By Wynter Holden
In my freshman year of college, this hot musician I'd been salivating over asked me to dinner at a fancy Thai restaurant. I remember seeing "chili padi" listed as an ingredient in my dish; but I wanted to keep the smart girl image in front of my crush, so I neglected to ask the waiter what it meant.
If I’d thought with my brain instead of my overactive teenage libido, I would have discovered chili padi is a Thai pepper, also known as the “mouse shit chili," 20 times hotter than Tabasco.
Next thing I knew, I was downing my date's drink, grabbing a pitcher of water off of a nearby table without asking and finally, puking on my date's Converse high-tops. He didn't ask me out again.
So, to help you avoid a similar dining disaster, I'll be your translator for those ingredients and menu items that make you scratch your head and wonder, "just what the fork is that?”
Caribbean restaurants are storehouses for fragrant, exotic fruits, spices and veggies, including "cho cho," something I spied in the Ital Soup at The Breadfruit Caribbean restaurant. To me, it sounded like something a trendy Scottsdale socialite would name her Chihuahua. Which of course would be a girl dog, no bigger than a New York sewer rat, dressed to match her owner in some prissy pink layette. "Come here, cho cho." "How's my wittle cuddly wuddly cho cho today?" Ugh.
Turns out it's a kind of pear-shaped squash, also called chayote or mirliton, that was favored by the Aztecs and the Mayans.
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In its raw form, cho cho looks like a cross between a honeydew and an avocado. A honacado. It has pale green tender flesh with a giant seed in the center and tastes a bit like zucchini. You can sauté it, bake it in a pie, pickle it Cajun style with red beans and rice, or toss it with some road kill and call it stew. Yum-o!
After the now infamous chili padi incident, I've been wary of trying new foods. This one, I might just give a chance. After all, how bad can a zucchini-like veggie be? So I'll put The Breadfruit on my "restaurants to visit" list and I'll try the Ital soup. But this time I'll be smart and leave the date at home. Just in case...
Look for Michele Laudig's full review of The Breadfruit Caribbean restaurant in our June 12 issue.