Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Feeling hot, hot, hot…

hot-sauce

Years ago my brother bought me a bottle of hot sauce for my birthday. I can’t say exactly what it was called (my consciousness has blacked it out) but the word ‘insanity’ was in there somewhere and it had a picture of a flaming skull on the label. Needless to say it was used sparingly, but I always thought (after each sparing use) that the manufacturers would have been better off with a pic of a flaming bottom on the label. It was that hot.

Over the years I’ve made my way through the great and the good of hot sauces and a quick Google for ‘hot sauce’ will demonstrate there’s a whole sub-culture out there just waiting to be devoured. These days I invariably have at least one bottle of something or other on standby in the fridge for when my din-dins or sarnie need a kick up the chops. I’m under no illusions though: I haven’t even dented that sub-culture, so I’m always on the look-out for something new.

If you’re new to hot sauce or you’re often chagrined that your breakie doesn’t have the necessary oomph it should have, these bottles are a great place to start…

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Tabasco Chipotle – £1.80 for 60ml
For a while I even considered commissioning a Tabasco tattoo – but it would have to be this variation. Whereas the original Tabasco is overly thin and errs on the side of heat rather than taste, this chipotle version has it all. Great depth of flavour, a great range of heat and a great all-rounder. As Tony the Tiger would say, “It’s grrrrrreat!”
Rating: 5/5

Cholula Hot Sauce – £1.60 for 150ml
Also in chipotle, this is super ammunition to have in your Mexican arsenal. Everything is spot-on: From the wooden top to the little happy face peeking out of the window on the label, the definitive Mexican flavour makes this is one of the best condaments for any occasion. Look at her wee face!
Rating 4/5

Flying Goose Sriracha Hot Chilli Sauce – £2.70 for 455ml
Made from sun-ripened chillis, with humdinging garlic, this stuff officially goes on anything. Distinctly sizzling on the tongue (though this might have something to do with a certain flavour enhancer), once tasted, sriracha is reluctantly forgotten. It works on Chinese food, Japanese, Mexican, Creole, West Indian, Lebanese, Martian… anything. Thai in origin, the future is sriracha coloured.
Rating: 5/5

Extreme Bhut Jolokia Chilli Sauce – £4.50 for 100ml
For those of you looking for bags of heat alongside bags of flavour, it’ll be hard to find a better sauce than this one. Note the skull and cross bones on the label? This stuff is at the upper end of the Scoville scale. Have a glass of milk (and a fire extinguisher) on hand when sampling for the first time. But it’s not just heat. Makers, South Devon Chilli Farm picked up a Great Taste Award in 2010. Flava-flav!
Rating: ARRGH!

Al’fez Harissa – £1.79 for 100g
Technically more a paste than a sauce, this little condiment has such a complex flavour it lends itself to anything bland. Made from a range of varying ingredients from rose petals to pastis (depending on the brand and recipe), this works with everything from cous cous to mashed potatoes. I even made my own once (sans rose petals) but Al’fez is my personal favourite. This is the perfect antidote to bland January.
Rating: 5/5

Encona Hot Pepper Sauce – £3 for 220ml
With a great balance between fruity and hot, this Caribbean classic is made from Scotch Bonnet and habanero peppers, so you know it’s going to be rocket fuel for your meal. Add a few drops to mayo for a punchy dip, pour over chicken wings as a marinade, drink it stright from the bottle – this stuff will consistently turn the volume up in your food. Boom!
Rating: 4/5

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