I can proudly say that since moving back to Mexico my heat tolerance has grown. I think living in Europe, and the lack of fresh spicy chiles there, suppressed my tolerance from growing — for a while it seemed that a Jalapeño was as hot as I could go. Our last year, or so, in Prague fresh Scotch Bonnet and Habaneros were starting to show up, and you bet I was buying them not only for heat but so I could bring a bit of México onto my table and heart.
Before leaving Europe I could tolerate Habaneros as long as they were combined with other ingredients so that it wasn’t all burn. At the beginning all I could taste was HOT heat! My chile-head husband would try to explain to me about the fruity scent and taste that Habaneros have. I would just shake my head and tell him that he’s crazy because I couldn’t taste or smell any of that. But then something magical happened to my tastebuds: Not too long after arriving in Playa I started to be able to taste the fruity notes in Habaneros. (I can now also taste different flavours on these super hot chiles.) Fast-forward 6 months later and now I find myself fighting hubby for the freshly chopped habaneros to mix into my ceviche. Hubby just laughs at me and looks on proudly. I have to admit that I’m pretty proud of myself too; Yes, it’s a bit silly but still.
Now just because I fight him for those habaneros, that doesn’t mean my mouth isn’t burning or that I can eat them everyday. Some days I stick to milder chiles and it is my husband who is asking waiters for the hottest salsa they have available — not the ones they put out for the tourists with warning of their heat, those are like eating candy to him. What can I say, my güerito is crazy!
With plans of grilled shrimp tacos for dinner I wanted an extra special salsa that would turn the meal into a spicy plate of awesomeness. This charred Habanero-garlic salsa is what I came up with. Be warned this is a really spicy salsa! But it’s not just heat that you’ll taste, there are garlic, citrusy and fresh cilantro notes in every bite. It works perfect on top of grilled shrimp tacos but it also pairs well with any grilled meat or veggie of your choice. And here’s how easy it is to prepare…
Charred Habanero-Garlic and Cilantro Salsa
- 6 Habanero peppers colour of choice
- 4 garlic cloves peeled
- 4 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or oil of choice
- large pinch of fine sea salt
- 1 large handful of fresh cilantro finely chopped (cut off thicker stem ends but do leave some of the stems)
- Heat the comal (griddle or thick frying pan) until hot. Place the peeled garlic and whole habaneros onto it and allow to charr until everything is soft. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. While the peppers and garlic are cooling off: mix the lime juice, olive oil and salt in a large bowl. Next finely chop the garlic cloves and add to the bowl. Cut off the stems from the Habaneros and if desired remove the seeds. (Seed removal will yield a milder salsa) Finely chop the charred chiles and mix them into the bowl. Lastly add the finely chopped cilantro and stir until well combined. Taste and adjust anything if necessary. (If you own a Mexican mortar and pestle you could also make the salsa in it.)
• This salsa is excellent as a taco topping, for topping chips and on top of grilled meats, fish and/or vegetables.
• The recipe may easily be doubled if desired.
You know how I mentioned my chile-head husband? Well, when I make salsas at home I always feel that they won’t be spicy enough for him. And the truth is that most of the times they are not. However, I can report that this SUPER spicy salsa was to his liking — he loved it! I loved the taste too but my mouth was having a difficult time with it. The salsa was even spicier than I had imagined. After about 2 bites (I piled it on my tacos) my mouth was on fire, my nose started running and my eyes began watering. But did I stop eating it? Nope, I fought through it and ate my servings. Next time I think I’ll use less in each taco. I can’t wait to make this salsa again and hope you too will give it a taste. Enjoy and have a beautiful Sunday!