Culture: Food – Hot Sauces from Around the World
I will always remember the time my brother bet my cousin that he wouldn’t be able to eat a slice of pizza covered in a spicy hot sauce. Of course, this cousin couldn’t refuse the challenge. He gobbled up the slice and within minutes was out the door running around the block trying to cool down his mouth! I’m pretty sure this is not the way hot sauce is intended to be used.
A month ago, I had my own hot sauce challenge. In response to a call for spicy recipes from the illustrated recipe website, They Draw and Cook, I decided to illustrate a series of hot sauces from around the world. I started with some that I am familiar with, but then moved on to a few that were new to me. Little did I know, there is a vast number of hot sauce varieties, all made with different peppers and ingredients enjoyed in countries all over the world.
Below is a description of just a few of these gems that I am eager to use in my every day cooking to add a little spice to my meals!
Nam Prik Pao
Nam Prik Pao is a Thai chili paste typically made from chilies, garlic, shallots and shrimp paste. It is then fried in oil and flavored with fish sauce, tamarind paste and palm sugar. There are many varied recipes, but all provide a smoky, sweet, tart and spicy taste signature in many Thai dishes. This paste is perfect to add to a Tom Yum Kung soup or spice up any noodle dish.
Sriracha is a chili sauce made from a chili pepper paste, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt. It is named after the coastal city in eastern Thailand where it was first produced but is popular in not only Thai food but also many Vietnamese dishes. More recently, sriracha has become a phenomenon in the United States. It is become a rival to good ol’ketchup and is put on most anything you can imagine. Big brand names are trying to keep up with the times and sriracha flavored foods are showing up at fast food joints and grocery stores around the country. There is even a cookbook dedicated to spicing up any dish with this spicy condiment.
Mexican Hot Sauce – Cholula
Cholula is a hot sauce from Mexico that is made with arbol and piquin peppers, water, salt, vinegar and spices. It’s name is after the oldest (still-inhabited) city in Mexico, Cholula. Cholula came to the United States in the late 80’s and has become one of the best known hot sauces. Like sriracha, a mexican hot sauce is extremely versatile ingredient used in all sorts of recipes. From spicing up a cookie recipe, to putting a dash on eggs, there is really no limit to it’s uses.
Harissa is a fiery chili pepper paste from Tunisia. It’s main ingredients are roasted red peppers; baklouti, serrano, and other hot chili peppers; various spices and herbs including garlic, coriander and saffron; and oil. Recipes for harissa vary based on region . Some are more smoky flavored than others, some are passed down for generations within a family. Harissa is used in a number of dishes, from stews to soups; roasted meats to couscous. This spicy paste is worthy of a spot in any chefs pantry.
Tabasco sauce hails from deep in the bayous of Cajun Country Louisiana. It is a hot sauce produced by the McIlhenny Company and is made exclusively from tabasco peppers, vinegar and salt. It is again, one of those staple condiments found on restaurant tables across the US to add a little spice to your dish. It’s a great addition to a marinating sauce for meats or can be used on popcorn to give it a little pep. Again, the uses are endless.