SPB contributor T is a global traveler. In visiting countries he’s a fan of music (that is the Scene Point Blank focus), but also a wide range of arts, which included the hot sauces that share spicy flavors and carry a bit of culture in a bottle.Goodness in Bottle Form: A Hot Sauce TourTable of contents:I. Byron Bay Chilli Company II. Melbourne Hot Sauce III.
Ranch Hand IV. Mama Blu’s V. TabascoChilli.Spiciness.The burning sensation.
Pain.Heat.The rush.More than mere food.Now, claiming that I got a weak spot for chili would be an understatement. Victory Records, a label that was home to many of the most prominent hardcore bands in the 1990s including the likes of Integrity, Strife, Hatebreed, and Snapcase, had a “Singles Club,” which released limited edition special items only for club members.
While I was heavily into Integrity and some of their label mates that derived from the cookie cutter formula of what hardcore was supposed to be in the 1990s, what interested me much than any of their musical releases was that for whatever reason -– probably coming down to the personal preferences of its owner Tony Brummel –- Victory Records started a side branch: a mailorder for hot sauces. Hot as in “if you use more than a few drops, it will burn a whole in either your tongue or the pot you are cooking with.”While what is considered to be “the scene” might lament the route Victory Records and their roaster of bands has taken since, I am still looking for a label that would bring the heat not only on the musical front but also when it comes to culinary delights.Hot sauces are a staple. There is a myriad of hot sauces out there. Novelty ones.
Tasty ones. Sugar laden ones. Ones with a great label art and hyperbolic names but with the content lacking in all departments, especially with the rise of hipster BBQ and burger joints.No, it is not just about the heat. Heat just for heat’s sake is a novelty concept. If you feel like riot control pepper spray grade sauces, do not waste your time reading this further and go mess with the popo at a rally instead to get your fix.See, I for one enjoy hot sauces.
Caliente por favor.As in, I am committed –- not unlike Beyoncé who confessed to have hot sauce in her bag swag.I do not discriminate when it comes to what hot sauce can be put on: avocado, eggs, popcorn, yoghurt, oatmeal, baked apples and pears, fruit salad, hummus, brine, cake batter, and pretty much everything else. Have fun with it. With a good hot sauce, you simple cannot lose!Flavour and character of a sauce are key.Chili peppers are a delicacy and they deserve better than to be merely reduced to their pungency.Different hot sauces fulfill different needs and there is no “best one.
“There are high in vitamin C, containing bioflavinoids, antibacterial qualities, antioxidants and most importantly capsaicinoids, the most prevalent chemical in chili peppers.In layman’s terms, capsaicin (a vanilloid), tricks the nerves and sends a temperature warning signal to your brain, which triggers the production of sweat in a bid to cool itself down.It irritates the membrane in the nose and causes the production of more mucus as a defense mechanism. Other side effects might include stomach cramps, redness of exteriors, heartburn and glands along the gut wall secreting more fluids, which can ultimately result in diarrhea.
In other words, your body views capsaicin as an offensive, dangerous substance that needs to be evacuated pronto.The aforementioned effects form the basis of the Scoville scale:Wilbur Scoville developed the scale in 1912 to measure heat level in chilies, i.e. the pungency: the greater the number, the hotter the burn.
Easy.Endorphins are a class of neurotransmitters similar to opiates in that they are a strong analgesic and give a sense of happiness. Hot chilies cause the release of endorphins.
Let this feature introduce you to the hot sauces of the land down under. No spice-o-meter, just quality brands with great flavours that you might have never heard of and that I have come to appreciate.I. Byron Bay Chilli CompanyLet’s start up North, shall we?!There are not really a lot of things happening in Byron Bay.
Sure, it is a beautiful spot and while it is the “door” and starting point for a lot of fun excursions, e.g. to the rainforest or the remains of the Great Barrier Reef, it is essentially a town close to a beach far up in the North-East in a country where the sun shines. Locally and culturally Byron Bay is known for creating laid-back singer/songwriters in the vein of Jack Johnson, major, great multi-day music festivals, i.
e. Splendour in the Grass and Blues Fest, wellness retreats and the odd internationally acclaimed band like Parkway Drive.What began in the Byron Bay hinterland with a chili patch overlooking a hill over 20 years ago, has become a renowned range of chili sauce, corn chips, and salsas: The Byron Bay Chili Company. What started as an experiment to create something that would go with their burritos, tacos and nachos — sold at Byron Bay Markets — they started making their own chili sauce, salsas, and corn chips the way they like them.Since then, Byron Bay Chili Company has grown into a global brand, winning awards on three continents, including the Grand Prize Scovie Award from New Mexico, and is now made and available in the UK with plans to expand to the Middle East.It all started with their Salsa Picante and Salsa Verde. Word of mouth spread quickly, and eventually led them to become available at Australian and mainstream supermarkets and American chili wholesalers.
Not long after they expanded their range with Asian/Latin fusion sauces inspired by Thai, Indian, and Mexican flavours. The common denominator of BBCC’s sauces is that they produce actual sauces that are thick, rich, and opaque.BBCC’s Range include Fiery Coconut Chili Sauce with Curry and Ginger, which goes well with barbequed chicken or as salad dressing; the Spicy Sweet Chili Sauce with Savory Lemongrass has a nice citrus blend and is an all-rounder, especially nice with fish tacos and Smokin’ Mango Chili Sauce with Chipotle Chilies has a mango twang with a tomato backup and three kinds of chilies.Some of my favourites are the spicy Red Cayenne Chili with Lime (With a not too strong tartness, it has been awarded “Best Louisiana Style Hot Sauce” twice in America at the Scovies), and both their Green Jalapeno with Coriander and their Gold Habanero with Mango Chili Sauces (which have won double Gold at the Great Taste Competition in London).
Covering a wide range, BBCC has something for every palate no matter if you use it as a condiment, dipping, marinating, grilling, stir frying. Even the hottest of BBCC’s varieties are still flavourful. The Green Jalapeno Sauce, with its balanced, blended flavours of green chili, coriander, mango, coconut, and cumin is extraordinary.
Same goes for Caribbean-style hot sauce.Salsa-wise, Byron Bay Chili Company trusts in fresh coriander leaf, fresh onions, and fresh garlic.Their rich Salsa Picante is a spicy blend of red tomatoes, fresh onions, garlic and coriander, jalapeno chilies and spices.Great in meat gravy, it adds a nice spice to the traditional roast dinner stirred into marinara and bolognaise sauces for zesty pastas and lasagnas.Their Red Bean Salsa is comprised of kidney beans and smoked jalapeno chilies (Chipotles), tomato, onion, garlic, and oregano – it’s basically barbequed chili in a dip. Combined with BBCC’s thick gluten-free corn chips, it is a meal in itself. Their Mild Salsa Picante is made of spicy tomato, coriander, jalapeno salsas and comes in two heats, the medium having more chili than the mild.
Both are bitey though, and on the hot side of medium and mild.II. Melbourne Hot SauceLet’s head further South:Melbourne is the capital and most populous city of the Australian state of Victoria. Some say that there is a correlation between its temperate oceanic climate and changeable weather conditions and the international cultural centre it has established itself as. Music-wise it is one of the live capitals of the world with about 62,000 live concerts annually and more live venues per capita than Austin, TX.The prolific and awards adorned Melbourne Hot Sauces Company is based in St. Kilda and produces small batches of hand crafted hot sauces that use all natural ingredients with no added preservatives, additives, colouring, thickeners, stabilizers or extracts.
?They produce a wide range of hot sauces with a focus on flavour, depth, and balance using as much quality local produce as possible. Founder Richard Nelson has been a chef for 16 years running kitchens that mainly specialise in Mexican, Cajun, Creole, Caribbean, and Latin cuisine, which eventually led him into making his own hot sauce and forming Melbourne Hot Sauce in 2013. The Chipotle BBQ was the first sauce he came up with and was created especially for basting pork or beef ribs on the barbecue or smoker.MHSC’s philosophy is that anyone can make something hot. The key is to have depth, balance and flavour, merging the key characteristics of sweet, savoury, acidity, bitterness, salt and heat.Agree? Agree’d!Your humble narrator’s favourites of the MHSC’s range include the Habanero Roja, which makes a great addition to a Bloody Mary (the Tomatillo and Jalapeno giving the needed zing to Avocado) and Lime Sorbet and Spicy Sanchez, which features a mix of some of the worlds hottest chilies (Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Scorpion, Bhut Jolokia, Red Habanero, Orange Habanero, Chipotle). I drastically overdosed when I first sampled Spicy Sanchez and recommend for your first experience that you have a liter of milk as antidote and peanut butter to coat your tongue with to do damage control. Back in the day it would have definitely been a candidate for the Victory Records hot sauce catalogue.
Melbourne Hot Sauces also do a limited release Melbourne Hell Sauce a few times a year, which includes also some of the hottest chilies in the world and usually sells out within days of release. These chilies can range from 1 million shu to 2 million shu on the Scoville scale. In comparison, the humble Jalapeno rates about 3,000-6,000 thousand shu.III. Ranch HandNot exactly one of the biggest players in the hot sauce universe, they deliberately keep operations at a small scale, focussing on keeping in touch with the heritage of their South American homeland and what contributes to flavours in terms of their Australian surroundings. This approach finds expression in close collaborations with local farmers and their emissions in terms of fresh produce. We are talking unadulterated, natural ingredients, son.
Word.Their main objective is to make salsas, sauces, and rubs, as their head honcho would have been taught to three decades ago in Texas.I am down with that.Ranch Hand’s Jalapeño Coriander Hot Sauce is one of my favourite sauces. It is actually not that hot – what makes it outstanding are the fresh ingredients and the flavour explosions they elicit, think tanginess informed by ripened chilies, notes of coriander and cilantro with the well measured adage of jalapenos, Victorian Pink Lake salt, and a well calibrated mix of premium vinegars and pinches of secret spicy additions along with brown sugar to give it the right balance.How does that sound? Delish? Thought so.
Chipotle & Stout Beer Hot Sauce is more in the vein of a traditional, smoky variant based on the red jalapeno.Red jalapeno has been used in Mexico as a staple for ages and it known to elicit a burn that starts with a nice simmer and builds up to heat that is sustained. What’s in a name? Well, in this case “beer”, which is what the chillies are paired with, a full-bodied stout one that is, which compliments the added chocolate and the juice of pressed carrots. a dash of chocolate, and pressed carrot juice. Sounds odd? It isn’t. The result is a concoction, that melts in the mouth – warm, hints of smoke and compatible with all sorts of dishes, not just meaty ones, as it is lighter than the name would have you think.
Habanero Pomegranate is on the more exotic end of the spectrum of things and excels at exactly that. Potent in terms of heat yet not overpowering based on a mix of tropical spices, habaneros and chilli of the arbol kind, blended with pomegranate.Sweet Hickory BBQ Sauce keys in on the traditional BBQ flavour of the Deep South, centering on Memphis and the flavour of shagbark hickory smoke and cracked black pepper.
This one is not a chili-based sauce and good as a finishing sauce for grilled, smoked or slow cooked meats (traditionally the sauce for finishing Southern style pulled pork), or a premium condiment for use anywhere. It lays on the honey, a mountain blend from the alpine regions of Victoria and blends them with the punch of roasted jalapenos from central Victoria. Pink Lake salt, a special blend of spices overlaid on a tomato base. Fresh and natural.Boom: The great flavour of jalapeno without a lot of chili afterburn!Their Chili Citrus BBQ Sauce, which features fresh habanero, cayenne and chipotle, goes great on a base of rich tomato, pineapple, citrus and spices.
Rand Hand also produces rubs.Beale Street Memphis Style BBQ Rub is the go to if you’re looking to make authentic American BBQ ribs or pulled pork in the dry rub spice style. It works on poultry too, with its sultriness and a touch of sweetness. Simple to use, complex in results. Just the way (uh-huh uh-huh) I like it.The Mojave Chipotle Southwest BBQ Rub is a classic Texas Brisket rub and then some.
This blend takes off from the traditional salt n’ pepper rub — though they include those in the form of Victorian Pink Lake salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Plus they add the smoldering warmth of smoked chipotle powder, cumin, and herbs. It goes well with slow cooked beef brisket and ribs, turkey, and chicken.Sweet n’ Southern Smoky BBQ Rub is rich and earthy, smoked, and savory. This blend features the subtle warmth of the large, black Pasilla chili, an important ingredient in Mexico and in the southern part of the United States.
With only a hint of heat it is a good all-rounder for the type, it shines on lamb — either slow cooked or mixed with a bit of oil to marinade on the grill.Ay caramba! Sizzlita Fajita Seasoning is a spicy blend of southwest flavours meant to convert that plain bit of beef, vegetables or chicken breast into something memorable after dosing it in limejuice and peppering it with minced garlic. Makes an interesting seasoning for braising too.Ranch Hand’s range of Mexican and Tex Mex chunky dipping salsas and guacamole starter are created from hand roasted roma tomatoes, onions and capsicum. The flavour is cranked to high by leaving the charred skins in the sauce. There’s no comparison to the “slick” ultra-tomato-y factory made salsas, full of chemicals to make them last.
Ranch Hand preserves theirs with real citrus, vinegars and local salts and they are sealed using old-fashioned canning methods used growing up on the farm.IV. Mama Blu’sJah, man – longing for Caribbean, Jamaican flavours?Cue Mama Blu.
Jamaica not only played an important role in the development of punk rock, through reggae and ska, but is also the home base of Stephanie Kamener, who left her homeland a quarter of a century ago. Some people claim that you never lose touch with your roots, and what Stephanie did once she settled in on terra australis was to combine the flavours of the places she lived before, i.e. the United Kingdom and Jamaica.We are talking fiery flavours.
Mama Blu’s vegan range of Chili Sauces and chutneys are a cosmos of flavours, ranging from the appropriately named Voodoo Chili Sauce, which packs a punch or two via Dis Da Wild Man, which is the more temperate sauce-y (tee-hee!) companion, that lends itself well for all kinds of dipping action as well as a means to add a bit of zing to your stir-fry.Hot ‘n Sweet is a nice – it live up to its name in every way, stepping it up a notch in the heat department while delivering subtle sweet and fruity notes.Okay, you like it hot you say?Mama Blue’s Voodoo Chilli Sauce is the one for you then. My favourite of the bunch and a worthy contender for the Victory hot sauces mailorder. Voodoo level heat indeed.
Mama Blu’s Jamaican Curry Powder is a great addition that would suit a range of dishes and complements the chutney range, which comes in Mango, Tomatillo and Beet Roots variants, each having ample chunks of the respective main ingredient and enriched with savoury spices.V. TabascoAlright.Let’s bring in the mothership.
The OG.The ole faithful.A sauce that has accompanied me on travels and travails across 60 countries. I usually do not board planes without having a stash of the classically labeled bottles with me as a backup: Tabasco made by McIlhenny.”Tabasco” is a word of Mexican Indian origin believed to mean “place where the soil is humid” or “place of the coral or oyster shell.” It has become synonymous with hot sauce, with the like-named sauce distributed in over 180 states and territories.
I have yet to frequent a restaurant that does not know what it is, no matter if I was roaming the backstreets of Cambodia or trying to spice up lobster soup in Iceland.Founded in 1868 on Avery Island, Louisiana, Tabasco is my global go to for heating and intensifying monotonous and bland food, especially by Louisiana standards. Based on crushed red peppers and the adage of Avery Island salt, the condiment is aged for up to three years in oak barrels before it is blended with distilled white vinegar and aged for another 30 days. After straining it, it is being transferred into the small cologne-type bottles with sprinkler gitments, which have been adopted by many epigones throughout the years.With its light red colour, fine texture, and powerful vinegary smell it provides near perfect heat with nuances of saltiness, tanginess, and cayenne. Because of its versatile and generalist nature, Tabasco is a sauce that is good on everything and it the common denominator that spice heads can rely on.These days Tabasco comes in seven different flavours which include – apart from the classic one: Green Pepper Sauce (with jalapeno being the driving ingredient), Chipotle Pepper Sauce (smoky in its essence) are staples in my household and Buffalo, Habanero, Garlic and Pepper, Sweet & Spicy, and Sriracha varieties are on the to-try list (they seem to be only available in the US and will hopefully be part of the second part of this feature).