By Luke Pyenson
To some people, a well-stocked arsenal of hot sauces is just about the most important area of the fridge. Of course I’m one of those people, and I’ll caution now that if you don’t like hot sauce, this article isn’t for you. Hot sauce has the potential to elevate everything from humble fried eggs to the ambitious weeknight stir-fry. And there’s a hot sauce for every situation. You could fill your lil’ condiment corner with every hot sauce you know and still just be licking the proverbial tip of the hot sauce iceberg. So what follows is a collection of my favorite hot sauces and the situations in which they shine:
I’ll start with the predictable one: Sriracha. I think everyone knows what this is, but in case someone doesn’t, it’s the Thai-style chili-garlic sauce in the red bottle (well, the bottle’s clear, but the contents make it red) with a green tip. From what I can tell, Sriracha seems to be the go-to hot sauce for most Tufts students, both in Dewick and at home. Sriracha stands out from other hot sauces for a few reasons, namely its lovely viscosity, versatility, garlic notes, accessible spice level, and hipness. My favorite application is in scrambled eggs, but with an unlikely companion: curry powder. Try it out, and you’ll see what I mean.
I want to take a moment to give a shout-out to another condiment—Kewpie mayonnaise. This is Japanese mayonnaise, available at Japanese markets (Miso, in Porter Square, must have it), and it’s probably so good because it has MSG. A Sriracha-mayo with Kewpie mayonnaise is an unstoppable combination.
Frank’s Red Hot
This is another one of the obvious choices. Their ad campaign, “I put that shit on everything!” is pretty reflective of how I use their product. For a while, my hand mindlessly reached for Frank’s in myriad situations, from the everyday to the special. This past Super Bowl, I made a Tater Tot, cheddar, and Frank’s Red Hot casserole. It was gross/awesome.
My trick with Frank’s is the following: in one pan, fry two eggs. In a small pot, cook a can of black beans, half a chopped onion, and as the beans cook, add a very generous 10ish shakes of Frank’s and a heaping handful of Cabot “seriously sharp” shredded cheddar. The Frank’s and cheddar combine to make a spicy, cheesy, vinegary sauce for the beans. To assemble this plate, lay two corn tortillas on the bottom, then the bean mixture, and then the fried eggs. Keep ‘em runny. If you have (and like) cilantro, a handful on top is always nice, but it will make you feel like less of a college student.
Now we get into the deep cuts. Most people know Cholula, a very respectable Mexican hot sauce with a recognizable wooden top. Goya brand Salsa Picante has a similar wooden top and is similarly respectable, if slightly worse. My Mexican hot sauce of choice (props to Mr. Joshua Silver for introducing me to this), and increasingly my general hot sauce of choice, has become Valentina (extra hot variety, preferably). It’s not unlike Frank’s, but it’s tangier, spicier, and brighter. While excellent in any standard hot sauce situation (especially on fried plantains!), I also like to drink it. You’re like “what’s he mean by drink it?” I’m talking about micheladas, the ingenious Mexican cerveza preperada, a light, nondescript beer mixed with hot sauce and lime-juice that is served in a salt-rimmed glass. Use Dos Equis or Tecate; don’t be shy with the Valentina, and drink responsibly.
I won’t go too deep into this, because chili pastes are a little different than hot sauces, but they are definitely still relevant to this article.
Tunisian-style harissa in a tube is easy to find at specialty shops and is especially delicious in tuna salad. Moroccan-style harissa with preserved lemons is a real treat, but almost impossible to find in the U.S., sadly.
Indonesian-style, for the Sriracha-minded people out there. It’s a little more garlicky, definitely spicier, and has a little more texture. Can also be used as a dipping sauce.
Or “skhoug” to Isralies, this Yemenite paste is green for a change! Ana Sortun of Oleana restaurant in Inman Sq., has an easily-google-able (and easy-to-make) recipe. Great on eggs, great on sandwiches, and great with hummus.