Saturday, March 2, 2013

Texas Two-Step

by L

We are long overdue for an update here at The Hot Sauce Diaries, so we are giving you a two-for-one deal on hot sauces from Texas.

“Everything’s bigger in Texas,” the motto says. I haven’t spent too much time in Texas, but here are some things that I know to be bigger: 1) the DFW airport (seriously, it’s huge, get stuck there for twelve hours someday with constant gate changes and see what I mean); 2) thunderstorms (see #1); 3) Houston (which takes approximately 17 hours to drive across); 4) adventures had by Pee-Wee Herman. Texas is our second-largest state in the USA (in both area and population) and it’s on the Mexican border, so it’s not surprising that we’ve received multiple hot sauces from that constantly-threatening-to-secede location from our colleagues to review. This combo post will cover both August in Austin sauce from the Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop in Austin, TX, as well as Truly Texas/Texas Fire Water.

Name: August in Austin
Manufacturer: Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop
Chili pepper: Habanero (Capsicum chinense)
Country of origin: United States of America
Rating: 8.0

Name: Texas Fire Water
Manufacturer: Truly Texas
Chile pepper: Habanero (Capsicum chinense) and Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
Rating: 3.0

Review--August in Austin

“This is the bottled fury of our meanest month,” the bottle says. I don’t think I’d want to be in Austin in August, in that case. The sauce is a straightforward recipe containing habaneros, vinegar, a twist of lime, a touch of garlic, and a hint of salt. This sauce makes you break a sweat and feel the burn. If you are looking for some no-nonsense kick, this would be a great sauce for you. Even our native Texan was feeling the burn.

Review--Texas Fire Water

Truly Texas makes a lot of claims on its label, including “Not suggested for use by Yankees.” Now, two out of three of our reviewers count themselves as both Yankees in the traditional sense of the term AND Yankees fans. We disregarded this suggestion and went ahead, consuming the sauce anyway. I wouldn’t say we were filled with regret or anything after that decision, but we were not overwhelmed by delight. This is one of the mildest hot sauces we’ve ever had, and possibly the mildest we’ve reviewed. The bottle says that the sauce is not mild; that is because the sauce has not even achieved a rating of mild. There was more water than fire in our fire water. Now, that is not to say that this sauce does not have any potential role in life--the people of Scotland might want to use it to step their way towards real sauce. I think M and R downed about half of it in just one lunch though. It is more of a ketchup-like condiment--add some flavor, no tears--than a hot sauce. The flavor you’re adding is more like mild pepper juice than anything else.

Texas is a big land with a lot of variety, we think. Choose your sauces wisely.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


by L

Today, another of your fearless bloggers brought in his own home cooking. You don't hear much from R because he manages the site rather than the writing, but you should not doubt his devotion to the cause. As a Mexico native, R is accustomed to food with a kick. After his last journey home, he brought us Salsa Nortenia. It was delicious, of course. Today, however, we are going to talk about something that required an even greater labor of love than importing a liquid via air travel: R made us a sauce. 

In R's hometown, there are many places to buy tacos. All of those tacos need salsas to top them. Although we are most familiar with red, tomato-based salsas and mild guacamoles in the USA, these taco shops have far more variety. The best of these sauces gain local fame.  The trouble with fame and taco trucks and stands, though, is that it can be difficult to come up with a way to refer to a business that others will understand. One stand became known in folklore as “Tacos de Transito” (Transit Tacos) because it was located just outside the offices of the Transit Police Department. For years, this place in Toluca, Mexico has served some of the most delicious “tacos de carnitas” (pork tacos) known to man.  Part of the food magic in these legendary tacos is the hot sauce served on top of them. Simply referred to as “verde” (green), by the executioner manning the stand’s grill, the sauce is avocado based and its precise recipe is really unknown to the public. Since his exile from Mexico, R has been haunted by the memory of the sauce and out of desperation tried to reverse engineer it. After several attempts he thinks he came close enough to the real “Verde” flavor to be willing to share his concoction with us.

Recipe for Verde’s Bizarro:

  • ½ small clove of garlic
  • ½ small onion (2 tablespoons of finely chopped onions)
  • 2 Serrano peppers
  • ½ Habanero pepper
  • 1 ripe Hass avocado
  • Fresh cilantro leaves
  • ¼ Fresh lime
  • salt

  1. Finely chop the garlic, onion, and peppers.
  2. Finely chop enough cilantro leaves to fill two tablespoons.
  3. Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and empty the fruit in a mortar (NOT the weapon, the bowl)
  4. Add the finely chopped ingredients to the mortar and use a pestle to crush, grind, and mix the ingredients until the mixture becomes creamy and smooth (if done properly your arm should ache!).
  5. Squeeze the ¼ lime into the mortar and continue grinding and mixing.
  6. Add salt to taste (I use ¼ teaspoon) 

Name: Verde's Bizarro
Manufacturer: R
Country of origin: Mexico
Rating: 9.5

This sauce is hot and fresh at the same time. It is great for tacos, steak, chicken, you name it. The flavor is best when fresh, but it will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lord of the Hot Sauce

by M

In honor of the Hobbit's upcoming release, we have some special hot sauce from New Zealand.  New Zealand is a place I have always wanted to visit, especially after the LOTR series hit the US back in 2001.  These movies are good and of an epic stature, but they are just way too long.  I have a limit for how long I can sit in a chair without going insane, which is about an hour and a half.  Anything more and you've overstayed your welcome.  These movies weigh in at about 3 hrs apiece, for a total of 9 hrs.  Then there is the directors' cut version that goes even longer.  I'd rather use Gollum's toothbrush than sit on my ass for that long.  

I don't want to go to NZ because I am some dorky fan boy who wants to dress up like a tool and parade around pretending to fight orcs.  I want to go because these movies were filmed on such beautiful landscapes of all kinds: huge snowy mountains, lush green fields, and warm beaches abound.  New Zealand is kind of an end-of-the-earth place, really far from the rest of the world (even from Australia, it is a 3hr flight). It seems like the last bastion of simplicity, out of the grips of western assholery, European Nihilism, Asian idiosyncratics, and mideast craziness.  Just beautiful earth, a lotta sheep and maybe some beers.  I guess that is why I can't go… because everywhere is corrupted in its own way, and I'd rather think of it as a beautiful bubble that will be void of the nuclear apocalypse.

One thing is for sure, if New Zealand survives the nuclear apocalypse, we will be fine in the hot sauce department.

Name: Kaitaia Fire Chili Pepper Sauce
Kaitaia Fire
Chili pepper: Piri Piri (Capsicum frutescens) ??
Country of origin: New Zealand
Rating: 8.8

In many ways Kaitaia hot sauce is a classic hot sauce, not as distant or exotic as the land it comes from.  It is kind of the normal hot sauce recipe: aged red chillies and a vinegar base. But it is done really well. I am a Red Hot kind of guy.  Red Hot is not the best hot sauce but it is widely available and pairs well with anything.  Kaitaia is Red Hot done well. It has more kick, the perfect amount of heat. You can use a little, but a few too many splashes you will get a runny nose and some hiccups. The flavor is quite good too, both peppery and salty, and pairs well with most foods you will want to eat hot sauce with. The best part is Kaitaia is readily available online here.
Who knew? Our New Zealand lab member did not really remember a New Zealand hot sauce when we enquired about one, which was not too surprising. But when Kaitaia found it's way into our hands from another kiwi-going fellow, he said "Oh, of course, Kaitaia, everyone uses that.” And they should, because it is delicious.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mojo Sauce

by L and guests

For this post, we took it up a notch. In an unprecedented move, we bring you... a sauce one of your fearless bloggers personally made!

M lovingly whipped up a sauce for us, using peppers almost as lovingly grown by lab member J and roasted red peppers. 


  • Handful of Thai chilis
  • Garlic
  • White vinegar
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • Cayenne pepper
  1. Cut the top off of a head of garlic to expose each clove.  
  2. Place in foil with chilis and douse in olive oil, salt, and pepper.  
  3. Then cover the bell peppers in oil, salt, and pepper, but do not wrap in foil. 
  4. Cook for 1hr in the oven @ 350 degrees F.
  5. Let cool.
  6. Peel and seed the bell peppers, then place in a food processor.
  7. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of the skin into the food processor and add the chilis after removing their stems.
  8. Add a teaspoon of Cayenne powder.
  9. As the processor is running, slowly add several tablespoons of vinegar.

This is the most effort M has ever put into one of our blog posts. He has also stepped up the competition amongst lab members to see who can make the best home-brewed hot sauce.

Name: Mojo sauce
Manufacturer: Homemade by M
Chili pepper: Piri Piri (Capsicum frutescens) and Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
Country of origin: USA
Rating: 9.5!!!!!

This was universally regarded by the regular lunch crew as the best sauce we've had yet, which suggests that homemade sauces might have advantages. Because we, the bloggers, are obviously biased, we enlisted our coworkers for opinions, in addition to noting that this was the fastest sauce to vanish from the kitchen fridge. Enjoy these (slightly edited for length) opinions.

- reviewer (Mk) - a known heat pansy, Irish tongue, but super sensitive nose with an appreciation for aroma

- dish - an otherwise unspiced or salsa'd chicken burrito bowl.  Lettuce, black beans, brown rice, plain corn, and mild guacamole

- look and feel -  a smooth, thick and happy autumnal hue with clear interspersion of robust spices dancing through the tomato paste like sauce.  An intoxicating and rich smell, with complex layers of garlic, onion, and peppers.   Even cold, smells warm and like its bubbling on the stove and filling the house with peppery ambiance.  Its an alluring anticipatory sort of scent.

- taste.  Reviewer unwisely chose a smallish blob of the viscous concoction to start, mixed in with burrito bowl, and suffered the consequences of a mouth full of raging fire ants.  Pain however did not linger, and was soon dissipated.   MoJo is best enjoyed (by this tongue) with just the tines of the fork dipped into the sauce, and then entree onto fork.   Diner is rewarded with no pain, and an almost sweet and fruity earthiness that the MoJo imparted onto the salad.  Corn in salad seemed also way sweeter when paired with sauce drops.

- Experience - oddly addictive, reviewer, normally a wellpaced and leisurely diner, crammed bite after bite of fork tine dipped entree into mouth to enjoy the layered flavours.   Upon completion of dining, mild tingling on tongue and inside cheeks, more of a full blown vibration on inner lips, not painful, and mouth has a fruity after taste.

Final Review - When used with caution, or as to-taste for the diner, this is a smashing offering.   Robust and earthy, it feels crafted with care and depth.  Smooth and versatile, it might make a great bisque with a gallon of creme added, a fine pairing for grilling as well.


Secondary Review-   (B)

- reviewer - spoonful sample, no entree or other distractions

- look and feel - nice colour chipolte sensibility, smooth almost creamy texture with a smattering of spices.

- taste - first thing that hits you is roasted red pepper flavouring, a sweet and warm sensation quickly followed by bite of onion and garlic.  A warm and down to earth flavour, smooth on the palette.  A slight tingling on surface of tongue and back of throat.   Flavor enhances experience more than peppers, a mild hot sauce if to be categorized it.

Final Review- a tasty red pepper based hot sauce that would go well when paired with strong grilled fish such as tunasteak salmon fillets, swordfish or mahi mahi.  Or any sort of hispanic grilled meat, steak, pork, etc.

Wait!  reviewer went in for a second taste!  Slathering the MoJo all over honey nut cheerios!   Gave reviewer hiccups, he ate very fast.   Made his nose run.  No change in review from just a spoonful.

note:  about 1 tablespoon of whole milk removes all tingling sensation from tongue.


Tertiary Review (J2)

- spoonful, not with any entree.

- Spiciness overshadows flavour, the sensation of tingle or burn causes underlying flavours to be lost.  Several tastes in it gets better, and you can appreciate the subtle undertones.

- Red pepper under tones taste was especially well appreciated.  It was easy on the eyes.  The orange colour and black specks were visually appealing.   Minimal, but some nose running.

Friday, October 26, 2012


by L

Recently, your fearless bloggers attended our local Highland Games. We saw bagpipers, we saw large men throwing large objects, we saw dogs herding sheep. These are [or might be] the traditions of my people. (Sorry, I wasn’t patient enough to backtrack past 1650 on I thought I was Irish/English/Welsh/Scottish/French though. I am pale.)

Then, we saw the most exciting thing of all: a Scottish hot sauce. More specifically, Scomac Hot Scotch Bonnet Sauce.

Honestly, we were surprised. All three of us have visited Scotland. While Scotland does provide some culinary adventures (haggis, anyone?), it is not known for its spicy food. (Things Scotland is known for include incomprehensible accents, periodic elections to decide whether to divide from the UK even though everyone knows it won’t, Braveheart, Brave, men in skirts, and incomprehensible accents.) Personally, I don’t even remember hearing of a Scotch bonnet pepper before seeing this bottle, and I’m not sure the makers had heard much about it either given that it made up only 2% of the sauce. 

As it turns out, the Scotch bonnet pepper (not to be confused with the Scotch bonnet mushroom or the Scotch bonnet shell) is not from Scotland at all. This makes sense because I’m pretty sure there aren’t many peppers out there that are built for cool, grey weather and rain. Wikipedia informs me that Scotch bonnet peppers are also known as Boabs bonnet, Scotty Bons (catchy!), Bonney peppers, Ball of Fire (dangerous!), or Caribbean red peppers... because they are actually from the Caribbean and just happen to look like the tam o’shanter hat that gave them their name ( They were not really used in Scottish cooking... until now.

Sauce: Hot Scotch Bonnet Sauce
Manufacturer: Scomac
Chili pepper: Scotch Bonnet (Capsicum chinense)
Country of origin: Scotland
Score: 2/10

We have found the reason that Scotland doesn’t have a lot of spicy food: weak sauce. This was our least favorite sauce that we have tested so far. First off, not that much kick. Second off, most of the flavor came from malt vinegar and soy sauce, with a bit of molasses. It was a sweet sauce more than a spicy sauce. You could save some money, buy some Worchestershire, and be happier with that.

As a consolation, below are videos of a man throwing a heavy object really far, and a man throwing a heavy object almost 12’ in the air. He got it the next time.  Enjoy.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pineapple Rage from Minnesota

by M

I once had a layover in Minnesota. While I was there, an announcement came over the PA system, “last call for flight 525 don’chya know”. That was enough of Minnesota for me. I was on my way to Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. That was a good time, but Utah has weirdo Mormon laws for drinking, so a martini there is a joke. It is literally a shot and a half of vodka; ergo, I could never live in Utah. But this post is not about Utah; it is about Minnesota and ‘Famous Dave’s Pineapple RAGE Hot Sauce’.

So I have no idea who Famous Dave is. Apparently there is a chain of restaurants throughout the states called “Famous Dave's Legendary Pit Bar-B-Queand the flagship of said restaurant is in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota would not strike me as a big BBQ state, at least not in the way Texas would, but why not? This is the US and our pastime is getting fat and our favorite way of doing that is the BBQ. I don’t know if I have ever been to a BBQ that I didn’t enjoy. You could have shitty food, shitty beer, shitty people, and shitty weather and it is still a decent use of time to attend the BBQ.

Sauce: Pineapple Rage Hot  Sauce
Manufacturer: Famous Dave's
Chili pepper: Habanero (Capsicum chinense)
Country of Origin: United States of America (Minnesota)
Score: 4/10

To begin, Pineapple Rage is creeping towards more of a BBQ sauce than an actual hot sauce. The main ingredient is, of course, pineapple. The pineapple is grilled, but rather than a fresh grill taste it adds a smoky taste to the sauce. I would classify the smoky taste as not so good, closer to carcinogen smoke than nice tasting grill smoke. This could be attributed to the lengthy ingredient list. I have a general rule in life, most items should have a short list of ingredients. Like, if you buy bread, the ingredients should be water, flour, yeast, and not much more. This rage sauce has a bunch of ingredients and I am not sure what the heck they are, resulting in the not-so-fresh taste*. The chili pepper in the sauce is our good friend the habanero, which as we have mentioned before has a natural fruity flavor so the habanero makes an obvious pairing with the pineapple flavors. The habanero brings good heat but not too much. Too strong maybe for our Irish team member L but not for the rest of the team. All in all, what you get is a standard chain sauce here not atypical to a ‘Friday’s’ quality preparation. It is not bad, but I prefer something made with a little more heart and soul and less of a chain feel. The sauce would make for really good wings, but I have not been to Famous Dave’s and I am not planning to go anytime soon.

4/10 - maybe add an extra point if you are at a bbq. You can buy it here.

*Here’s a tip, if you like that grilled taste, but it is the dead of winter, use some smoked paprika in your cooking to add some good grill flavor.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Puerto Rico

by M

No rant on Puerto Rico; instead, we have a special guest.  Please allow me to introduce JJ, an authentic Puerto Rican who will be making an authentic Puerto Rican spicy garlic sauce with authentic Puerto Rican fried plantains.  

For those who don’t know, a plantain looks like a banana but kind of tastes more like a potato and is starchy like a potato, too.  Kinda like a banana and potato fell in love and mated and out came the plantain... of course, I guess they didn’t have to fall in love first. Maybe the potato had a bit too much to drink and just got over its previous relationship and was a bit vulnerable to banana’s unyielding charisma.  We’ve all been there, just ask Kirk Cameron and his friend.  

It is best to use green plantains because as plantains ripen they will turn yellow, sweeter but mushier too.  Removing the skin can be difficult.  A simple trick is to perforate the skin with a knife then microwave the whole thing for 4 minutes.  We used an authentic Puerto Rican to operate our microwave. 

Let the plantain cool, and then it should peel nice and easy.

Cut the plantain into 2-inch sections.

Then flatten each section into a cylinder.  Try to make them the same thickness so they cook evenly.

In the meantime heat up an inch of canola oil or vegetable oil in a pan.  When the oil starts to make cool psychedelic patterns, it is hot enough.  Drop in each cylinder of plantain and fry for a minute or two on each side or until golden brown.  Remove and allow to cool on a paper towel.  Salt to taste.

Now the garlic sauce.  Take a couple cloves of garlic and throw it in your food processor or magic bullet or whatever you have, or just chop the shit out of it until it is a pasty goo.   Mix it well with a quarter cup of olive oil.

That is authentic Puerto Rican Garlic Sauce!  I recommend some chili oil in that too though; make it a hot sauce!  Drizzle over your plantains and enjoy.