Friday, February 05, 2016

voodoo chilli (slight reburn)

I have a bit of a thing for spicy food, as anyone who's kept up with my periodic documentation of my Korean noodle fetish will know. That love for chilli-based stuff extends to having a few bottles of chilli sauce in the fridge, just in case anything needs spicing up at short notice. My collection doesn't begin to compare with that of my friend Jim, who has a whole kitchen cupboard full of various chilli-based weaponry, most of it probably technically illegal under some UN chemical weapons treaty. Here's my current hall of fame:

From left to right:
  • a somewhat elderly (best before some time in 2012, but I'm pretty sure no germs can survive in there) bottle of Encona West Indian chilli sauce. This is nice, quite sharp and vinegary, but still good as a plate-side dipping sauce;
  • a bottle of Flying Goose brand sriracha sauce - purchased in Tesco a couple of days ago. More on this in a minute;
  • some bog-standard Thai-style sweet chilli dipping sauce from Asda, pretty mild;
  • a bottle of Heinz-brand green sauce supposedly made from jalapeno peppers, not as fiery as you might think, and also probably a number of years past its best before date;
  • a bottle of Mama Sita's Hot Pepper Sauce - this is supposedly made from a chilli called Labuyo that is cultivated in the Philippines, very similar to Tabasco but a bit hotter;
  • your basic bog-standard Tabasco - no self-respecting bacon sandwich or Bloody Mary should be without it;
  • a bottle of Fiesta peri-peri sauce from (I think) Aldi.
I was prompted to compile this list by purchasing the bottle of sriracha sauce on a whim in Tesco a couple of days ago, and discovering that not only is it ferociously addictive, but also that there is a whole sriracha sub-culture out there engaging in furious debate about which one is the best. The original one is produced by Huy Fong in the distinctive green-topped bottles from their factory in Irwindale, southern California (in the news a year or so ago after suspicions of noxious chilli sauce fumes spilling out into the town and inconveniencing people) and is, amusingly, known in some jurisdictions (thanks to the rooster logo) as "cock sauce". Most of the imitators try to emulate the big clear bottle/green squirty top convention, including the Flying Goose brand that I've got hold of here.

These are all within what I deem to be the acceptable boundaries of good sense when it comes to chilli sauce - my rule of thumb being that if licking a few drops off your finger causes either a heart attack or severe finger and tongue blistering and the need to quaff three pints of full-fat milk afterwards, then you've strayed into the realms of comedy sauce products which are no use to anyone for any actual culinary purpose. Despite that there is a bit of an arms race going on to create things that rate highest on the Scoville scale of chilli intensity. Consider that both the sriracha and Tabasco (and probably the Encona as well) rate at about 2000-2500 Scoville units - the Mama Sita's might be a bit hotter; then consider that Dave's Insanity Sauce, one of the trailblazers for pointlessly hot and inedible sauce products, weighs in at about 180,000 units. Then consider that some of the products made by Blair's rate at over 10 million Scoville units. Then ask: why?

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