Our neighbour regularly leaves little ‘gifts’ from her garden at our gate; enormous juicy lemons, glossy avocados which are so perfect that they look as though they’ve been touched up for a photo shoot and the bizarre, but appropriately named custard apples.
The other day she brought something quite different; a little jar of orange salsa called mojo rojo.
Mojo rojo (a spicy sauce made from chillies) is one of two sauces that are invariably served with a popular local dish, papas arrugadas (literally wrinkled potatoes), in restaurants around Tenerife. The other is mojo verde which is quite similar to pesto.
“Do you like spicy sauces?” She asked, handing me the jar.
“Love em,” I replied.
“Well be careful with this one; it’s pretty piquant.”
“No problem, thanks,”
And not for the first time I should have taken note of the warning. The ‘be careful, this is very hot,’ ‘don’t worry, I’m used to hot food’ exchange has reared its head a number of times over the years:
On Jamaica in a restaurant called the Hungry Lion, ignoring the big red cross and warning on a bottle of ‘Hellfire Sauce’ I poured it over my red snapper like it was ketchup. The Rastafarian waiter, spotting this, ran to the table arms outstretched, but it was too late. Even gallons of Red Stripe couldn’t extinguish the flames in my mouth.
In Bangkok, my green curry was served with little pyramids of spices all around my plate.
“What do I do with this?” I asked the waitress.
“Mix it to your tastes,” she replied.
So I did. I mixed the whole lot together and spooned some into my mouth.
This time a whole gang of waitresses ran toward the table with the one who’d served me shouting “You’re not supposed to eat all of the spices.”
I think they had to bandage my tongue after that one.
On Krabi, an innocuous little dip with a silly name ‘nam prik’ was the culprit. A generous dollop on a stick of celery and somebody set off a nuclear device in my head, bringing on a bout of hiccups that had the other diners sniggering and which lasted so long that I was sure I’d get a mention in the Guinness Book of Records.
So when my neighbour passed me the jar of mojo rojo with a warning about its potency did it trigger alarm bells in my head? Did it buggery.
The sauce was delicious, savoury and perked up my plate of papas arrugadas no end, but it had a kick that could raise the dead from the grave; I don’t think I’ll be able to put anything else in my mouth for at least another week.