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Compass T rav el
Arriba! Arriba! Andale, Andale! During a hot
sauce tour of Mexico’s Playa Del Carmen,
you’ll encounter gastronomic creations infused
with hot sauce to bedevil your tastebuds and
surprise you with every bite.
T E X T & PH OTO S BY F R A N C E S C A C R UZ
On this special, spicy tour, it all starts with a stop at
a chili market to handpick native peppers of the region
including the rich-flavored chili pasilla, the rare spicy chili
pais and one of the hottest peppers found in Mexico: the
brightly orange-hued habanero.
When it comes to culinary tourism, a must-taste is La
Fisheria, an upscale fish market and a local favorite, where
Executive Chef Aquiles Chavez is revered for his culinary
bravado right along with the native deities. Decorated in hues
of baby blues and crisp whites, Fisheria’s call to glory dish
is grilled octopus with a light touch of habanero hot sauce.
It’s tangy enough to bring a smile to your face, and punchy
enough to have you gulping your margarita.
Similarly delectable is Blue Parrot, an outdoor restaurant
that sits right on the beach with a view of the Caribbean
Sea. It’s the spot to have fresh seafood, lounge on a
hammock and listen to dance music while sipping one-of-
a-kind tamarind margaritas infused with jalapeños. It’s a
combination of sweet, spicy, and…well, awesome!
If you’re more of a history buff, one of the first spots to
open and serve food in Playa Del Carmen before it became
the tropical destination it is today, is Karen’s. Around since
1992, it serves traditional Mexican cuisine and American
comfort food. The shrimp stew cooked in habanero sauce is
a must-order. Proceed with caution — about a minute into
your first bite, the hot sauce kicks in full-throttle.
If you’re still hungry, a place named after cannibals
might not be as appetizing as you’d like, but Canibal Royal
is the hippest open-air beach restaurant in the region.
It’s the ideal place to lounge and make new friends while
munching on succulent seafood. Atop their menu is a fish
chicharron in hot sauce offering. Think pork rinds made out
of fish and with a mild spicy blacked habanero sauce.
Before you end your gastronomic jaunt, make sure
to stop at the newly opened Nibs Restaurant for their
acclaimed chocolate tart with passion fruit jam, mamey ice
cream and a combination of chiles: ancho, pasilla, cascabel
and guajillo. It’s an ode to the area’s famous mole sauce
but made for a confection — in short, it’s death by bliss.