Antilles Spices Bonda manjak MartiniqueAntilles Spices Bonda manjak Martinique
©Antilles Spices Bonda manjak Martinique|MDES

West Indian Peppers

A bit of spice!

This small fruit, of various shapes and colors, is a member of the Solenaceae family but has important differences from its cousin the bell pepper.

Two more widespread species are found in the West Indies: Bondamanjak pepper and vegetarian pepper. Its color varies depending on the degree of ripening and the species: red of course but also green, orange, yellow, brown and even purple! It is common to find several colors on the same pepper plant. Elongated, narrow, rounded, chubby, lampion or ribbed, the chili pepper has more than one trick up its sleeve… The chili pepper plant, a shrub of 40cm to 1m20, is ubiquitous in the Creole garden.

The Bondamanjak pepper.

Whether you call it Caribbean, Bondamanjak, Lampion, Habanero or Jamaican hot it’s one of hundreds of varieties and one of the hottest on the Scoville scale that runs from 0 to 10. It gets the highest score hands down: 10! The strength of the chile comes from the concentration of capsaicin that gives it its flavor strength, an oily chemical found in the flat, whitish, rounded seeds and the veins or ribs, which have a much stronger pungent flavor than the fruit’s flesh. The name capsicum comes from the Greek kapso meaning “to bite”, a name of circumstance as it is true that the bite of a chili pepper can be formidable…

Present on all Caribbean tables, it is customary to present it on a saucer so that everyone can dab their dishes with the tip of the fork. An ingredient in simmered meats or fish, it also flavors the famous sauce chien which it enhances with its fruity and fiery flavor. It is prudent to leave the chili whole, taste from time to time and remove it once the dish seems sufficiently spicy…

The sweet or vegetarian pepper.

Although they are part of the same family, the West Indian “sweet pepper” shares only the color (green, red, orange) with the explosive bondamanjak.

Related to the bell pepper, which is a variety of it, native to Latin America, this highly sought-after little pepper is highly fragrant and tastybut doesn’t bite. Raw or cooked, it accompanies traditional Creole dishes.

More surprisingly, its typicality works wonders in the sweet pepper since it is now found in sorbet, candied fruit, jelly or jam…

Use and advice

The chili pepper is not only pungent, and as long as it is prepared carefully, it reveals very fragrant flavors and a truly characteristic taste that can spice up almost every dish of the Creole meal. The less daring will be satisfied with the vegetarian chili whose subtle flavor perfumes the kitchen without setting it on fire. For the others, they may eventually not be able to do without it!”

Some cautions for handling and preparing Bondamanjak: during any culinary use, it is best to wash the peppers under cold water, if possible with gloves because capsaicin can cause burns and irritation. Beware of the eyes if you get the idea to rub them after peeling a chili pepper! Likewise the knife blade should be washed and rinsed with detergent at length. The spiciness is stubborn… Depending on the recipe, you can simply split it, cut it into pieces, into strips. The important thing is to remove the stalk, the small seeds and the inner white veins.

To put out the fire…

If despite all your precautions you have consumed a chili pepper too strong, avoid drinking water which only fuels the fire! The best solution is sugar, crunch a banana for example…

You can find fresh chili at any market, grocery store, and medium and large retailer. You can even freeze it without a problem. Local brands market preparations in jars made from chilies ready to use or you can make your own jar of candied chilies. Note that the vegetarian chili pepper also invites itself in delicacies, in ice cream, chocolates and even fruit pastes !

Vinegar Candied Peppers

For one jar:

  • 250g West Indian peppers
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 2 country onions (cives)
  • white wine vinegar
  • oil
  • grain of India wood (allspice)
  • grain of black pepper
  • salt

Wash chiles (under cold water, if possible with gloves!). Split the peppers, remove the seeds, and remove the veins. Cut them into strips or 4 according to your preference.

Peel and cut the carrots into thick rounds. Dice the onion. Peel the country onions and cut them into small sections (do not keep the green part).

In a jar, arrange alternately chilies, carrots, aromatics and salt as you go. Stir in a few peppercorns and India wood from time to time.

Do not fill the jar completely: pour in the vinegar to cover the peppers and then a 2 to 3 cm layer of oil. Close tightly.

Let marinate for a few days and serve as a condiment.