First, some background. Five years ago I spent five weeks in Panama. I contracted dengue fever, but that’s another story. While there, I was introduced to what became and has remained my absolutely favourite hot sauce:
I bought a case of it. What you see photographed here is my LAST BOTTLE. Needless to say, this is a tragedy. So, when I came across the Sweet Heat Challenge (this month’s challenge: a condiment!), it seemed like the perfect opportunity to stop feeling sorry for myself and rationing my Aji Chombo and instead try to duplicate it. Aji Chombo is pretty much Panama’s national condiment, particularly on the Atlantic side. It’s traditionally made with vinegar but I tried it with two kinds of vinegar and then lime juice, and felt the lime juice brought the sauce closer to how it should taste.
This hot sauce is bangin’. It is also SPICY – not for the faint of hot!
Four scotch bonnet peppers
2 jalapeno peppers
1 strong tasting sweet red pepper (don’t use red bell; a fresno or pimiento would be ideal)
1 medium yellow onion
about 3/4 cup water
½ teaspoon hot dry mustard, such as Colman’s
2 to 3 teaspoons salt (I used 3 teaspoons, because I think that as a condiment this should be salty)
Juice of ½ lime
Roast peppers and onion whole in their skins under your grill (broiler) until peppers are dark and onion has started to soften and release juice, turning peppers so they are browned on all sides, and turning onion once. The onion should take about 15-20 minutes longer than the peppers.
Carefully peel and deseed the peppers. If you are unused to handling hot peppers, do this with gloves on. Remove all the hard skin and tough ends from the onion and quarter. Combine these ingredients in a small saucepan and add just enough water to cover. Boil over medium-high heat until onion is fork tender (but not mushy), and most of the water has evaporated.
Remove from heat, allow to cool to room temperature, and then purée ingredients thoroughly using an immersion blender or mini food processor. Stir in salt, dry mustard, and lime juice, and purée until smooth. Serve as an accompaniment to everything, as I do, or with scrambled eggs, or with tostones (then you’ll really be channeling Panama).
Chilis are an excellent preservative. This should keep in your refrigerator for at least four weeks if not longer. Makes about 1 cup.