Some kind of universal shift happens in my diet every summer. Despite the climbing degrees and hot afternoons spent trying to figure out exactly where I could actually fit a baby pool in my apartment and other hoodland activities, I start pouring hot sauce over everything.
I can’t make eggs in the morning without dousing them in rooster sauce, can’t hit up my favorite corner store without stopping to pour some spicy red oblivion all over my fries. My salads aren’t safe from exposure, fruit has suddenly taken on this devilish grin—looking all cold and refreshing the day I decided that it was time I took my fruit to the next level. I started keeping a bag of chocolate covered chiles strategically located anywhere that I might need them.
Nothing is safe.
But it seems like a natural progression, so here’s my top five list for the best hot sauces this summmer.
- Sriracha has become and will most likely always remain the chilli king. Huy Fong Foods has fostered the rooster sauce into a must-have for pretty much anything. Huy Fong Foods is based in California and Sriracha is their best-known and best-selling item. It’s a pasty consistency and is good on pretty much any food other than ice cream and even that is debatable.
- Harissa is a Mediterranean, specifically Tunisian, host sauce. It’s a thick, chunky chilli and garlic-corriandor paste. It’s especially good on eggs and progressively to Merguez. Merguez is a Tunisian sausage that is usually a mixture of beef and lamb encased in lamb intestine. The sausge is usually spiced with Harissa but is only made better on a long roll with fried egg and more Harissa.
- Baron’s West Indian Hot Sauce is for the tiny charcol BBQ-er in all of you. This Carribean style green (yellowish) hot sauce is damn near killer on blackened chicken or kabobs. Since this hot sauce is more mustard and vinegar based than most chilli sauces, it’s also delicious on fish and strangely, citrus fruit or mangos.
- Valetina’s Salsa Picante is based in Guadalajara and is better known and liked for its flavor rather than the spice. Valentina’s is best for new comers to the spicy arena and is aptly scrumptious on Latin American food. It’s thin but not so thin as southern Tabasco sauces and also makes a base for taco meat or as a subtle additional to pico de gallo.
- Tương ớt is a Vietnamese chilli garlic sauce (Sriracha is also Tương ớt) but there’s another version made by a company called Quê Tôi. This hot sauce comes second only to Sriracha for best noodle hot sauce. Tương ớt is also a thicker but not a paste-based chilli sauce that’s initially very sweet and fruity. It’s certainly not as spicy as Sirarcha does but is a great base for any kind of sauteed vegetables or noodles.