On first glance, one might not think highly of the food from the Canary Islands. But, let me assure you, it isn’t just burgers, chips, full English breakfasts and pints as you might expect from Playa Las Americas in Tenerife. Canarian food is unique, diverse and most importantly delicious.
The unique and tumultuous history of this little chain of islands off the coast of Africa has ensured that the islands’ culture and cuisine is particularly unique, with a heavy focus on fish (naturally), and influences not just from the indigenous inhabitants of the islands, but also Spain, North Africa, Cuba and the Caribbean.
One dish that is perhaps most signature to the Canary Islands is the red and green Mojo (pronounced MO-ho) sauces which are served with a countless number of dishes and are a staple to every meal.
As this area was historically poor, these sauces were designed to be not only mouth-wateringly tasty but exceedingly versatile. They have humble beginnings, but these sauces can give a fantastic addition of finesse to any meal.
Mojo Rojo (Red Sauce) is made up from oil, garlic, vinegar, paprika, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander and a range of other spices which will make it unique from home to home, restaurant to restaurant. The red sauce can sometimes be called Mojo Picón which means ‘spicy sauce’ depending on the amount of fresh chilli you choose to put in.
The green variety or Mojo Verde is made up of garlic, coriander, parsley, (sometimes green peppers), cumin, vinegar salt and olive oil. The result is not as punchy as its red cousin, but instead milder and so is perfectly paired with fish or Aloft Papas Arrugadas (salt crusted potatoes).
Totally unique to Manchester is La Bandera, a restaurant which isn’t just Spanish, but fiercely Canarian, owing to owner Yashin’s heritage and childhood growing up on the island of Tenerife. As a result, you won’t just find the usual Spanish tapas favourites on their menu, but a diverse offering of dishes and wines that hail from the small Atlantic islands.
And of course, Mojo Rojo (and Verde) are firm favourites on the menu and you’ll find them in a lot of their dishes. You can’t have La Bandera’s signature ‘Wrinkled Potatoes‘ without lashings of their Mojo Rojo on there, and the sauce they make in-house at the restaurant is truly phenomenal.
The Mojo Rojo at La Bandera isn’t too spicy, although it does come with a welcome tickle on the tongue. The sauce is designed to pimp up a lot of meals from vegetables, to fish, to meats – but it is truly spectacular on a bit of chicken, such as their Pollo al Salmorejo or even better – their Lubina al Mojo Verde – grilled sea bass topped with their deliciously tangy green variety.
The sauce itself has branched out all over the world over the years, travelling with the thousands of people who emigrated to the Spanish American territories in the 18th Century.
From here, mojo has worked its way into cuisines and dishes as diverse as Cuban and Caribbean, and even went on to influence many of the barbeque sauces you’d find in the Deep South region of the United States, particularly in the states of Florida, Texas and Louisiana.
Not bad for a chain of tiny little islands in the Atlantic!
Mojo Rojo is truly a wonder-sauce and is able to simply elevate anything it touches, be it vegetables, fish, meat or just smeared on top of some cheese and toast after a night out. And if you want to taste the most authentic, and the best – head on over to La Bandera as soon as you can.
La Bandera, 2 Ridgefield, Manchester M2 6EQ
0161 833 9019