At the moment, there’s only one place where people greet me by name. It’s not my apartment, nor the bodega below my apartment (despite the time I’ve invested there), and it’s not the laundromat down the street where someone recently explained to me how bleach works.
The place I’m referring to is Bahia, a Salvadoran restaurant located in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. Even before the pandemic - when I was working as a restaurant critic - I’d eat there frequently. Now, I show up (masked) for takeout two or three times a week.
Bahia serves some wonderful pupusas, casamiento, and chicharron de pollo. I wanted to point this out because it might sound like an insult when I say that my favorite thing at Bahia isn’t something they personally make. It’s a hot sauce called D’Elidas. Ask politely, and they’ll sell you a bottle too.
D’Elidas is a mustard-based Panamanian condiment with notes of toffee and chocolate, as well as a tart (but not citrusy) taste reminiscent of gooseberry. The mustard itself is subtle, and mostly what it brings to the table is some body, nuance, and a vaguely nutty quality. Made from the habanero-like aji chombo pepper, D’Elidas clocks in at around 2,500-5,000 SHU on the Scoville scale - which is roughly the same as Tabasco. But that’s where the similarities with Tabasco end.
Unlike Tabasco or any other vinegar-based hot sauce, D’Elidas is as thick as a smoothie. It pours with the urgency of a tortoise who has nothing left to prove, and that brings me to my next point: After buying a bottle of D’Elidas, the first you’ll want to do is remove the plastic nozzle at the top. The effect is twofold. It speeds the pouring process, and it allows you to coat the maximum surface area of, say, your steak or chuletas de cerdo.
Do you actually need to douse your food in D’Elidas? Yes. One hundred percent. Sure, you can use a few drops if all you need is a touch of heat but this condiment offers so much more. D’Elidas is a flavor enhancer. It supplies tang, depth, and chunks of actual pepper.
Despite the fact that the company is over 100 years old, I have yet to see D’Elidas in any U.S. stores. Availability might change soon (D’Elidas North America LLC was established in 2018) - but if you can’t currently find it, there’s no need to resign yourself to a life of lesser sauces. Just buy some online. Currently, a bottle goes for $6.65 on Amazon. Assuming you don’t live near any restaurants kind enough to sell you the stuff, this seems like a perfectly reasonable solution.
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