Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Adventures in African Cooking: Liberian Pepper Sauce

I am writing this in withdrawal. It's been 5 days since I've allowed myself to eat hot peppers, the small bit off the end of a roasted hot pepper dipped in Thai sweet vinegar sauce last night notwithstanding. My stomach is feeling much better, thank you. I still deny any causation from the correlation hot pepper equals terminal belly pain, but my behavior has changed.

So, in my longing, I give you multiple variations on pepper sauce--that Liberian elixir that, when everything else in your meal is going very wrong, you can slather on in abundance and find comfort in the fact that yes, it is passably good and now you can eat it.

Here in Liberia, the predominant fresh peppers are Scotch bonnets with bird's eye around if you search a bit. For 100 L.D. (about $1.40) you can get about 3 cups of mostly green ones with some red thrown in. I like to sort out the slightly sweeter red ones, blitz them in the food processor and add vinegar, salt and sugar for an Asian-style pepper sauce.

There are as many variations on pepper sauce as there are people who love it too much. For example, my ladies in Robertsport boil the peppers first, then mash them, then fry them. The way I've written up here is easier and probably slightly hotter because you don't boil and drain the peppers. Do with them what you will, but don't blame me if you start to experience intense distress over liking something that causes so much pain...

Liberian hot pepper sauce

1 cup hot peppers, washed and dried, then sliced finely
2 cups onions, sliced
salt or a seasoning cube, if you're up for the MSG (and who here isn't?)
vegetable oil, about 1/4 cup (don't skimp. this will help preserve the pepper sauce and aid its sauce-like consistency)

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan or a frying pan, stirring over low to medium heat until everything is cooked and smelling nicely. You might want to open the windows, as the steam from the cooking peppers will make you and everyone in your kitchen and perhaps your building cough violently (don't forget that people have called anti-terrorism squads in response to fumes from brewing pepper sauce). When the acrid and inflammatory fumes disperse and start smelling sweet, the sauce is ready to taste to adjust the seasoning.

At this point, you can add a variety of ingredients: creamy peanut butter (a.k.a. ground pea butter), tomato paste (my favorite, creating a very spicy ketchup) or, if you're really brave, some mashed smoked fish.

Don't be shy to tell me what you think!

1 comment:

  1. I tasted this for the first time recently and it made everything I ate taste better. You've given me a starting point to recreate it and I could tell the one I tried had smoked fish in it so I'll definitely put some in. Thanks!

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