Reaper Taco? Yes/No https://t.co/bJpcX5yqZP
— Joseph Mallozzi (@BaronDestructo) February 10, 2020
I love spicy. Always have. The heat, obviously, but also the flavors of the varied peppers simmering beneath that deep fire kick. The bottom shelf of my refrigerator is occupied by my hot sauce collection (much to Akemi’s chagrin) with names like Brain Damage, Memento Muerte, and Howler Monkey. Although I have a high tolerance for heat (I always opt for Thai Spicy whenever we got out for Thai), I avoid the ultra-hot sauces that are pure burn and taste of vulcanized rubber. I prefer the fruit-based hot sauces, more sweet than vinegared, something with a thick body like a Caribbean scotch bonnet pepper sauce or a habanero sauce with a chunky consistency. Whenever I eat at home, I’ll pull out three random bottles and sample with my meal, narrowing down my list of favorites.
Sriracha is a popular go-to (that pairs surprisingly well with maple syrup if you’re looking for a sweet and spicy combo). The cayenne-based sauces like Tabasco and Frank’s Red Hot are fine, but a little too dilute. The jalapeno-based sauces are also fine, but my color preferences run to the reds and golds. I do like the Marie Sharp line as well as the selection offered by Montreal-based La Pimenterie. I’m a big fan of Dawson’s Cremini Habanero and was recently surprised by Big Fat’s 7o8 Optimus Primo. Hot One’s The Last Dab (featured on First We Feast, a series that sees its host interview celebrities while they dine on increasingly spicier wings, culminating in the aforementioned sauce) is crazy-hot, and at the very edge of my endurance…but tasty! There used to be a place on the San Francisco pier that sold one of my favorite hot sauces of all time, Besos De Fuego (Kiss of Fire), a fiery mix of fruit mustard, and, I suspect, habanero. Sadly, it no longer exists.
When I go to the farmer’s market, I’ll often pick up fresh peppers, everything from bird’s eyes to fatalis, then oven dry them before either grinding them to a fine power or using them as the base for varied oils. The powders I seal in tiny plastic containers and carry them around with me – in case of emergency. I know double seal these containers in a tiny plastic bag, this after a painful and unfortunate mishap taught me a valuable lesson about the need to be extra careful with what you put in your pocket.
My favorite pepper in terms of kick and flavor is, without a doubt, the habanero. My sister grows scorpions, ghost peppers, and Carolina reapers and while I have enjoyed the two former, I have to draw the line at the latter which has the distinction of being unbearably hot – AND also possessed of an unpleasant, almost acrid undertone. But maybe that’s just me.
Behold the Scoville scale! How high can you go?