Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tabanero Hot Sauce -- The Review

Tabanero Hot Sauce is a fairly new sauce from CDS Hot Sauce in Boca Raton, Florida, and made in the State of Tabasco in Mexico, not far from the Yucatan Peninsula. I received a couple of review samples from Michael Paul of CDS recently, and here is what I found.

Its name comes form its 2 principal pepper ingredients, Tabasco, and Habanero, peppers. Tabasco being famous for growing upside down (it does you know, the pepper points up!) ... well ... and there is another Hot Sauce that uses that name, too. You may recall it. Habanero is famous, of course, for being Really Hot, but otherwise has a  delicate flavor.

According to CDS, they wanted to make a Hot Sauce with no vinegar, and to get away from the traditional flavored vinegar style sauce, so they chose Lime as the acid ingredient, and to give it brightness.

Tabanero has a fairly mainstream label on a bigger than usual 8 oz bottle, appears light orange with some little red and other bits and appears thickish. Open the bottle, and there is a fairly strong lime citrus aroma with a hint of pepper spiciness.

Ingredients: Habanero and Tabasco Peppers, Carrots, Onions, Key Lime Juice, Agave Nectar, Garlic, Salt, Grapefruit Extract.

Hmmm ... Grapefruit Extract ... well, it's supposed to be good for you. I guess. And CDS wanted to make an all Natural sauce so they use, um ... all natural ingredients.

The inclusion of carrot, onion, and lime might lead you to believe this is a Caribbean style sauce, but in flavor it is not, nor is it in the familiar Mexican style of a Cholula, for instance. See Cholula reviews in this blog.

It is not a super hot sauce despite the inclusion of Habanero, and the 1/4 teaspoon to the tongue test reveals a strong lime flavor with a sour, mainly Tabasco pepper flavored heat that lingers for a good minute or so. This is not a complex sauce, but it is pleasant, not at all salty, with just a bit of carrot-onion sweetness in the background. It is not a sweet sauce, agave nectar or not, nor is it salty.

Due to the strong lime flavor, I would not recommend Tabanero for use with foods that would not benefit from the sour-citrusiness of the sauce, such as, say, a bacon cheeseburger, but OK, prove me wrong. It is good with foods that go well with a traditional Louisiana style sauce, because it is bright, so fried foods are a yes, as is fish, chicken, and the like. It was fun and good on fried catfish, and a turkey and avocado sandwich.

In short, Tabanero is an interesting sauce as an alternative to a typical Louisiana sauce and substitutes the lime flavor for the vinegar. The Tabasco pepper in the sauce does not have the aged Tabasco flavor of Tabasco Brand sauce itself. If I were to quibble with the flavor profile, I would say it is a little too much balanced toward the Lime-acid, and not enough in the Tabasco pepper direction, but, hey, that's me.

Recommended. Especially for seafood, fried food, and lighter fare.

Yours in Flavor and Heat,


Photo Credits: CDS Hot Sauce website,

Monday, June 27, 2011

Panama Red Hot Sauce Review -- 2011 Scovie Award 1st Place and Triple Category Winner

Today I am going to review the Panama Red Hot Sauce from Pan Cali Foods. Do you remember the song?

"Panama Red, Panama Red
He'll steal your woman, then he'll rob your head
Panama Red, Panama Red
On his white horse, Mescalito
He come breezin' through town
I'll bet your woman's up in bed with
Panama Red" -- from Panama Red by Peter Rowan 

Luckily, this stuff is Orange. Otherwise I might be worried. Still, I couldn't hear the name, Panama Red, without thinking of the old Jerry Garcia/Pete Rowan song as played and recorded by both The New Riders of the Purple Sage and Old and in the Way so long ago. Also note there is an implied analogy to a particularly potent cannabis cultivar that had a rep for #$!!$@ing you up! But in a good way ... LOL.

Anyway, I've been waiting while this stuff for quite a while, and anticipation has been building -- I am glad to say, not in vain. This stuff is very, very good. Locally distributed in California in the San Francisco area, it is also available directly from Pan Cali Foods and is a good value at 8 bucks for 8 oz.

Winner of the 2011 Scovie Awards in 3 categories, 1st Place Authentic Caribbean, 2nd Place Habanero, and 2nd Place Specialty Chile (Aji Chombo -- I guess), the Panama Red certainly has the credentials to pique my interest. Due to shipment delays from, dare I say it, Panama, it took me over 3 months to get my hands on the stuff. When the package came in the door, I didn't even wait for a moment to do an objective review, just ripped open the box, yanked off the plastic cap, and poured a teaspoonful into my mouth. It has a big, intense, bright and complex flavor and I was happy to have my long anticipation satisfied.

So, I recapped the bottle and allowed myself the luxury of waiting 'til the next day for a proper review.

Panama Red Hot Sauce Ingredients:
Vinegar, Habanero, (Panamanian Aji Chombo), Onion, Mustard, Water, Garlic, Celery, Culantro, Salt, Black Pepper, Raw Cane Sugar

There seems to be some ambiguity over the actual peppers included -- variously on the website linked to above, the names Habanero, Scotch Bonnet, and Aji Chombo appear, and it isn't clear if all 3 are present or if, since Aji Chombo is a Habanero cultivar, only Habanero is present or maybe Habanero and Scotch Bonnet. Whatever. The point is also made by Pan Cali that the heat of the Aji Chombo does not persist as long or as brutally as that of the Habanero. OK.

I do have a bit of a prejudice against hot sauces for which the principal ingredient is Vinegar, since, in many cases, that means the principal flavor is vinegar, and to the exclusion of most of the other flavors. Happily, that is not the case here. There is still a strong vinegar flavor, however.

OK, to tasting.

The nose is of bright acid and spicy pepper, and that is the first note on the tongue as well, along with some salty sweetness, earthy mustard, and sweet spicy onion. As the taste fades, some sweetness remains along with a substantial and classic needle-like Habanero heat. The texture is chunky with discrete bits of the ingredients adding to the intensity of the flavor. Very pleasant overall and interesting from beginning to end with a robust and complex flavor -- great intensity.

Because of the amount of vinegar in the sauce, it might not be the best choice for foods already bright with acids such as lemon or vinegar, so certain soups might not benefit, nor perhaps would some delicate foods go well, for instance, scrambled eggs. That's not to say you won't like the combination -- I know plenty of people who slather Tabasco all over their eggs. Oh, well.

But for fried foods and hearty foods, this sauce is great. I tried it in Braised Short Ribs, on a Bacon Cheese Burger, on Deep-Fried Catfish in an Aioli made with Hellman's Mayo and this sauce, and loved it.

Very Highly Recommended. In spite of the fact, I think there is too much vinegar. IMO.

Yours in Heat and Flavor,


PS Try the Panama Red  mixed with Hellman's Mayo, say, 4 TBS to 1 cup mayo, or to taste.

Photo Credit: Pan Cali Foods

Sunday, June 26, 2011

2 Homemade Srirachas -- One Fresh, and One Fermented

Three 10 oz bottles of Sriracha

I know I promised these recipes a few months ago, but I have an excuse -- I wanted to post pictures of the fermented Sriracha, actually, well, fermenting, and it refused. Now that is weird, because, normally you put out organic liquid or wet material with sugars in it (covered) at room temperature, and within a week or so, it starts to bubble. PDQ. Sigh. Not this time. Makes you wonder how they get that coleslaw at the deli to go off so quick ... Anyway, I've got some photos now.

So, here are pictures of the Sriracha mash in a mixing bowl, with its plastic wrap cover removed, bubbling away. You can see the little bubble craters on the surface of the mash.

Fermenting Sriracha Mash

Cool, huh?

The only thing left to do is bottle it and adjust the flavor. What's that?? What do I mean, adjust the flavor?? Well, after the fermentation process, the relative sweet/salty/sour/hot balance may have changed, and it is perfectly legitimate to add rice wine vinegar, salt or sugar in small amounts until the flavor pleases you. Go ahead. Or ... if the Sriracha doesn't need it, don't.

So what is the basic recipe, you ask? I will give you the following list and amounts which are by no means written in stone, and you can begin your own fermentation experiment.

Fresh and Fermented Farang Sriracha
  • 2 to 3 lbs ripe, red Fresno peppers, or other full flavored ripe, hot pepper, stems removed
  • 1 to 2 pints peeled garlic cloves
  • 4 to 8 TBS fine sea salt
  • 10 to 16 oz, or to taste, rice wine vinegar
  • 1 to 2 cups, to taste white or light brown sugar, about 1/2 to 1 cup for the fresh recipe; I like the brown
  • 1 or 2 large peeled and rough-chopped sweet onions, optional -- not traditional, but good
Note that I am not using ripe jalapeno peppers as Huy Fong does, since the essential bitterness of the jalapeno, though diminished by ripening, remains even when nice and red. The Fresno pepper is a nice compromise. Other possibilities are the cherry pepper, a mixture of red peppers, including some jalapeno.

Chop it all up in a food processor or a powerful blender or a food mill, until the consistency is that of the Huy Fong Sriracha you may be familiar with or for that matter, Heinz Ketchup. If it's a little looser and wetter than that, it's OK.

Once it's all chopped up, you are nearly done for the fresh version of the Sriracha, but just beginning a 3 month or so journey for the fermented version.

For the fresh version, just bottle it in mason jars or in a carafe and let it sit in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days so the flavors can meld, and use it as you like.

For the fermented version, keep it in a container of some kind that you can cover and observe for 5 to 6 days in a cool dry place, under 60 degrees F. Even if it still hasn't begun to ferment by that time, remove it to the refrigerator for 3 or 4 weeks or even longer until the telltale bubble of fermentation begin to pock the surface of the Sriracha, and let the bubbling run its course, which may take a several weeks or a month or more. At that point you can taste and adjust the flavor. I leave mine in the fridge after that point until I am sure fermentation is absolutely done, up to 3 or 4 months.

You may also find that after a couple of months of sitting in the fridge, the sauce has separated into 2 layers, a clear liquid on top, and an opaque layer underneath. I keep the clear layer on hand as a fermentation starter for new batches of Sriracha, but I pour it off the actual Sriracha I intend to bottle.

As much as I like the HF Sriracha, and I do, I prefer the fresher, less sweet, less bitter, less salty and more complex flavor of this Sriracha, and I like it on everything from scrambled eggs to chicken sandwiches. And there are times I prefer the fresh, non-fermented Sriracha, too.

By the way, for those of you interested in the fermentation process, which radically enhances and intensifies the flavor of the Sriracha, and other fresh hot sauces for that matter, check out Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, by Sandor Ellix Katz, which will hook you up with everything from kimchi to kombucha.

Bon appetit!

Yours in Heat and Flavor,


Photo credits: me

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reviews of Spittin Fire and Papa Jack's Buffalo Hot Sauces -- 2011 First Place Scovie Award Winners

Spittin Fire and Papa Jack's Buffalo are two very good, interesting and similar Hot Sauces from Sizzlin Sauces in Conway, NH. They won the latest 2011 Scovie awards in their categories, which are Habanero and  Louisiana Style Hot Sauce, which may be, I guess, because that's how they were entered, but categories can be misleading. They are both great sauces, and I like 'em a lot, but they are more similar than they are different, and I wouldn't call either of them a classic Hab or Louisiana style hot sauce.

These are 2 complex, very fresh tasting, almost fruity sauces, medium hot, thick and a bit chunky in texture, which are assembled in an apparently modular way from the manner in which the ingredients are listed. Two of the major ingredients listed are ... Ketchup, and ... Hot Sauce! They put Hot Sauce in their Hot Sauce! Both have Cayenne and Habanero Peppers, but while the Spittin Fire has a more classic Caribbean Carrot, Lime. Mustard base, the Papa Jack's Buffalo goes a darker, spicier way with Molasses, Worcestershire, Anchovy, Raisin Paste and Orange Puree, and you can taste that difference, but still, they are more alike than not.

The Spittin Fire has a nose of lemon, herbs, tomato and mild pepper and is lemony, with almost berry-like fruit initially to the tongue, with a tiny bit of salt, and after a few seconds begins to develop the classic Habanero needle-like heat, which remains for several minutes before fading  and during which time there is a subtle background of tomato and garlic and herbs. The flavors are not super intense but they are very good. I tried the Spittin Fire on a Pork Burger Wrap, a BLT, a Chicken Sandwich, Scrambled Eggs, on Shrimp with Angel Hair Pasta, and on home-made Lasagna, just for the hell of it. It was good on everything, except maybe the eggs and the lasagna, and I did not really expect the fruitiness of the sauce to complement those dishes. The balance between heat and flavor is very good and I was able to use a goodly amount of sauce on most of the dishes without changing the essential character of the food. Except for kicking it up 4 or 5 notches.  Highly Recommended.

Papa Jack's Buffalo has a nose like the Spittin Fire, that is, of lemon, herbs, tomato and mild pepper, but with spicy orange and raisin with some worcestershire, and orange/raisin/tomato/worcestershire/lemon and herb is what hits the tongue first (Wow, that's a lot of flavors!), followed shortly thereafter by the Habanero heat, which fades slowly over a couple of minutes with a pleasant raisiny, herby tomato background. A little more intense flavor-wise than the Spittin Fire,  Papa Jack's Buffalo fades a bit more slowly as well, and tastes heartier and meatier, and seems more suited to heartier and meatier dishes, which was the case with same dishes above -- great on the Pork Burger Wrap, BLT, Chicken Sandwich, and on a steak and in Beef Stew, not so great on the pasta, eggs, and shrimp. But really great on those dishes it is suited to. Highly Recommended.

The PJB is the more interesting sauce with stronger flavors and the SF is the more universally useful -- if I were to make one criticism of the sauces it would be that the non-hot flavor could be a little stronger, or more intense, and that it fades a little more quickly than I would like, but I am being very picky here and have to say that these sauces are very good with food.

You owe it to yourself to check out their website -- see the link above -- they have all kinds of awards and other sauces which, going by their success with these two, are certain to be well made and fun. FYI, I purchased my two bottles directly from Sizzlin Sauces at $6.95 ea not including delivery and they arrived promptly.

Yours in Heat and Flavor,


Monday, February 28, 2011

Insane Chicken Hot Sauces -- 3 of 'Em -- Insane Chicken Fire Roasted Habanero, Cluckin' Hot, and Choke Your Chicken

Insane Chicken Fire Roasted Habanero -- 9 Wide
I have wanted to try the "Chicken" Sauces for a while, but haven't stirred myself to do it, so it was just as well that Chris McCarthy at Insane Chicken sent me 3 of these sauces recently. Got no more excuses! Requisite silly graphics aside, these are 3 fairly hot sauces representing 3 distinct flavor categories, Fire Roasted Habanero, Ghost Pepper, and Peri Peri Pepper, with some additional flavors and ingredients that set them apart. This review is especially fun since the FRH is the Scovie 1st place award winner in the Extreme Sauce with Pepper Extract Category, which is also a little intimidating considering what happened to a judge at one competition recently when he came off 2nd best in an encounter with another extract including sauce. Never fear, the FRH is hot but accessible, and it's also really, really ... well, you'll just have to read on!

You ought to check out their website -- they sell not only their own sauces but those of others as well and there are reviews and other interesting bits of info.

These 3 sauces are all hot enough so my usual straight-up, 1/8 or 1/4 TSP to the tongue method allows for a distracting kick that masks whichever sauce comes after in the tasting rotation, as you might expect of sauces that include pepper extracts, which these do. OK, they won't hurt you, much, or me anyway, but they will let you know you put something pretty hot in your mouth. But I did the straight-up, in-the-mouth with the sauce test anyway, because, hey, we're all real hot sauce guys, and, well, because I could.

Insane Chicken Choke Your Chicken -- How To Label
Regular Insane Chicken Fire Roasted Habanero has a great nose, vinegary/spicy/citrus sweet with an almost smoky roasted overlay that is very pleasant, interesting, and inviting. On the tongue, the first impression is of lime and pepper with a little oniony sweetness, fading to a classic habanero needle-like heat with just a touch of sweet and that background roasted smokiness. The texture is just a little thick with some suspended bits. Directly on the tongue, the heat overpowers the flavor, but that isn't true with food, since I am able to use more than enough for good flavor, as I did with a chicken sandwich, a big juicy pork burger with lots of stuff on it, chicken wings, deep-fried catfish and salsa. It was good with all of them. I missed having more habanero flavor, but the roasted pepper quality came through, and habanero, aside from the heat, is a very subtle and mild flavor that won't survive a lot of other strongly flavored ingredients. I like this stuff a lot and intend to keep some aroundHighly Recommended.

Choke Your Chicken ... Go Ahead! Sorry, couldn't resist! Anyway, CYC Peri Peri Sauce has a recipe similar to that of the others with vinegar being a principal ingredient, but distinguishes itself with molasses, herbs, spices, and tomato, as well as red wine, as opposed to a white or distilled vinegar.It also has a strong oregano/red wine vinegar nose that makes me think of Italian Salad Vinaigrette, and it is at first bright and a little Jalapeno-bitter to the tongue with a tomato thickness to the texture, some heat, and fading to a milder heat with some acidity. I tried it on a number of the foods I used for the Fire Roasted Habanero, and while it was OK and added some heat and flavor, it didn't work as well for me, probably because of the jalapeno bitterness and lack of assertiveness, except for the Oregano herbiness, in the other ingredients. I'm not sure I like the red wine vinegar which seems overpowering.  Can't recommend it.

Insane Chicken Cluckin' Hot
Insane Chicken's Cluckin' Hot I like better -- it's very similar in ingredients to the CYC, no Jalapeno, but Ghost Pepper instead, which gives the sauce a Habanero-like heat, no overt Oregano flavor, but still with the aroma of  the red wine vinegar. It's not gonna kill you, Ghost Pepper or not, and while it is hotter than the Peri Peri CYC, it can still be tasted out of a spoon. OK, the nose is a smoky(?)/red wine vinegary pleasant one, and the tongue confirms that with the addition of the Hab-like heat of the Ghost Pepper and pepper extract with an herby acid finish and some lingering pepper heat. Very nice. Good sweet/sour/salty/hot balance. I again tried this sauce on all of the foods mentioned above, and it did very well. Especially good on the chicken! You should be glad I just spared you a chicken joke. The ingredients for this sauce are quite similar to those for the CYC above, but the result is very different. Funny how that works. Recommended.

So my preference is in order, Fire Roasted Habanero, Cluckin' Hot, and Choke Your Chicken. I would consider them all in the greater Louisiana-style hot sauce family, with the bright acid vinegar predominance, but still more useful, complex and interesting than many such. And for me, although they are not too far apart in heat, the hottest is the Fire Roasted Habanero, after that the Ghost Pepper (Cluckin' Hot), and then the Peri Peri (Choke Your Chicken) -- odd -- you would think the Ghost Pepper would be hotter...

Did I say that I do like that Fire Roasted Habanero?

Next week I've got 2 2011 Scovie Award winning sauces from Sizzlin Sauces out of Conway, NH, the #1 finisher in the Habanero category, Spittin Fire Sauce, and the number 1 finisher in the Louisiana Style category, Papa Jack's Buffalo Hot Sauce. I can tell you that I've tried them, and ...

Stay Tuned!

Yours in Heat and Flavor,


Photo Credits: Insane Chicken,, reverse order.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sriracha Roundup and Surprise Winner -- For Now! Including UIF Uncle Chen's Sriracha ...

Union International Food Co. Sriracha Chili Sauce

Just after I had published Sriracha Redux, I finally received another cult favorite Sriracha that I had been waiting for, and for a while, too. The Union International Food Co Sriracha that goes under the name Uncle Chen's, and this product, which has exactly the same bottle style and label, including the little Pepper Face (of Uncle Chen, I guess, with mustache and stem), but without the actual Uncle Chen name on the bottle, I believe to be the same. So I call it UIF Sriracha, or Uncle Chen's. Any of you out there who know better, let me know.

I like this stuff. It has good balance, a big flavor and it's not too sweet, although it does have some sweetness. It has a lot of the great bright fresh pepper flavor of the Huy Fong Sriracha, but without the flaw of bitterness I had noted in my first review. I have tried it on burgers, eggs, in mayonnaise, made an Aioli with it, eaten it straight out of the bottle. It's really good. A little less sweet, a little saltier at first, maybe a little less hot. The finish is garlicky, sweet, and has some heat.

It's got a little thermometer right on the side showing medium heat, and I have to confess I wouldn't mind it being a little hotter, but maybe such a hotter UIF Sriracha is available, some place, somewhere. Meantime I can like this one.

OK, I got mine from Amazon! Had to buy a 6-pack of 6 oz squeeze bottles -- I'm not sorry to have them now -- and when I went back to the Amazon page for the UIF Sriracha, I got the dreaded message.

Sign up to be notified when this item becomes available.


So the good news is that I do have 6 bottles; the bad news is -- where am I going to get my next 6? Still, I have time ... and, yes, I did do some pretty thorough web searches for the stuff.

I do apologize for recommending this stuff just as it seems to disappear from the market. Still, think of it as my way of soliciting help locating it.

I also have a confession to make regarding Huy Fong Sriracha -- I picked up a new bottle to compare it head-to-head with these other brands, and I like it much more than the older stuff I had reviewed back in March of last year. I dug the older bottle out from the back of my fridge and discovered, lo and behold, that the old HF Sriracha is indeed considerably more bitter than the stuff in the new bottle I just bought. In fact, with the still remaining Jalapeno bitterness much more in the background, the wonderful bright ripe red pepper fruit flavor is fantastic and makes it my favorite Sriracha, at least for the squeeze bottle I just bought!

I feel badly about possibly having rated the HF Sriracha on the basis of an extreme and unusual sample of the sauce, but, hey, I did it on the basis of 2 bottles I had purchased at different times (a week apart from the same store), and I can only rate what I taste!

What this means long term, I have no idea -- do I have to worry about consistency, and will the HF Sriracha I buy be bitter again next time around? Don't know. Never ran into this issue before. Still, I am going to do a Sriracha ranking based on my current sample.

So, my ranking of Srirachas I have tried places them in this order:

1.   Huy Fong -- Highly Recommended 
2.  UIF (Uncle Chen's) -- Highly Recommended
3.  Shark Brand -- Recommended
4.  Bells and Flower Brand -- Not recommended

Note that both of my favorites are domestically produced -- the UIF Uncle Chen's Sriracha at their Hayward, CA plant, and the HF Sriracha at the Rosemead, CA plant, and the flavor is much more pronounced, much bigger and fresher than that of the Thai "originals".

Next time, I'm going to post my recipes for 2 Srirachas, 2 US Farang Brand Srirachas, one PDQ recipe, and one let's-take-our-time fermented pepper recipe.

Yours in Heat and Flavor, 


Photo Credits: UIF Sriracha c/o and my screen capture

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sriracha Redux and More Thai Hot Sauces

Some time back I did a review of Huy Fong Sriracha, which is an American Sriracha that a lot of people are in love with, not including me, although I did like some things about it -- the upshot was I found it to have a bitter finish and aftertaste. So I tried another bottle from another source -- same result. But I did like the Thai brand I tried, the Shark Brand Sriracha, which is labeled on the bottle as Sriracha Chili Sauce. So I became curious to try some other actual Thai products to see what I would think.

I purchased online a number of products, including Bells and Flower Brand Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce made in China, Lingham's Hot Sauce, which says Thai right on the label and is made in Maylasia, Pantai Norasingh Sweetened Chili Sauce for Spring Roll which is made in Thailand, ABC Tropical Chili Sauce, which is labeled Product of Indonesia, and Gold Label Brand Red Chili Sauce, made in Thailand, Eastern Thailand to be exact, Amphur Muang, Chonburi province. Says so right on the label. I have included links below.

First, let me say that while there is an overall similarity to the products -- they are, after all, sweetened chili sauces with vinegar and salt and sometimes a few other things, too -- but  there are differences as well, and enough differences to make me prefer some quite a bit to the others. Also, I have to acknowledge that these products are not intended all to be used the same way, so to compare them directly may not be entirely fair.

I don't care.

I just wanted to see what they tasted like and which ones were worth keeping around. The odd sauce out is the Sweetened Chili Sauce For Spring Roll, it's thick and orange-clear, with carrot bits, and other suspended bits, just what you would expect to see in your dipping sauce bowl at a Thai restaurant. But the others are roughly comparable.

Let's get the orphan out of the way, the dipping sauce. The Pantai Norasingh Sweetened Chili Sauce. I like saying that. Pantai Norasingh! As I mentioned, it isn't intended as a general purpose hot-sweet flavoring, and it is very sweet, and not very hot, but it has a nice overall flavor, and I managed to make some really good Hot Wing Sauce with it, by adding salted butter and a little (a lot) more hot sauce. Because it is so sweet and has just a little heat, it will not be too useful without modification. Hey, it really is a spring roll dipping sauce! If you can think of something else to do with it, let me know! Recommended in a very narrow application. This company makes Sriracha, too, but not for export to the US, I guess, since I cannot find it for sale here -- if I liked it I could buy it in 5 liter jugs in a 4 pack, 20 liters and about 45 lbs -- it's listed right on the web site.

I was disappointed in the Bells and Flower Brand Sriracha -- it has just a tiny bit of sweetness, a little sour and salt, some pepper and heat, with a mild peppery finish, but no real big ripe pepper flavor like Huy Fong, or even a nice sweet-sour-salt balance like the Shark Brand Sriracha, which among Srirachas I have tried remains my favorite. Saltiness is the predominant flavor with Bells and Flower Brand. followed by some heat and sour flavor. Not recommended. Sigh.

Now Lingham's I do like. Actually, there are a lot of Lingham's hot sauces, those for SE Asian consumption -- I'd like to get my hands on those -- some for the UK, and those for us in the US of A.

The one I tried is #5 on the list above in the picture. It is sweet and fruity, with a thick pepper flake texture, and just a touch of salt, not much, with a good chili heat, not too strong, and a finish that combines some sweetness with a lingering mild heat. I do like it. It's too sweet for a lot of the foods I eat -- can't put it on eggs -- and the fruitiness may not be what you want a lot of the time, but once again it makes a good Hot Wing Sauce with more Hot Sauce and some butter. Certainly it's good with many Asian Foods. It is sweeter than Huy Fong Sriracha, for instance. It's good on a burger in place of ketchup. Recommended.

I like the look of the Gold Label Brand Red Chili Sauce bottle. The yellow chili sauce I didn't try is on the right above. And I like the Ingredient List:  Red Chili 70%, Garlic 10%, Sugar 8%, Vinegar 7%, Salt 5%. What I like most is the 70% Chili part. I wish it tasted more like 70% Chilis though, and it's a little too sweet. There is some heat. It's like a simple ketchup without the more complex ketchup flavors but just a little hot and salty. I'll pass on recommending it, though.

ABC Tropical Chili Sauce is the thickest and hottest of this bunch and in an ironically classically ketchup-like bottle, since the ABC Brand is owned by Heinz, even though it is an Indonesian brand. That said, the initial flavor is hot, sweet and a tiny bit salty and the finish is sweet, fading to a steady heat. I like it. It made a good mix with Hellman's mayo for a nice Aioli which I spiced up even further with garlic, lemon, and dare I say it, more Hot Sauce. It's the most like the Huy Fong Sriracha, but a little sweeter, maybe a little hotter, and, sadly without the bold bright ripe jalapeno flavor. Still good chili taste, though. You could make a good wing sauce with it. Also good on a burger in a place of, or in addition to, ketchup. Recommended

All right, let's sum this up, by the Western standards of this writer and most of the readers, these are interesting, but peculiar sauces with limited application in non-asian cuisine. There, I've said it. Oh, there are some good uses for the better sauces here, but I do not think we'll have Norte-Americanos slathering them on everything they eat, as some claim to do with Huy Fong "Rooster" Brand Sriracha.

I do wonder how people get by the bitter finish of that stuff.

And after having tried 3 different brands of Sriracha, is it now clear what it is? Well, all 3 are fairly different from each other, What they have in common is thickness, a little saltiness, some heat, a little garlic, and listing a principal ingredient of pepper. 2 are sweet, 1 has a bright ripe pepper flavor, 2 are much more muted. The other "Chili" sauces reviewed here follow a similar pattern. I know there are other brands as well of Sriracha, and I will try them as time and discovery permit.

Meantime, this farang (Thai word for foreigner) has a recipe for home made Sriracha that combines the best things I like about Sriracha -- with no bitterness -- and that sweet and bright, ripe pepper flavor in a sauce you can make, too. It's not that hard. There will even be a Sriracha Quick version for those who do not want to spend a lot of time at it, and a Sriracha Aged VS for those who are willing to commit a little refrigerator space and and a few weeks of aging for ... the Bomb Sriracha! How hard can it be, really?

Yours in Heat and Flavor,


Friday, January 21, 2011

A Brief History of Hot Pepper & Sauce with Observations!

You know Hot Sauce didn't just suddenly appear in the foods and diets of all of us, or of those of us of Old World Stock. In fact before Columbus discovered wild Hot Peppers growing on the Caribbean Islands he first visited, no one from Europe, Africa, China, or South East Asia ever had anything hotter in their diets than various types of black pepper and, I suppose Sichuan pepper. In fact (again), Columbus even named hot peppers, peppers, because they had a hot kick like, well, black pepper, and he thought they were somehow related. They aren't.

Imagine that, no hot Thai curries, no African Piri-Piri, no hot Chinese dishes, no Italian dishes Fra Diavolo, or Arrabiata ... well, NO food anywhere outside of the Western Hemisphere with Hot Peppers. There are a number of histories of Hot Sauce on the 'net, and I thought it would be fun to talk about one.

The history on the ChilliWorld Site which is a UK seller of Hot Sauce offers an interesting and brief rundown, starting with the advent of Hot Peppers (up to modern Hot Sauce from Tabasco to Insanity and Death) as we know them around 100,000 years ago in the Amazon jungle of Brazil and spreading naturally or through cultivation by native peoples into what is now Mexico and the Caribbean perhaps around 6000 years ago. The Aztecs are said to have liked Real Hot Chocolate, a double New World Whammy, since both Chocolate and Hot Peppers are New World foods, like tomatoes and potatoes. Yeah, those, too. What was Italian food like before tomatoes, before red pepper? Geez.

For that matter, imagine the first human, perhaps 20,000 or more years ago, whose ancestors had crossed the land bridge from Siberia to Alaska, and whose subsequent generations had moved south into Central and South America, first trying a Pepper Fruit -- it is a fruit, you know -- hope it wasn't a Habanero! -- and thinking -- What??? Holy Cow!!!

Well, they say hunger is the best condiment. And clearly, even if the first guy didn't like them, somebody eventually did like Hot Peppers, and enough to grow them in large scale throughout Cental and southern North America and the Caribbean.

Interestingly, only mammals taste the Heat of the Hot Pepper, and of all of the mammals who can taste that Heat, only Man Likes It! Or some of us, anyway. It is theorized that it's the Hot Pepper's and Nature's way of discouraging mammals with grinding molars that destroy the Pepper Seeds, but not birds and other animals who swallow the seeds whole and pass them through and distribute them. But Evolution hasn't caught up with Chile Heads, at least not yet, and having seen some Chile Heads, I have to say, Evolution didn't have much to do with them in the first place!

For those of you interested in a brief history of the plants themselves, check out the Wikipedia article.

Anyway, there is a big grey area as to what happened between Columbus bringing Hot Peppers back to Spain, and how they got distributed throughout the rest of the Old World, along with Peppers brought back on subsequent trips.

Now of course, we'll never lose the history of Hot Sauce from Tabasco on, 'cause it's DIGITAL!

Yours in Heat and Flavor,


Photo of Pepper Ring is in the public domain
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