Now, having successfully debased myself by tabloidising the blog I want to assure you that this post is morally sound. I am, of course, going to be talking about chilli sauces today. If you came here for something a little less savoury (no pun intended) then the jokes on you because even if you leave now, I’ve still got another hit. If on the other hand, you, like me, need nothing more than some soft focus pictures of spicy condiments to get you going then I can offer you both real, spicy, heat and the more metaphorical and almost equally as satisfying heat of foodporn (incidentally there is a foodporn website which I recommend for those long nights alone – here).
I had a few vouchers for Valvona and Crolla (the original Italian deli in Edinburgh for those not in the know) this week and I decided to top up my hot-box. I have been on a hunt recently, with a seemingly insatiable thirst, for the hottest chilli sauces, pastes and jams I can find. I love a bit of chilli and will order the hottest dishes I can get my hands on. It is now bordering on an obsession and so I have decided to write about it because I heard somewhere that admission is the first step (towards what?). This post, then, is a run through the bits and pieces which currently make up the hot-box with a review of each. I will also add a recipe for your own Thai birdseye chilli sauce which I resorted to making in order that it might be hot enough.
These are the current contents of my hot-box and this only really covers half the hot sauces brands etc I’ve tried. I still haven’t quite found the kind of mind-blowing stuff I’m after but some of these are a good start. I’m going to taste them all individually now: a teaspoon of each. I’ll let the heat develop and subside before taking a mouthful of milk and a dry cracker to kill the burn and cleanse my palate between each. I’ll be marking each condiment out of 10 on both heat (1 being an arctic winter and 10 being like reading 50 shades of grey whilst watching fellini) and flavour (1 being something found on the floor and 10 being something you’d happily lick off the floor) so the final score will be an aggregate of these two categories (a possible 20).
Might as well get cracking:
- Encona West Indian Original Hot Pepper Sauce
This sauce from Encona has the mildest heat which is surprising being made from habanero and scotch bonnet. It’s a wee bit nippy at first but dies quickly giving way to a slight throb but very little overall. The flavour is good with a fair bit of spice action though so well worth a punt. It’s also easily available from most supermarkets which is a plus.
Heat: 5 Flavour: 7 Total: 12
- Eaton’s Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce
A very fruity sauce with a slow build in heat but, ultimately, a slightly disappointing climax (smutty doublentendre for further tabloid effect). This sauce, as the name would suggest, is a scotch bonnet blend and has a strong chilli flavour which would imply a good amount of real pepper has gone in (rather than extract). There is, however, a slightly over-vinegary note which I’m not massively keen on.
Heat: 6 Flavour: 5 Total: 11
- Dalgety West Indian “Extra Extra Hot” Pepper Sauce
A slightly bitter sauce with an instant hit of heat which subsides almost as quickly as it comes. This one says “recommended only for persons capable of consuming – EXTREMELY HOT PEPPER!” on the side but I have to be honest, this sauce barks like an Alsation but bites like an old toothless Labrador. Perhaps I am being overly harsh because of the macho tone of the bottle but the sauce needs to live up to the task you’ve set on the label… this does not.
Heat: 5 Flavour: 4 Total: 9
- Tabasco Brand Habanero Sauce
Ahhh, Tabasco. A classic chilli sauce. This is the hottest of the Tabasco brand – made from habanero peppers as opposed to the regular sauce which is made from the considerably milder Tabasco pepper. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had a fair bit of chilli already but I can feel this behind my eyes and it’s the first sauce that’s given me a beaded brow and a bit of a runny nose. The flavour is great with a whole load of ingredients including garlic, mango and Banana(!?). This is the most readily available sauce in my hot-box too.
Heat: 7 Flavour: 9 Total: 16
- Mrs Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa
because this is a salsa it’s much more flavoursome than the others and has great juicy lumps (more of the smut) in it. The heat is a bit disappointing really considering there are ghost peppers in (the ingredients reveals only 1% with 7% jalapenos). It is still adequate though with the longest burn so far and would make a good addition to a burger or nachos.
Heat: 6 Flavour: 8 Total: 14
- Hot-Headz Whole Dried Chipotle Chillies
Now, I obviously haven’t stuffed a dried chilli in my mouth but I did grind some and add them to a packet of fajita spices (lazy cooking FTW) and they made such a difference! I reckon they’d also improve a chilli con carne or any Mexican dish. Chipotle are smoked jalapeno chillis so they don’t pack a massive punch but they make up for that in flavour. These are cracking chillis and can be bought in Valvona and Crollas or online. I recommend you go out and buy some of these now.
Heat: 5 Flavour: 8 Total: 13
- Hot-Headz Naga Deadly Hot Chilli Sauce
The hottest chilli variety in the world is reputedly the Naga. This is made from Naga chillis.
As is the character of Naga chillis, the heat in this grows slowly and steadily until my eyes are throbbing slightly again and I can feel the burn on my lips and throat. I have a slight sweat on and I’m enjoying the heat on this one. It’s not killing me but it’s pretty bloody hot. The flavour is not particularly strong but there is a good taste of ginger and garlic in there. This is a pretty good sauce!
Heat: 8 Flavour: 7 Total:15
- Cambridge Chilli Farm Nagalade
with the heat of the last sauce still playing around the edges of my lips we meet the Naga again. Nice one…
This is a chilli jam made up with Naga chillis in big chunks. I just got one. The flavour’s good, if a little sweet, and the heat is solid. Just like the last sauce, the heat grows to a climax which I’d imagine could strip paint. This is not for the faint hearted! The chunks hang around in my mouth a bit because it’s sticky and it’s hard to escape the burn. This is the stuff!
Heat: 9 (always room to improve) Flavour: 8 Total: 17
- Ruari’s Thai Birdseye Chilli Sauce
This is my own sauce and it draws on Thai flavours to make a slightly different sauce. The heat is fairly medium and after the last two is actually soothing. I will add the recipe for this below because it’s nice to make your own.
Heat: 5 Flavour: 10 (obviously) Total: 15
I’ve now eaten quite a lot of chilli and I have a fair sweat on as well as a pair of tingling lips (enough!). I am also feeling pretty euphoric which makes sense because chilli releases endorphins. I also feel like it might hurt later on.
I hope you manage to get your hands on some good chilli sauces and if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them!
- Ruari’s Thai Birdseye Chilli Sauce
- 10 green birdseye chillis – chopped
- Bunch of coriander
- Three cloves of garlic
- Two inch piece of Ginger
- Half an onion finely sliced
- Three tbsp of Thai fish sauce
- 150ml of white rice vinegar (or distilled malt vinegar)
– place all ingredients in a pan and boil for 5 minutes
– cool and blend until smooth
– pour into a sterilised bottle and seal
This sauce keeps for ages because of the vinegar. Add more or less chilli depending on your taste.