Not sure if it was the way I was dressed/looked or the washed-down accent I used in placing my order, but the doubles vendor inside West Bees supermarket in Diego Martin (Trinidad) took time from her busy lunchtime line of customers to warn me “son be careful eh, this rheel hot“. Pepper choka is one of the many SPICY condiments you’ll find at most street vendors throughout the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Scotch Bonnet (known locally as congo pepper) peppers, fire-roasted and made into a chunky sort of salsa.
WARNING! This is extremely hot.. but so GOOD! You’ll see me add some ingredients which takes the recipe away from being completely traditional. However, they were items fresh from my garden and I love changing things up a bit. If you click on Recipe Index above, you’ll find a more traditional recipe there.
4 scotch bonnet peppers
2 chocolate seven pot peppers (7 pod)
2 ghost peppers (bhut jolokia)
5 cloves garlic (1 tablespoon olive oil to grill)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small red onion
1 tablespoon parsley (chopped)
8-10 cherry tomatoes (optional)
Note: if you can get ‘green’ – mature but not ripe (red or yellow) scotch bonnets, you’ll find that the heat is a little less pronounced and the flavor is quite unique. I used a variety of hot peppers as I had them growing in my garden, but you’re free to use mainly scotch bonnets (habaneros work great as well) if that is all you can get access to.
Basically you want to flame roast these for maximum flavor, but you can also roast them off in your oven. If you do use the oven, be sure to open the windows in your home or you’ll choke with the scent of the roasted peppers. Place the garlic cloves in a piece of tin foil and drizzle with olive oil. Direct roast the peppers (I used my outdoor grill) and place the garlic cloves away from direct heat. Flip the peppers so they roast evenly on all sides. Takes between 4-6 minutes.
While my peppers roasted I harvested some cherry tomatoes and parsley from my garden. The tomatoes were SWEET, so I didn’t want to grill them (add a bit of sweetness and additional texture to the choka), but if you want you can use 2 large tomatoes and grill them as well.
In a heavy bowl place the salt and garlic and crush till smooth (I used a traditional ponger) but you can do this step in a mortar and pestle. Then go in with the peppers (minus the stems) and crush.. don’t make it smooth as you want some texture from this. Then top with the chopped tomatoes, parsley and thinly slice onion. If you have lemons, you can go in with a couple tablespoons for a much brighter flavor.
Heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil till it starts to smoke, then pour it over everything and mix well. This step is called chunkay!
This is wickedly HOT, but such a tasty and mothering condiment. I guess this could pass for being the English Caribbean version of salsa? Store in a container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Whenever you’re going to use some, heat it for about 20 seconds in the microwave to awaken the flavors.