29 May 2012

Cooking with the Mamas: Pili-Pili Sauce

Johan has always been on a quest for the perfect hot-sauce. (A clichéd goal, perhaps...) Something powerful, yet neutral.  Good on everything, from breakfast to dessert.

He was a Sriracha man for awhile, but it didn't pack the punch that he wanted.  He tried various boutique brands with names including the adjectives "atomic" or "blow-your-brains-out." But, they have always fallen short.

This is what he says he looks for:
"In a hot sauce, I want a lot of heat and a bit of flavor.  Just a couple drops should be enough to wake up the dish -- I shouldn't have to use it like a sauce just to get the heat, and I can't abide too much vinegar or sweetness".
(Sorry, but,  "I can't abide"?!)

Until Mama Vida came along.

The first week we were here, we had a life-changing chicken dinner at Mama Colonel's.  These incredible vinegar half-chickens came with mayo and pili-pili sauce on the side, for dipping.  Johan loved the chicken, but was possessed by the pili-pili.

Later, he picked up a bottle of Nando's brand, Peri-Peri Sauce, hoping to recreate the magic at home.  He was incredibly disappointed.  Seeing the bottle in the refrigerator, Mama Vida casually mentioned that she could make a hot sauce...if we wanted to try it.

She arrived the next day with this bag of beauties:

And Johan's life has never been the same.

He puts this stuff on everything.  Mama Vida can barely churn it out fast enough.  We've already devised a plan for next week's massive pili-pili making extravaganza...so he will make it through the summer vacation.

Like most perfect things, this sauce is incredibly simple.  Here goes it:

Carefully stem and de-seed (how many seeds you leave in determines the sauce's final heat) a whole bunch of extremely hot peppers.  Mama Vida doesn't wear gloves, but I might suggest that you do.  The peppers that she uses to make pili-pili look an awful lot like Scotch Bonnets to me...so we're talking very hot.

Place peppers in blender/food processor.

Pop in a few cloves of garlic.

Add 1 onion, chopped.

Then, whirl.

 At this point, you can do one of two things:  

1.) Leave it be as a lovely puree.  Add water if needed.  Douse all your food in this loveliness.


2.) Cook the puree down, until the water is mostly gone.  Then, add a small amount of oil to achieve desired consistency.  This will make a longer-lasting, hotter, sauce.

Pack your sauce into a jar.  An old olive jar works just fine:

And prepare to be enlightened - or at least invigorated - at every meal.


  1. Will Johan let me taste the pili-pili?

  2. I recently ordered Indian American to go, and got the spice on the side (because it's so inconsistent there). Man, just one drop of that stuff is tongue-numbingly hot.

  3. My interests are piqued.

  4. Wonder who would win the hot-off: Mama Vida's pili-pili or John & Rama's spice (of the esteemed Indian American Restaurant)?

  5. I too am wondering about that hot-off. ! That's why I hope Johan will let me have a taste of his pili-pili. That stuff would have to be pretty good to win over Ramaschwori's tomato chutney. I mean, Mama Vida's pili-pili would have to be really very excellent.

  6. They look like Scotch bonnets... but what kind of peppers are they???

  7. Would want to know which variety of peppers are these. I have read numerous articles, but none mentions about the variety

  8. These peppers are common in the Congo's. And for me, the pilipili from Congo is the best to add to any dish. it is not (only) about the heat, it is about improving the taste of any dish! You can buy the prepared pilipili in Brussels, in the Congolese area "quartier Matongue" close to Porte de Namur.

  9. We need to add salt or not?

  10. You can use piri piri or cayenne peppers instead

  11. add a tiny bit of lemon juice or vinegar and salt before cooking it. This is how we eat it in Lubumbashi.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...