West African Pepper Shrimp from Maima’s in Jamaica, Queens


The incendiary, mouth-searing, mind-bogglingly-hot pepper shrimp at Maima’s.

It always happens. No sooner had I assembled a collection of the hottest dishes available in city restaurants for the Spring Supplement, than I stumbled on another that put the others to shame.

Maima’s is the city’s only Liberian restaurant, located in a residential neighborhood not far from Kennedy Airport. Pepper shrimp features a dozen big beauties swimming in a Scotch bonnet sauce so hot, that two of the four diners at my table started hiccupping the minute they tasted it.

The dish is made with head-on shrimp, so the fabled head fat (the cornerstone of New Orleans Creole cooking) is preserved, spilling its orange loveliness into the sauce. The most adventuresome diners will eat the entire shrimp, grooving on the crunchiness.

Pepper shrimp is a dish found in most Anglophone coastal countries on the coast of West Africa, and I’ve eaten in a half-dozen restaurants in Washington, DC, but never seen it here before. I’d put it up against any dish found in the city’s Sichuan or Thai restaurants. 106-47 Guy Brewer Boulevard, Jamaica, Queens, 718-206-3538