Literally, manchamantel means "tablecloth stainer". This sauce, with its red chile, is likely to stain a few palates along the way! It is a classic fruit-and-chile sauce from Central Mexico that goes wonderfully well with pork and shrimp dishes.

Its natural sweetness, hotness, form and texture is akin to an old-style Cantonese sweet-and-sour sauce.

While this recipe contains bananas and pineapple, other combinations of ripe fruit such as apples and peaches can also be used. IF YOU CANNOT GET CANELA, which is the form of cinnamon commonly used in Mexico, ordinary cinnamon can be substituted, but cut the amount in half.

Remove stems and seeds from chiles. With a comal or black iron skillet, roast chiles for 5 minutes. Shake once or twice and do not allow to blacken. Add to the water in a covered pan and simmer on very low heat for 30 minutes to rehydrate. Place chiles, tomatoes and remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and purée. If necessary, add a little of the soaking liquid. Taste the chile water first; if it is not bitter, use it, otherwise add plain water.

Add oil or lard to a high-sided pan and heat until almost smoking. Refry sauce at a sizzle for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly.


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Chuck Taggart   (e-mail chuck)