Nearly every culture around the world has a way to spice up meal time. Whether it’s crushed chillies, a vinegar dipping sauce, or the beloved mode of zing: hot sauce.
Hot sauce afficionados are on the rise as artisan bottles are puréed around the country. But hot sauce does not need to be couture to be great. The beauty of hot sauce lays in its plentiful uses, something I am ever grateful for. Hot sauce is there to change the game whenever you need it.
People have been using chilies in their food for over 6,000 years. That’s right. Mexico, Central America and South America had chilli peppers way before the Spanish arrived. When they did, they took some home with them, dispersing the fiery plant to anyone who would taste it. Fast forward many, many years, and one of the first commercially available bottled hot sauces hit the market in 1807 in Massachusetts. Today, Frank’s RedHot Sauce and McIllhenny Tabasco Sauce are two of the top selling condiments in the United States.
Today, the chili pepper plays a central culinary role in a wide variety of cultures: In Hungary paprika, a red pepper spice, is omnipresent; Ethiopia’s signature spice blend, berbere, relies on a good dose of chili powder; Vietnamese nuoc cham — the universal dipping sauce — blends fish sauce with chilies; and China incorporates chili sauce into nearly every dish.
Hot sauces are diverse in flavour but consistent in majesty. They easily transform salad dressings, marinades or even scrambled eggs. Here are my favorite hot sauces and how I use them:
Gochujang. Few cultures have hot sauce perfected more than the Koreans. The nation’s top hot sauce, gochujang, is made by fermenting a mix of red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. The result is a pungent red pepper paste. I keep a jar of gochujang in my refrigerator at all times. When you need an extra kick for a stir-fry, egg dish or dip, I whip out a scoop of the funky paste. Check out this recipe for kimchi deviled eggs.
Piri Piri. This vinegar-based hot sauce is a staple in Portuguese cooking. Piri piri chicken is the best known use, where whole birds are marinated in the zappy sauce before hitting the grill. I use piri piri in coleslaw and salad dressings, a perfect pairing for a creamy base with its vinegar zing. Try this recipe for piri piri chicken that will wow a crowd.
Chili Garlic Sauce (Tuong Ot Toi). This Vietnamese chili paste was popularized in North America by Huy Fong, a Los Angeles based company, in 1980. It blends the best of hot chilies, flavorful garlic, sweet sugars and tangy vinegar. Add dollops to stir-fries or soup stocks. Slather it on chicken breasts or marinating skirt steaks.
Sambal. This Malaysian chili paste arrives in many forms, some just pureed chilies, others mixed with additional ingredients like shrimp paste, garlic or ginger. Amaze guests by tossing roasted sweet potatoes or Brussels sprouts with some blazing sambal.
Cholula. This ubiquitous table topper hot sauce launched in Mexico in the late 1980s. Today, it’s the preferred hot sauce to douse any south of the boarder meal: nachos, huevos rancheros or rice and beans. This no-fuss hot sauce is one to keep on hand at all times.
Huy Fong Sriracha. How could I leave off sriracha? The beloved hot sauce has taken over markets with its unique, flavour-blasting charm. Created by Huy Fong in the 1980s, the rooster bottle is now a staple in homes across North America. The mild but potent blend of spices and chilies give a kick to tacos, fish, marinades, eggs, greens, I could go on. Just pour it on everything. And be grateful for its amazing culinary powers.
The things we’re grateful for linger long after the turkey’s been digested. To remind ourselves that celebrating life’s little joys is really where it’s at, The Loop’s calling out the everyday things that give us heaps of pleasure. Starting October 10, we’ll publish one new story daily about a thing, moment or experience that gives us the warm and fuzzies.
You’ve probably got plenty to be thankful for, too, and we want to know about it! Share what you’re most grateful for on Facebook here or via Twitter using the hashtag #12DAYSOFTHANKS (we’re @theloopca) or join the conversation on Hubub. Happy Thanksgiving!