Friday, October 15, 2010

Hot Sauces Burning up the Globe

Now that the summer heat is gone, how are we supposed to sweat through our meals? Thus far, the best answer we've heard is to load up on the spicy foods. And, if the food still isn't hot enough you can douse everything in sight with hot sauce and follow it up with a chili pepper eating contest! Just make sure not to wipe your eyes, 'cause that stuff stings!

One of our missions at FoodPair is to be your kitchen assistant, or sous chef, and give you ideas for tasty food pairings or ways to spice up your meals. Well, we can't think of anything spicier or more versatile than hot sauce. Plus, who are we to say what you should or shouldn't put it on? So, grab a bottle of your favorite sauce or try a new one, and put it on anything you like. Let us know if you come up with anything exciting (or terrifying).

Here's our rundown of some of the most popular hot sauces around the world:

1. The United States: Tabasco and friends

Most casual restaurants stock every table with the starter kit of condiments: salt & pepper, ketchup & mustard, and hot sauce. The most common is Tabasco from Avery Island, Louisiana. Named after the state of Tabasco in Mexico and its namesake pepper, it's made from tabasco peppers, vinegar and salt then aged for 3 years in in white oak barrels. The original Tabasco is hot & tangy, and the Company now offers green jalapeño, chipotle and other varieties.

The great state of Louisiana loves their hot sauces, and other famous brands including Crystal, Louisiana and Frank's Red Hot all hail from the Pelican State. They're cayenne pepper based sauces, so they pack a great punch.

If you're looking for something even more intense, check out Dave's Gourmet Insanity Sauce, made with capsaicin extract so it's even hotter than habañero-based sauces. Apparently it was banned from the National Fiery Foods Show for being too hot, so test a drop first!

2. Mexico

Mexico is a great country for hot sauce aficionados. Mexico boasts a number of popular and tasty sauces including El Yucateo, Valentina, Búfalo and Cholula. A common misconception is that Tapatío is the most popular Mexican hot sauce, but we checked, and it's actually produced in Vernon, California and exported to Mexico.

3. Thailand and beyond

Sriracha is a great, fiery condiment used widely in Thai cooking. The very popular Sriracha from Huy Fong foods with the rooster on the bottle is thicker than the original Thai sauce. People put it on all kinds of dishes and it's a popular addition to Phở , the Vietnamese noodle soup.

4. Tunisia and North Africa

In Tunisia and other parts of North Africa, people love harissa. It's a hot chili sauce made from piri piri chili peppers, serrano pepper or other hot chillis and olive oil. Tunisians offer harissa with nearly every meal, so check it out on whatever you like.

4. South Africa

In South Africa and now around the world, peri-peri (or piri-piri) hot sauce is extremely popular. The most famous version is made by Nando's and uses African bird's eye, African devil, or African red devil chili peppers as it's base.

Have other favorite hot sauces or tips on favorites by country? Post them in the comments section!