What do you mean, you’ve never tried Guyanese pepperpot? You, a self-proclaimed foodie of adventurous palate, with an oft-stated pledge to savor the entirety of earth’s bounty and whatever else its inhabitants transform into something edible? Do you routinely ignore Bon Appetit when it alerts you to a dish whose “complex, layered flavor belies its simplicity and endless adaptability?” Doubtful. When Wikipedia and Serious Eats, two entities not always on the same page, are in complete agreement that pepperpot is Guyana’s national dish, shouldn’t that serve as some sort of call to action? And when after further idle scrolling you come across Alica’s Pepperpot, a blog by a Queens woman of Guyanese heritage, which informs you that the dish is traditionally eaten on Christmas morning, and here it is already December — well, how about showing a little urgency?
And don’t come to me with some excuse about not being able to find good Guyanese pepperpot on Long Island. You’ve known perfectly well where to find it since at least August, when a restaurant opened in Elmont whose name spells it all out for you. I mean, the place is actually called Pepper Pot, for heaven’s sake, and while it’s got a whole steam table worth of pots worth ladling into — and that includes the barbecued chicken, juicy and bright red, served over fried rice ($14.95) and duck curry with either white rice, peas and rice, roti or dhal puri ($17.95)-- it’s the lamb pepperpot ($16.95) that’s worth the trip and then some. There’s nothing quite like it.
Sure, pepperpot may look like every other meat stew, but what sets it apart is what it’s stewed in, a sticky molasses-like reduction of cassava root juice, cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar. Cassareep it’s called, and it brings a dark brown, almost black color to the stew, along with a flavor to meat that’s equal parts sweet, bitter and heat. And while capturing the appeal of this singular dish in three words is impossible, 500 would probably get me no closer to it, and would only delay your pursuit of the genuine article, when we both know you’ve waited too long already.
Pepper Pot is at 760 Elmont Rd. in Elmont, 516-344-5272. Opening hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Monday and Thursday.