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August 21, 1999


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Tongue-Burners' Meet

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Mabel Fernandes

To anyone who thinks hot and spicy food is confined to South Asian homes and restaurants -- or to the goat curry and dal roti found in the homes of Caribbean immigrants -- we suggest you glance through the food sections of major American newspapers or read the bi-monthly magazine, Chile Pepper which reaches over 100,000 Americans who swear by spicy food.

"In the past two decades Americans have come to enjoy hot and spicy food not only from Indians and Koreans but also from Mexicans," says Dave DeVitt, former editor of Chile Pepper and an expert on chillies, who grows over a dozen south American varieties at his home in Albuquerque in New Mexico.

DeVitt is the author of a dozen books on spicy food which have sold nearly 100,000 copies.

"Our taste buds have changed so much that even many Chinese restaurants are offering dishes with generous amount of green chillies," he says.

Spicy food festivals are held in many cities in New Mexico and California, Texas and Louisiana during the summer.

This month, a Hot & Spicy Food Festival in Toronto will offer not only Indian delicacies but eclectic fare from more than 20 countries.

The event is scheduled from Friday, August 27 until Sunday, August 29 at York Quay Centre, 235 Queens Quay W.

The festival offers more than food. There will be a Creole Cabaret of drumming, comedy events, and storytelling to an unusual film series called Spicy Cinema.

Hundreds of sauces from the American South, and especially from New Orleans and Dallas will be offered for sale. There will be cooking demos, samples to taste and books and magazines to buy.

Oeter Lamburis, owner of the Etobicoke pepper emporium, defends a fiery reception when he displays a wide variety of salsas, hot sauces and smoke-dried chillies.

Spicy food aficionados Mary Lou Creechan and Kris Purdy, owners of Toronto caterers RRRico By Night, will demonstrate how to rehydrate dried and smoked chillies. They will also show how to roast fresh peppers.

Desmond Coelho has plans to hold a Goan outdoor picnic -- with the signature dishes including sorpotel.

Austin Emmanuel, chef at the Toronto spice landmark BamBoo, will cook up Caribbean goodies laced with chillllies. Check if he has Jerk Chicken or the pepper shrimp.

Admission to the festival is free, but be prepared to spend about $15 per person. And be prepared to buy a few hot items and take home.

For more info, call (416) 973-3000.

Salsa Goes Desi

Tired of using the standard Indian dips? Want to surprise your friends with salsas that are different from the ones they hhave tried? Here are a few recipes for making Indian version of salsas that are fast joining the favorite dips in America and Canada. One can understand why -- they are fresh, crunchy, brightly colored and have seasonal flavors. They can be used as dips, toppings, sauces and garnishes.

Many people, particularly Indians, shun the processed salsas -- and create their own versions. Instead of going for the traditional Indian dips, try the following extra hot, garlicky salsa dishes.

You can be very creative in using vegetables, fruits, herbs, and vinegar.

Corn, Tomato and Peach Salsa
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 ripe peaches, diced
2 ears corn, grilled or raw, kernels removed
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint or coriander leaves
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1/2 tsp New Orleans chile sauce
1 green chilly, finely minced
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 small piece fresh ginger, finely crushed
Salt to taste

In a bowl, combine tomatoes, peaches and corn and garlic, chile and ginger. Stir in mint or coriander leaves.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice with sugar, tabasco, olive oil and a bit of salt. Combine dressing with tomato mixture. Taste and re-season if necessary.

Makes about 3 cups.

Mango, Pineapple and Apple Salsa
2 mangoes, peeled, diced (discard pit)
2 cups diced fresh pineapple
2 cups diced apple
2 roasted red peppers, peeled, diced
1 green chilly, finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil (substitute coriander)
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp rice or plum vinegar
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp Thai or Vietnamese hot sweet sauce or 1/2 tsp. hot Asian chillie paste
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil or virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine mango with pineapple and apple, green chile, garlic and red peppers, basil and mint.

In a small bowl, whisk vinegar with lime juice, honey, hot sweet sauce or chile paste and oil. Combine with mango mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Makes about 3 cups.

Tomato Jalapeño Salsa

Chipotle chillies are smoked jalapeños sold in cans. They are very flavorsome, very hot. This salsa is used with fish dishes and as a topping on black bean soup, inside quesadillas and on grilled meats.
3 large tomatoes
2 jalapeño chillies, halved, seeded, diced
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or mint 2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives or basil
1 tsp puréed Chipotle chillies (optional)
3 tbsp balsamic or rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small piece of ginger, crushed
Salt to taste
2 tbsp olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes with chilies, coriander (or mint) and chives (or basil).

In a small bowl, combine Chipotles with vinegar, garlic, ginger, salt and olive oil. Toss with tomatoes and herbs. Taste; adjust seasoning if necessary.

Makes about 3 cups.

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