Hot Sauce

List of hot sauces

Hot sauce refers to any spicy sauce made from chili peppers and other ingredients. A group of chemicals called capsaicinoids are responsible for the heat in chili peppers. The peppers are infused in anything from vinegar, oil, water, beer and alcohol to fruits and vegetable pulp. Additional ingredients are often used, including those used to add extra heat, such as pure capsaicin extract and mustards.

Mexican hot sauce typically focuses more on flavor than on intense heat. The sauces are hot, but the individual flavors of the peppers are pronounced. Vinegar is used sparingly or not at all. Chipotles (smoked chili peppers) are a very popular ingredient of Mexican hot sauce.

However, some sauces produced in Mexico are high-vinegar-content similar to the American Louisiana-style sauces. Some less hot sauces, like achiote (favored in Yucatán and Oaxacan cuisine, is made from slightly bitter, earthy flavored, red annatto seeds, mixed with other spices and ground into a paste) or adobo (the immersion of raw food in a stock comprised variously of paprika, oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar to preserve and enhance its flavor), are used basically as part of some dishes, but they are used as a condiment, too. Sometimes they come in a green variety (known as salsa verde, pureed cooked or raw tomatillos, with jalapeños or other chili peppers, white onion, cilantro, and sometimes lime).

In the United States peppers are often of the varieties cayenne, jalapeño, and habanero; chipotles are also common. Some hot sauces, notably Tabasco sauce, are aged in wooden casks similar to the preparation of wine and fermented vinegar. Other ingredients, including fruits and vegetables such as raspberries, mangoes, carrots, and chayote squash are sometimes used to add flavor, mellow the heat of the chilis, and thicken the sauce’s consistency. In Hawaii, chili pepper water, ideal for cooking, is made from whole chilies, garlic, salt, and water. Sriracha is a traditional Thai hot sauce, made primarily of ground chilies, garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Often called ‘rooster sauce’ after the most widely sold U.S. brand’s label.

New Mexican style chile sauces differ from others in that they contain no vinegar. Almost every traditional New Mexican dish is served with red or green chile sauce. The sauce is often added to meats, eggs, vegetables, breads, and some dishes are, in fact, mostly chile sauce with a modest addition of pork, beef, or beans. Green chile sauce is prepared from any fire roasted native green chile peppers. The skins are removed and peppers diced. Onions are fried in lard and a roux is prepared. Broth and chile peppers are added to the roux and thickened. Its consistency is similar to gravy, and it is used as such. It also is used as a salsa. For red chilie sauce the dried ground pods of native red chiles are added.

In the West Indies, hot pepper sauces, as they are most commonly known there, feature heavily in Caribbean cuisine. Like American-style sauces, they are made from chili peppers and vinegar, with fruits and vegetables added for extra flavor. The most common peppers used are habanero and Scotch bonnet, the latter being the most common in Jamaica. Both are very hot peppers, making for strong sauces. Over the years, each island developed its own distinctive recipes, and home-made sauces are still common. Antigua’s ‘Susie’s Hot Sauce,’ is a mustard based hot sauce. The Virgin Islands’ Asher (from ‘limes ashore’) is made with lime, habaneros, cloves, allspice, salt, vinegar, and garlic.

Chinese chili sauces usually come as a thick paste, and are used either as a dipping sauce or in stirfrying. Dou ban sauce originates from Szechuan cuisine in which chilis are used liberally (‘dou’ is ‘bean,’ ‘ban’ is ‘piece,’ and ‘jiang’ is ‘sauce’). It is made from broad bean or soybean paste, and usually contain a fair amount of chili. Often referred to in English as chili bean sauce. Pao la jiao, dipped chili or fish chili, is made by pickling whole, fresh red chilis in a brine solution. The key to this pickle is to add a live crucian carp to the pickling pot along with the chilis, hence the name fish chili. The carp is supposed to lend its fragrance and umami (savory taste) to the pickle. La jiao You, chili oil or red oil, is another distinctive Sichuan flavoring found mainly in cold dishes.

Chili oil is made by pouring hot oil onto a bowl of dried chilis, to which some Sichuan pepper is usually added. After steeping in hot oil for at least a few hours, it takes on the taste and fragrance of chili. The finer the chili is ground, the stronger the flavor (regional preferences vary – ground chili is usually used in western China, while whole dried chili is more common in northern China). Guilin chili sauce is made of fresh chili, garlic and fermented soybeans; it also is marketed as soy chili sauce (la jiao jiang and la dou ban jiang are not the same thing, though they look vaguely similar in the jar). Duo jiao sauce originates from Hunan cuisine, which is reputed to be even spicier than Sichuan cuisine. ‘Duo’ means chopped, and ‘jiao’ means chili. Duo jiao is made of chopped red chilis pickled in a brine solution, and has a salty and sour pickled taste.

In Japan, Rayu chili oil is the same as la jiao you, and is often used for dishes such as gyoza. Shichimi togarashi and ichimi togarashi are seven or one ingredient spicy seasoning mixes, with chili, used for many soups and foods, such as udon. In Okinawa, Kōrēgūsu is made of chilis infused in awamori rice spirit, is a popular condiment to Okinawan dishes such as Okinawa soba. It refers to Goguryeo (an ancient Korean kingdom). Gochujang is a savory and pungent fermented Korean condiment made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. Traditionally, it has been naturally fermented over years in large earthen pots outdoors, more often on an elevated stone platform.

In Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Sos Cili, a category of its own, uses tomato puree, chili juice, sugar, salt, and some other spices or seasonings to give the spicy, but not too hot, taste. Some countryside commercial varieties use bird’s eye chili (also called Thai chili) together with its seeds to raise the level of heat (piquancy) of the sauce. Variants include the typical concoctions with ginger and garlic (for chicken rice) and variants that are made into gummy consistency as with ketchup/tomato sauce. Sambal is a generic term for many varieties of chili-based sauces popular in Indonesia and Malaysia.

In Thailand, Thais put raw chilies on a very wide variety of food, in lieu of chili sauces. Chili sauces are eaten as condiments but they can also be used as an ingredient. Nam phrik is the generic name for a Thai chili dip or paste. Nam phrik phao (roasted chili paste), nam phrik num (pounded grilled green chili paste) and nam phrik kapi (chili paste made with fermented shrimp paste) are some of the more well-known varieties. Many Thai dipping sauces (nam chim) contain chili peppers. Nam chim chaeo uses ground dried chili peppers to achieve its spiciness. Available worldwide is nam chim kai, also known as ‘chili sauce for chicken’ or ‘Thai sweet chili sauce.’ Phrik nam pla is fish sauce (nam pla) with chopped raw chilies, lime juice and sometimes garlic.

Harissa is a popular hot sauce used in Tunisia. It is usually made from grounded red birdseye chili peppers with olive oil, garlic, cumin, and coriander although caraway is sometimes used instead of cumin and recipes vary. The sauce is of a dark red grainy texture. It is sometimes spread on bread rolls but also used as a condiment with a variety of meals. Tunisian Harissa is much hotter than that found in neighboring countries. Harissa is often sold in tin cans.

Two of the hottest chilis in the world, the Naga Viper and Infinity chili, were developed in the United Kingdom and are available as sauces which have been claimed to be the hottest natural chili sauces (without added pepper extract) available in the world. The Naga Viper and Infinity were considered the hottest two chili peppers in the world until they were unseated by the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion in late 2011.

In Hungary, Erős Pista and Piros Arany hot pepper paste, are both made from minced hot paprika.

The heat, or burning sensation, experienced when consuming hot sauce is caused by capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. The burning sensation is not ‘real’ in the sense of damage being wrought on tissues. It is instead a chemical interaction with the body’s neurological system. The seemingly subjective perceived heat of hot sauces can be measured by the Scoville scale. The Scoville scale number indicates how many times something must be diluted with an equal volume of water until people can no longer feel any sensation from the capsaicin. The hottest hot sauce scientifically possible is one rated at 16,000,000 Scoville units, which is pure capsaicin. An example of a hot sauce marketed as achieving this level of heat is Blair’s 16 Million Reserve (due to production variances, it is up to 16 million Scoville units), marketed by Blair’s Sauces and Snacks. By comparison, Tabasco sauce is rated between 2,500 and 5,000 Scoville units (batches vary).

An easy way to determine the heat of a sauce is to look at the ingredients. Sauces tend to vary in heat by the ingredients in them. Jalapeño sauces include green and red jalapeño chilis, and chipotle. Green jalapeño and chipotle are usually the mildest sauces available. Red jalapeño sauce is generally hotter. Sauces made with cayenne, including most of the Louisiana-style sauces, are usually hotter than jalapeño, but milder than other sauces. Sauces made with tabasco peppers, like Tabasco sauce, are generally hotter than cayenne pepper sauces. Along with Tabasco, a number of ‘extra hot’ sauces are made using a combination of tabasco and cayenne or other chili peppers. Scotch Bonnet peppers are similar in heat to the Habanero and are popular in the Caribbean, particularly in Jamaican hot sauces. Habanero pepper sauces are almost the hottest natural pepper sauces, only second to the Naga jolokia or Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. Piri piri (also known as the African birds-eye chili) sauces have a delayed sensation of heat when consumed. This allows consumers to taste their food first, then experience the heat.

The hottest sauces are made from capsaicin extract. These range from extremely hot pepper sauce blends to pure capsaicin extracts. These sauces are extremely hot and should be considered with caution by those not used to fiery foods. Many are too hot to consume more than a drop or two in a pot of food. These novelty sauces are typically only sold by specialty retailers and are usually more expensive.

Capsaicinoids are fat soluble and therefore water will be of no assistance when countering the burn. The most effective way to relieve the burning sensation is with dairy products, such as milk and yogurt. A protein called casein occurs in dairy products which binds to the capsaicin, effectively making it less available to ‘burn’ the mouth, and the milk fat helps keep it in suspension. Rice is also useful for ameliorating the impact, especially when it is included with a mouthful of the hot food. These foods are typically included in the cuisine of cultures that specialize in the use of chilis. Mechanical stimulation of the mouth by chewing food will also partially mask the pain sensation.


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