Home / Smart Travel / Meet the maker behind Trinidadian pepper sauce

Smart Travel

Meet the maker behind Trinidadian pepper sauce

Many of Trinidad’s people have roots in India and Africa — little wonder, then, that this Caribbean island is the spiritual home of traditional pepper sauce. The matriarch of family-run Mudda ’n’ Law Foods, Veeda Gobin, tells us how she makes her hot condiment

Meet the maker behind Trinidadian pepper sauce
Veeda Gobin making traditional pepper sauce. Image: Rhema Baksha

Share this

Who is she?
Veeda Gobin presented cooking shows on Trinidadian TV before bottling her own range of sauces, named Mudda ’n’ Law after a condiment served at Indo-Trinidadian weddings. Raised by her grandparents (her grandfather came to the island from India in 1903, under the British West Indies’ indentured labour system), Veeda says she was “so tied to my grandmother’s apron I wanted to cook as soon as I could stand”.

Where is the sauce made?
In a warehouse in Cunupia, close to a mangrove swamp. Stacked on the shop floor are buckets of peeled garlic and chopped papaya, soaking in brine. In the kitchen, meanwhile, an industrial blender slices ingredients that end up in cast-iron pots on floor-mounted gas cookers.

How does she do it?
“A classic pepper sauce is chilli peppers, salt, garlic and vinegar, crushed and left to soak,” says Veeda. She gets through 680kg of freshly picked peppers each week (from farmers’ fields in nearby Macoya), marinating them for two weeks in salt water, sugar, mustard, vinegar, garlic and herbs, such as chadon beni (also known as culantro). “My chadon beni is delivered daily from the cool valleys of Rio Claro where it grows in cocoa fields, shaded beneath the plants,” says Veeda. After boiling the sauce in huge karahi pots — usually used to make curries — she pours it into a funnel-shaped machine and bottles it. “Pepper sauce is like a religion. It’s not something I had to learn; I saw it made every day, like making the bed.”

Traditional pepper sauce

Image: Rhema Baksh

What are the challenges?
Climate change is making Trinidad hotter and wetter. Downpours damage crops and cause flash flooding. “Peppers grow in soft soil,” Veeda explains. “When rain soaks the soil, not only does it beat the pepper off the tree, the farmer can’t reap it. His boots will sink and damage the roots.”

What’s the secret to great pepper sauce?
“The longer your peppers are preserved, the more flavour they pull. You don’t just want a taste of vinegar and a kick,” says Veeda. “The ripeness of a pepper is
also important.” She uses red, yellow and green habaneros, as well as Moruga scorpions. Cultivated in the eponymous district of southern Trinidad, the scorpion once held the Guinness World Record for the hottest chilli pepper. “It raises the heart rate,” Veeda says, holding out a teaspoon of her hottest sauce. At first it tastes sweet, but a few seconds later your tongue will be aflame. “It’s called scorpion because it has a slow crawl with a lingering sting.”

Where to try it

Mudda ̀n’Law sauces are stocked in supermarkets across Trinidad.

Trinidadian restaurant Roti Joupa has three London branches, serving authentic cuisine, including doubles (fried dough filled with curried chickpeas) and buss up shut (paratha) — with pepper sauce,
of course.

Spicy condiment specialist Hot-Headz sells a range of sauces from Trinidad, including several containing Moruga scorpion peppers.