Halfway Between Habanero and Jalapeño

That would be the piri-piri pepper, basis of Mazi Piri-Piri Hot Sauce, created in Bradley Beach in 2001 and now pumping out about 10,000 bottles a year.

Back in 2001, Peter Mantas and Leslie Feingold—“my partner in life and sauce,” he says—owned Mazi restaurant in Bradley Beach. That is where he created a grilled chicken dish based on the classic spicy Portuguese delicacy Frango Piri Piri, which he first tasted during summers working in the Algarve region of Portugal.

When customers started asking if they could buy the sauce, he decided to bottle it in small batches.

At first, he sold about 50 bottles a month from his restaurant. Mazi closed in 2007, but the fiery sauce lives on.

Now it is created in the kitchen of Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park, where Mantas, 51, is the full-time director of entertainment. He learned to cook from his father, who cooked in a Greek diner. He learned the music buasiness from many years spent as a manager for childhood friend Jon Bon Jovi.

Mazi means ‘together’ in Greek, and it is together that Mantas and Feingold cook up about 10,000, 8.5-ounce bottles a year, retailing for around $11. Now available in specialty stores in 31states, it can also be ordered directly from mazi401.com. New Jersey purveyors include Sickles Market in Little Silver, Stay Gold Café in Belmar, From Seed to Sprout in Avon-by-the-Sea, Langosta Lounge and others (see website).

The sauce has the consistency of ketchup but half the sodium and way more spice. Most of Mantas’s piri-piri peppers are grown for him by Delicious Orchards in Colts Neck.

"They are not as hot as a habanero,” he says, “but hotter than a jalapeño.”

The piri-piri pepper is a variety of the bird’s eye, or red devil, pepper that grows wild in Africa. Each bushy plant can grow nearly four feet tall and sprout many flaming red fingers. On the Scoville scale, which rates hotness from 100 to 2 million units, the piri piri, “is probably at about 200,000,” Mantas says.

A traditional piri-piri sauce contains crushed peppers, onion, garlic, lemon, paprika, pimiento and a variety of fresh herbs. Mantas’ product contains a generous amount of whiskey as well. The sauce is cooked in big pots, simmering away for three hours, and then fermented for one week in oak barrels before bottling.

He recommends it as a marinade, “or use it straight up,” he says, “if you dare.”

MAZI MARY
Created by noted Shore bartender Chris Asay

16 ounces tomato juice
6 ounces tomato paste
1 tablespoon molasses
5 ½ ounces horseradish
1 tablespoon sea salt
½ tablespoon celery salt
3 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons Mazi Piri-Piri Sauce

Mix all ingredients with your favorite vodka. Rim the glass with Old Bay Seasoning and lemon and garnish with jumbo shrimp.

MAZI PIRI PIRI CHICKEN
Adapted from Peter Mantas

One (4 pound) chicken
½ ounce Mazi Piri Piri Sauce
2 tablespoons salted butter

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the chicken across the breast bone and lay out flat. Brush the chicken with sauce. Place one tablespoon of butter under the skin of each breast. Roast for 75 minutes. Cut the chicken into pieces and finish on the grill for 10 minutes.

SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at suzannelowery.com.

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