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 PrimoHot 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?




11 thoughts on “February 10, 2020: I’m Team Habanero!

  1. My limit is probably around 100,000 but I won’t be enjoying it! Indian food is my most regular exposure to spice and I can eat a vindaloo with only mild discomfort.

    These days I prefer flavour over heat and will often choose a tasty medium spiced curry rather than something to blow my socks off.

    I’m not a huge fan of hot sauces. I like to taste my food and anything too hot just destroys my taste buds. But if I was ever to appear on The Hot Ones I would force myself to get to the Last Dab!

  2. Seems like every recipe I have given my brother, because he likes my cooking, he adds some super hot sauce to it. And I mean the hottest of hot. He’s crazy. Me? I’m bell pepper and that is it. Love the smell of bell pepper and jalapeno pepper (but can only eat bell).

  3. Like you, I won’t accept heat without flavor to match. I grew up eating fresh habaneros, so I can take the heat. Pair them with fruit, garlic, or other strong spices to form a well balanced blend and I’m good. Tobasco is boring. If I have to choose a mild sauce, I opt for something with Chipotle peppers because the smoke adds interest. Sriracha is so good! I haven’t found a good reason to delve into ghost peppers, but I’d give them a try in the right sauce. Yum!

  4. I love scotch bonnets. Not just for the heat (potent though that may be), but also for the beautiful floral/fruity flavour. I genuinely feel bad for people who can’t handle the heat of scotch bonnets. They’re missing out on something truly delicious.

    My go to hot sauce is the scotch bonnet sauce from Ali’s Roti on Queen West, near Roncesvalles. Their food is… hit and miss, but their hot sauce is second to none, and you can buy it by the jar. A single jar lasts me months because it’s so potent. You can add a lot of heat to a meal with just one spoonful.

    I can go hotter than scotch bonnets, but I generally don’t enjoy it that much. I’m especially not a fan of ghost peppers. To me they never seem to have any flavour other than heat.

    The one food I’ve tried that was truly too hot for me to eat is these spicy potatoes from a Tibetan restaurant I frequent (Tsampa — it’s actually just west of Ali’s). They’re absolutely brain-busting. And it’s the kind of heat that sneaks up on you, too. You eat a few bites, and it seems fine, so you keep going, and then the next thing you know you’re lying on the floor with fluid pouring from every orifice in your head, and you’re begging for the sweet mercy of death.

    The rest of the food there is less spicy, though. I usually get some curry soup and add hot sauce until it’s just the right heat for me. Their hot sauce is pretty good; not as potent as Ali’s, but the kick is respectable. Very unusual flavour, too. It took me a little while to get used to it, but I’ve come to really appreciate it. Not sure how I would describe it…

    Damn it, now I’m hungry.

  5. I’m on lower scale of Thai. Wish I could go higher, but I’m a whimp.

  6. A few years ago at an agricultural show I tried a sample of some type of reaper paste at a chili sauce stall.
    Instant burning and hiccups!!!

  7. Sriracha and maple syrup? That sounds intriguing. I bet that combo would be great on popcorn.

    Sriracha, jalapeno (without seeds) and red pepper flakes are my spice limit.

    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. Hmmm….. 🙂

  8. I’ve done some ghost pepper sauces and really liked them. Have you hit Wilbur’s on King St.? It’s good Mexican and they have a big collection of hot sauces. Maybe 50 of them and lots are intense and on Hot Ones (which I love). Still haven’t had the last dab…

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