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Pique (hot sauce)
While I was in Puerto Rico I was amazed at the different varieties of hot sauce available for the taking. Every restaurant, food vendor, and/or home we visited had their own style of hot sauce. Think Tabasco sauce is the end all says all hot sauce, then you’re in the wrong place. Are you the type of person that thinks hot sauce ruins food by taking away the taste of what you’re eating, again, you’re in the wrong place.
Hot sauce in Puerto Rico isn’t something that is traditional to every meal but it is something that is gaining a place as a staple in every day food conquests. With all the varieties available you can really get a taste of the island. Like I said, there are many varieties. I don’t think we went to a restaurant that had the same hot sauce as another restaurant, this is a little frustrating when you actually want to purchase some of the hot sauce. The response I would get over and over is, “there is a phone number on the bottle or e-mail and you can just call them.” I would ask, “do they carry this in the grocery store?”, and before I would finish that sentence I would get a grin and the word, “no”. It seemed to me that every restaurant would seek out their favorite pique in order to bring out the taste of their food and the harder to actually obtain the pique was the more likely you would come back to that restaurant to have their pique/food combinations.
I tried a few different kinds, BOHIO, Steven’s Cuisine Hot Sauce, Pique Criollo (jalapeno and lemon), one at Cafe Manolin that I forgot to take a picture of, another one at Cabuqui that wasn’t bottled (it might have been their own, and finally my own pique made from ingredients located in my parents backyard. Some are sweet, some are insanely spicy, some just work as a nice vinaigrette, and some will make you drink it straight (I’m looking at you Steven’s Cuisine).
Are there more? Oh, you bet your ass off. The brilliant part of this whole pique market is that you will probably never be able to taste them all. Your friend Carlos knows this guy that has his own pique mixture that is the best in Ponce, but he’s out of town right now so you won’t be able to taste it.
What makes each pique different? The ingredients of course! Some will use local ingredients, some won’t. Others will use preservatives, others don’t have easy access to or won’t even think about deviating from a family recipe passed down through generations. Cayenne, Recao, Aji Dulce, Red Pepper, Green Pepper, Black Pepper, Culantro, Cilantro, Lemon, Water, Vinegar, Paste, Sliced, Ground, Whole, left in the sun to get better, buried in the ground to get a little more kick, you name it…..it’s all a work in progress and if something gives you a little different taste then it’s all worth it. That’s what I love, there isn’t a Pique Police that is going around telling someone that their Pique doesn’t meet a certain standard set forth by some delirious foodie that doesn’t even know how to boil water. It’s all about the people, let the people decide what is good and what isn’t, and even if it isn’t good then you can just try a different kind out of the possibly thousands of different Piques.
Honestly, I could make an entire blog about the different varieties of piques and not even begin to scratch the surface. What’s the point of even talking about it? My point, go try it for yourself. Go to Puerto Rico. NOW!