pulse, quickener.

I've mentioned these critters before, and there's a goldang good reason: they's spicy enough to blow y'damn brains out, son.

Pictured above, that's a bara, a fritter of black lentils originally from India, where it's normally served with yoghurt, cucumbers, and chutney (here's a suspicious-looking recipe); the large Indian population in Surinam, however, took it upon themselves to transform it into a blazing Caribbean heatslap by ditching the dairy and instead smearing it with a fiery fiery sambal made from local peppers, some of the hottest in the world.


These tropical chile cultivars can be tricky to identify, at least for me: strap on your botany helmets for a moment and let's see if I can maybe learn something.

In America you often see these "lantern-shaped" chiles referred to somewhat generically as habanero or Scotch Bonnet. In fact, most Caribbean cultures have their own cultivar/variant of the species Capsicum chinense, and many of them have slightly different physical features (in fact, habanero and Scotch Bonnet really don't look much like each other at all, here's Wikipedia's take on it): the relatively smooth-surfaced habanero originated in the Yucatan, the curvier Scotch Bonnet is from Jamaica, and the slightly skinnier Madame Jeanette is typically used in Haiti, Aruba, and Martinique. Surinam's version is called adjuma, or adjoema (same pronunciation). In Amsterdam we normally see Madame Jeanette or adjoema, which makes sense considering The Netherlands' relationship to Aruba and Suriname.

Hey, I know! Let's look at some photos, graciously provided by Gernot Katzer, whose Spice Pages provide much of the detail of this post. Remember that color isn't the best way to tell these apart, as the green, yellow, orange, and red varieties are sometimes just different stages of ripeness.



Scotch Bonnet:



But back to the back to the bara y'all. So, I continue to get my bara at my local toko because their salsa really couldn't be much better. I've tried the bara at Riaz, for example, and it was yeah OK, but I've really become accustomed to the ones from Toko Hangalampoe (click on the photo for a seriously graphic version):

By the way, this toko also sells THE HOTTEST hot sauce I've ever experienced in my life*. There's nothing that's even close in terms of apocalyptic heat level that still tastes like something. I'm pretty sure that that's because this sauce is nothing but roasted Madame Jeanettes and a little oil and vinegar.

And I love that it's completely the opposite of the macho-man marketing thing that happens to hot sauces in O-merica: it's not called Dave's Kick-Ass anything or any bullshit like that, there's no cartoon on the label to get your attention. It's a white label that says "Surinaamse Sambal X-Hot" in underlined, italicized Times New Roman. And it. is. not. kidding. Welcome to Scoville. BTW, this is not what they put on their baras, or you would catch fire. And die.

* This is no longer true. In 2011, I was staying at someone's apartment and I tasted a Bhut Jolokia hot sauce. It was a weapons-grade substance, not pleasurable in the least, simply painful, for 20 minutes or so.

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