I can’t profess to be a world expert on chilli sauce, or someone who likes my hot chilli sauce exceptionally hot, but I do like the stuff and use it on my food regularly.
Over the past few months chilli sauce has edged out chutney, Indian pickle, horseradish sauce, and soy sauce as my most used condiment. To see what else is available out there I’ve been trying some different brands in the hope of selecting a winner.
What I’ve learnt so far is that each sauce offers a unique blend and balance of ingredients that gives each one a unique taste. As a result, I can’t say ‘this one is the best’. What’s interesting is how much variety there is out there. I would have expected most of them to taste the same, but they don’t. There’s a surprising variety, even at the high street supermarket.
I’m not into sweet chilli sauces, but if you like it sweet and mild then Linghams, with its distinctive yellow and red branding, might be the one for you. Personally, I find it too sweet. The Thai style Huey Fong sriracha, on the other hand, goes all out for the garlic accent. Again, it’s a bit too much for me.
The Sauce Shop chilli sauce is unexpectedly hot and has a noticeable tomato flavour. It’s a bit like eating chilli boosted tomato puree. Another brand that’s gone for a distinct take is Nandos hot sauce, which has a lemon accent. Cholula original hot sauce is more balanced, but not that hot. The chipotle version has a distinctive smokiness. For me, I found it a little bland, neither here nor there.
Tabasco has long been a favourite of mine and for years it was the de facto kick added to my toasted cheese sandwiches, usually with a dash of Lea and Perrins. It’s got a vinegar accent which has been smoothed off by their barrel-aging process. It’s hot without having a weird aftertaste, not being ‘weird’ in any way is probably the best way I can describe it. Encona hot pepper sauce has a fiery, salty taste.
If I had to pick one it would be a hard choice, but I’d probably opt for the Tabasco because it’s so versatile and makes a great Bloody Mary. Nandos hot sauce usually goes on chicken, but the lemon flavour works really well with fish. Recently, I’ve been mixing brands together to create a fusion of flavours depending on how I feel.
Like good jam or chutney, the beauty of chilli sauce is its ability to be reinterpreted. I haven’t even explored the world of markets and small batch ‘craft’ chilli sauce, let alone home-made varieties! I like the idea of ‘Adrian’s Chilli Sauce’, but I think I’m some way off that for the time being — one of these days perhaps.
Update 15/3/18: I have a new favourite. Encona’s Peruvian Amarillo Chilli Sauce, it’s hot without going overboard and the flavour is nicely balanced.