Hot Stuff

When I was a kid, the most dangerous and bewildering item in the pantry was a small jar of Tabasco sauce. My siblings and I, little devils that we were, would dare each other to try a bit of it on the tip of our tongue, then run screeching through the house like a cat with its tail on fire.

Dad, however, was addicted to the stuff, and shook liberal amounts of it on just about everything. Chili too bland? Shake shake shake! Tomato juice boring? Several drops of this magic elixir would make it “come alive” In our house, Tabasco was the only option, and still the de-facto choice at most bars, standing alongside a bottle of Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce and ready to give it up for a round of Bloody Mary’s or Caesar’s. Nowadays you can find more varieties of hot sauce than you can shake a celery stick at, especially in Toronto, with such a vast multicultural make-up. Whether the sauce comes from Asia, South Asia, The Caribbean, Africa, South America or the Southern U.S., our palates have become accustomed to the hit of heat and excitement that a good hot sauce can impart. The ingredients in each are usually a well-kept secret reflecting the regional produce and cultural heritage, but of course, the main player is the chili pepper.

One of our favourite hot sauces is Sriracha, a traditional sauce named after the Thai city of Si Racha . The most popular is Rooster Brand Sriracha which is made in California. The outpouring of love for this sauce has been quite phenomenal recently, most notably this hilarious cartoon by the Oatmeal, warning contains some spicy language. 

We are also big fans of Cholula Original Hot Sauce from Guadalajara, Mexico. Cholula is made from a blend of chile de abrol and red and piquin peppers. This is a good beginner’s hot sauce as it has barely any heat, allowing you to enjoy the hot sauce flavour without setting your mouth on fire. It is tangy and delicious.

But you don’t have to rely on these imports to get your hit of heat! Rossy Earle’s “Supicucu – Diablo’s Fuego” is maybe the best hot sauce we have ever tasted, using local honey and habaneros from Vicky’s Veggies, the sauce is made right here in Toronto by this Panamanian bombshell.

This Father’s day, why not surprise Dad with a fiery selection of some of the world’s zippiest sauces. Maybe you could even make him a basket of chicken wings with it, or a breakfast in bed of Poached eggs smothered in it. For those of you willing to go that extra mile, you may want to have a go at making dad a bottle of your very own hot sauce.

We found this recipe for Tequila Hot Sauce from Chef Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country Barbecue in New York City. For the Dad who loves Tequila and hot sauce, it is match made in heaven. With a little help from the little devil.

Elizabeth Karmel’s Tequila Hot Sauce

makes 1 pint

1/4 tsp. whole allspice

1/4 tsp. black peppercorns

1/4 tsp. cumin seeds

1 pint tequila blanco

3—5 fresh or dried red Thai chiles, smashed with side of a knife

1 smoked black cardamom pod (optional)

  1. Heat allspice, peppercorns, and cumin in an 8″ skillet over medium heat and cook, swirling skillet, until toasted and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat; set aside.
  2. Take a swig of tequila, or pour off an inch of the spirit to make room for the other ingredients; add toasted spices, chiles, and optional black cardamom to bottle.
  3. Add pour spout or screw top to bottle; let hot sauce sit for 1 week before using.
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