Colleen and I are both spicy food lovers, but my heat tolerance is a bit higher than hers, and I’m more likely to push that fine line between pleasure and pain with hotter peppers and spicier food than she is. I’ve spoken of this before, confessing to injuring her a time or two in the past when my spice limit was reached, and hers was definitely breached, like with the jerk chicken the time I did it on boneless thighs instead of drumsticks.
We recently had this problem again, when I merged an Emeril Lagasse recipe for Mango Salsa (with jerk pork tenderloins) with several other recipes I had found for habanero salsas to create a Mango Habanero Salsa. Really I just added two finely diced habaneros to his recipe, which had the best base I could find.
Habanero peppers are a fruit that must be handled with care. They are the hottest of the readily available peppers, at somewhere around 10-100 times hotter than jalapenos on the Scoville Scale. And that range (10-100+) leaves an awfully large margin for error!
The first time we did this recipe, we used store bought habaneros, and the salsa was perfect! Habaneros have a spice that seems to burn differently than jalapenos, one that heats up your whole head, rather than just scorching your tongue. And the taste of habaneros lends itself extremely well to fruity mango or pineapple flavors in a salsa or sauce.
We used it as an accompaniment to some grilled John Dory fish we’d gotten at the Torrance Farmer’s Market, and both agreed that it was an excellent complement to the meal.
The second time we did it (with some grilled tilapia fish tadcos), I used home grown habaneros in the recipe, and unfortunately, it was much closer to the 100X hotter level than the 10X level, and I nearly killed her. As an endorphin junky, I was able to eat it and enjoy it, but it was indeed very nearly at that pleasure/pain line. I actually ate the rest of it myself the next day with chips and loved it, but I am aware that I am an outlier on this sort of thing…
We’ve had similar problems with jalapenos, where you could eat some like an apple one week, and others picked up the next week at the same store nearly steamed our ears off. And there doesn’t appear to be any way you can tell at the store or in a farmer’s market, or when it is hanging on the vine in your backyard.
So if you are a pepperhead and a risk-taker, and like to live life on the edge, I highly recommend this recipe. The flavors are awesome, the colors are great, and the recipe is quite easy. But if you are easily injured by spicy foods, or have to please a diverse crowd of many different tastes and spice tolerances, the habanero version is one you should probably skip, because it may or may not be edible to the average person, and you really won’t know until you have already made it. You could still make the original Emeril version without habaneros, or you could cut it down to one habanero instead of two, but it is really your call, and I hereby wash my hands of any liability if you choose to make it (but you’re way cooler in my eyes if you do it my way).
- 1 Mango, peeled and diced
- ½ Cup diced red onion
- ½ Cup diced red pepper
- ¼ Cup green onions, finely chopped
- ¼ Cup mint leaves, “chiffonaded”
- 2 Habanero peppers, finely diced (cut to one or zero, if you are concerned)
- 1 Jalapeño, diced
- 1 Lime, zested and juiced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
- Let set at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
- Serve with adult libations and liability waivers, if necessary.