These tasty snacks arrived in the Caribbean islands by way of South America, where they use banana leaves as a wrapper. The leaves are available, frozen, in Asian markets. To soften them for use, thaw them out and pass them over a gas flame, or place them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them.
The shrimp taste better if you cook them with their shells on. Then you can serve them as an appetizer and have your guests peel the shrimp themselves. Alternatively, you can use peeled shrimp and serve them over white rice.
Here is my version of the classic hot sauce of Rodrigues Island. It is very thick, so feel free to thin with more water if you want. You’d think that this sauce might be sour, but it’s not–the sugar in the red chiles seems to temper it. Any fresh red chiles can be used, and you can adjust the heat level to your liking. The yield is high here, but the color is so beautiful that you should put the excess in decorative bottles as gifts for your friends. It will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. Serve it over fish or other seafood.
Here is a classic pique recipe from Puerto Rico. As usual, the longer the chiles steep, the hotter the sauce will be. It should be stored in a bottle with a sprinkler cap so the amount of sauce can be controlled as it is sprinkled over grilled fish, poultry, or even into salads. Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.
Here is the French Polynesian-style ceviche. Serve this to the guests while they are waiting for the pig to roast. This recipe only serves three people, so you’re going to be busy multiplying this by 10 or 20 after depleting your checkbook buying the fish.
Here is an unusual sauce that is almost a stew. In Puerto Rico, some cooks depend on only the bell peppers for Capsicum flavor; others add some rocotillo chiles, as I do if I can find them. Otherwise, I use a fourth the amount of habaneros. Serve this sauce over a rice or black bean dish.
From the Netherlands Antilles' island of Saba comes this simple, steeped hot sauce that graces seafood dishes or simple rice. Malt vinegar, made from malted barley, is the secret taste ingredient. Because of the vinegar, this sauce can be kept for a month or so in the refrigerator.
Brazil, the largest country in South America, was colonized by the Portuguese hence the spelling empadinhas or empadas. This Bahian-style empada filling can also be made with scallops or for a variation, used in puff pastry.