Attitude. That’s what makes mothers-in-law notoriously infamous: the acerbic tongue and that attitude. Though the comment is made mostly in jest, mums-in-law do have quite the reputation of being fiery with their daughters-in-law. Thus, as the cheeky moniker suggests, the Trinidadian condiment is aptly named for its spicy bite and acidic aftertaste.
When I first happened across the mother-in-law condiment, it was at an Indo-Trinidadian wedding. As local lore goes, the creation was first noted as a wedding condiment to cut the richness of Indian fare. Passed around in a small dish and a stainless steel spoon, the salsa/chow-like confetti of raw carrots, raw onions, super hot peppers, lime juice, chadon beni/bhandaniya and a variance of either caraille /bitter melon or moorai/daikon has become such a staple that no Indo-Trinidadian wedding would be the same without it.
Moreover, many local restaurants are adding the condiment to their line-ups, often drawing even more customers simply because of the audacious flavours involved. While no one has been able to discover who first gifted us this bodacious blend, New York chef and author Ramin Ganeshram, who is of Iranian and Trinidadian descent, included the condiment in her popular cookbook, Sweet Hands: Island Cooking From Trinidad and Tobago.
If you have never tried it before, tread carefully. It is meant to be hot! What’s amazing is the specificity of this seemingly random recipe. The daikon/moorai adds crunch and a mild cucumber flavour; the carrot adds sweetness; the addition of acid and salt creates a pickle; the hot pepper adds heat; the bhandaniya adds herbaceous appeal, and the caraille/bitter melon adds bitterness.
The complex flavours of the condiment go a long way in explaining why the thing has amassed a gloriously giddy following. As those in the epicurean know would say, it comes down to a balance of the basic flavours that complete a dish (sweet, salty, spicy, acidic and savoury).