July 22, 2006

Tasting Hot Sauce

July 8 was our second-ever Hot Sauce Party. A little earlier in the year than our previous one of three years ago, we were able to use the verandah later into the evening, but unfortunately our timing rather stunk as far as people's schedules. So, it was with smaller fanfare and lower attendance, but equally delicious hot sauces from around the world that we held our second tasting.

Naturally, there were to be no repeats of sauces from the last tasting, three years ago. Even though there were clear favourites in the previous line up, there are so many amazing and different sauces produced in far-flung corners of the world, we went with an entirely new roster. To be fair, we had tried some of the sauces ourselves, previous to the tasting, but some of them were purchased specifically with an eye to origin, pepper type, style, and heat.

The subjects were arranged in (arguably) order of mildest to hottest:
  1. Tequila Sunrise Cayenne Hot Sauce (Costa Rica)
  2. Bufalo Jalapeno Mexican Hot Sauce (Mexico)
  3. Cholula Hot Sauce (Mexico)
  4. Waha Wera Kiwifruit & Habanero Sauce (New Zealand)
  5. Amazon Hot Green Sauce (Columbia)
  6. Cooksville Black Heat (Canada)
  7. Marie Sharp's Habanero Pepper Sauce (Belize)
  8. Harissa du Cap Bon (Tunisia)
  9. El Yucateco Salsa Kutbil-ik de Chile Habanero XXXtra Kot Sauce (Mexico)
  10. Ebesse Zozo Hot Sauce (Canada, modelled on Togolese traditional style).
Most of our guests are at least somewhat familiar with spicy food, but the upper end of the tasting proved a little too feisty for real enjoyment for some people. In a curious turn, we actually placed the Ebesse Zozo last, not because it was the hottest (although it was very hot) but because it contained both oil and curry, and I thought it would irreparably alter the palate. It was pronounced delicious by just about everyone, though.

The most contentious hot sauce was #9. I'm very fond of it, in small doses, on an omelette or frittata at breakfast. It is fierce as anything, but for the first time I heard people describing it as flavourless and harsh. Not everyone was disparaging of it, though. Generally speaking, the tasters who were most accustomed to very hot food were able to look past the fiery habanero heat and groove on the fiery habanero flavour.

The most popular sauce, I think - I cannot remember if we did a poll - was #7. Hot, clean, and powerful, full of flavour, and with enough sweetness to cut the fire so that everyone could enjoy it. #5 did very well, also, being made from a little-known pepper (the Green Amazon pepper), and having a very pleasant blend of heat and flavour. It is the one we have used most since the tasting, since it boasts a broad application spectrum.

We finished the tasting with a little jerk chicken and a vegetarian 4-bean chili, and a fair bit of beer.

Next time around we'll have to pick our date a little better so that more people who wanted to attend will be able to make it.


Randi said...

Sounds like fun, but since I have absolutly no pain tolerance for spicy food, Id do a tasting of cheese or chocolate.

Lera said...

Mmmmmm.. Amazing varieties of hot sauces to taste .Dawna, I would just love to try them all ..

Dawna said...

Hi Randi - I hear that a lot! It's funny, because I never had a particular tolerance for heat, but it somehow, mysteriously built up as I developed a fondness for cuisines that use spicy ingredients. I completely shun hot sauces that are hot-for-the-sake-of-hot and serve no other purpose. I prefer sauces that are really used as table condiments wherever they might be from. But hey, I'd show up for a chocolate or cheese tasting, too! Yum!

Hi Lera - we were amazed at how many habanero sauces there were to choose from! Last time we did this, there were only a couple that we could find, and this time we had to limit the number of habanero sauces just to get a good variety! All the sauces we had were all pretty good though, although the Waha Wera ("burned mouth" in Maori) was a little too sweet for me.