islands (BVI) are typically spiked with mustard, giving them a sharp bite and a
trademark yellow colour. And on Tortola, the largest island in the BVI, the best
can be found at the spice shop Sunny
Caribee in the capital city of Road Town. Erica’s, a commercial
brand sold at grocery stores throughout St Vincent and the Grenadines, gets its
red-orange tint and bright, citrusy flavour from locally grown habaneros. And on
St Croix, beloved brand Miss
Anna’s is sold in five varieties, from
Classic Caribbean to Garlic Habanero, in almost every island convenience store.
All Miss Anna’s bottles use West Indian curry leaves for a
A good rule of thumb on any island though,
is to buy local. Look for bespoke blends in old mayonnaise jars or, better
still, ones labelled as someone’s Auntie’s secret recipe. Rivalries aside, when
it comes to pepper sauce, everyone is family.