Condiments usually take a backseat to main dishes, but some extraordinary sauces and pickles supersede their second-fiddle mealtime status. They deserve the culinary spotlight, and For the Love of Condiments, a column that celebrates the world’s condiments, aims to deliver just that. (Tell us about your favorite condiment: email@example.com / @CitySpoonful.)
Those who bemoan woefully wimpy spicing in New York’s restaurants would do well to travel with a bottle of Matouk’s. These hot sauces from Trinidad and Tobago pack legitimate heat and uniquely West Indian flavors.
The Flambeau Sauce (first ingredient: pickled Scotch bonnet peppers) is the hottest of my chosen three. This is for hardened chili lovers who enjoy a pleasant burn that lingers on the tongue well after a meal. Aside from the Scotch bonnet peppers, there isn’t much flavor—this hot sauce is purely a source of added heat.
On the other end of the spectrum, Matouk’s Calypso Sauce offers far less heat and a tangy-sweet, mustard flavor. This sauce blends aged and pickled Scotch bonnet peppers with mustard, onion, garlic, spices, vinegar and cane sugar, and the result is more like an extra-spicy mustard than a hot sauce.
My favorite of the Matouk’s sauces, the West Indian Hot Sauce, holds the middle ground. It’s respectably hot but also delivers a distinctive, tangy flavor. The secret to its success: small chunks of unripe papaya blended with aged, pickled Scotch bonnet peppers, onion, garlic, mustard and spices.
I keep these three hot sauces in my refrigerator to spice up canned beans, eggs, bland takeout food, anything fried (samosas!) and even sandwiches. Apparently, my go-to Venezuelan arepas joint in Astoria, Arepas Café, had a similar idea—a bottle of Matouk’s West Indian Hot Sauce sits on every table.