Chunky dips for chips, fiery drizzles over chicken wings, or puddles of the red sitting next to dumplings — there is a hot sauce for every food and mood. The use of hot sauces dates back to when the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans began using chillies as condiments, as medicine, and as a tool for warfare. In the U.S., the first advertisement for a commercially bottled hot sauce was traced to a city directory in Massachusetts in 1807. Now, 211 years later, with hot sauces reigning over the culinary world, we delve deep into their origins and recount the history of three top of the pops hot sauces that glam up your grub.
Tabasco: The oldest known hot sauce
Tabasco, the iconic hot sauce gracing your dining table is one of the oldest known hot sauce preparations. The sauce, a blend of tabasco peppers, salt, and vinegar, gets its name from the Mexican state of Tabasco. The popular hot sauce was first produced on Avery Island in Louisiana, where it continues to be made till date. Edmund McIlhenny, food lover, avid gardener, and a former banker, prepared the first batch in 1868 with a goal to add oomph to the bland food of the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era. Edward used old cologne bottles to bottle up the concoction which was then shared with friends and family. Following a successful trial, he commercialised this now-ubiquitous preparation.
Fun Fact Uno: The old bottles had sprinkler-fittings, which were corked and sealed with green wax, as the highly-concentrated sauce was meant to be sprinkled and not poured like ketchup.
Tabasco making process today
Today, the peppers grown on Avery island are used for seed stock, and the seeds are sent to foreign growers in Central and South American countries where the weather conditions are more predictable. The peppers are hand-picked (a company tradition), and compared to a little red stick, whose colour and length are used as a benchmark for ripeness. On the day of harvest, ripe peppers are ground into a mash. This mash is later mixed with salt and placed in recycled, de-charred, and re-hopped oak barrels that previously housed such whiskies as Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s. The pepper mash ages in these barrels for three years. It is then strained, and the resultant liquid is mixed with vinegar and stored for 28 days before it is bottled.
Fun Fact Dos: McIlhenny (the company that produces Tabasco) is among a handful of U.S. companies that hold a royal warrant of appointment and are officially designated as suppliers to Queen Elizabeth II.
#DSSCTopTip: If you happen to visit the Avery Island, you can not only visit the production facility but also buy Tabasco variants not available elsewhere — Raspberry Chipotle, and a Family Reserve that’s aged up to eight years!
Sriracha: A craft hot sauce
A paste of fresh chilli peppers, sugar, salt, garlic, and distilled vinegar go into the making of Sriracha, a versatile hot sauce that rose to fame in the 80s. Sriracha is named after the coastal city of Si Racha, in Chonburi Province of eastern Thailand. Among the many variants of Sriracha, the two that remain extremely popular are the American manufactured Huy Fong Foods’ Sriracha, and the Thai manufactured Sriraja Panich. The former is thick, hot, and garlicky, while the latter is sweeter and easy-flowing.
Sriracha is believed to have originated in Thailand. This version of Sriracha was created around 80 years ago by a lady named Thanom Chakkapak in the Si Racha district. Made initially for friends and family, its flavour was appreciated by many. Encouraged by the commendation, Chakkapak started making it commercially, and Sriraja Panich rose to become the best selling hot sauce in Thailand.
Sriracha: The rooster sauce
The story of the Huy Fong Foods’ Sriracha began in 1979 when its founder David Tran, a Vietnamese refugee was granted asylum by USA. One year later, in 1980 he began making Sriracha. In his initial years, David hand-painted the logo onto a blue van and went about delivering hot sauces to local Asian restaurants. Word spread far and wide about David’s craft and local chefs started asking for his ‘secret sauce’. He called his company Huy Fong Foods after the ship that got him his family, and countrymen to America, the land where he eventually became a multi-millionaire. Huy Fong Foods’ Sriracha is easily recognizable with its rooster logo and green cap on a squeeze bottle. The rooster logo is so well-received that David Tran’s Sriracha is sometimes referred to as the ‘rooster sauce’.
Fun Fact Tres: Such is the fame of this hot sauce that there exists a cookbook dedicated to condiment.
Piri Piri: Globetrotter from portugal
The primary ingredient of the Piri Piri hot sauce is African Bird’s Eye chilli that grows to be no more than an inch, but packs in immense flavour that goes for miles. Piri piri is the Swahili term for ‘pepper pepper’. Some say, the pepper is so hot that they named it twice! Most variants of Piri Piri hot sauce bear a fresh, citrus flavour with herbal undertones. The Piri Piri hot sauce can be used both as a condiment and a marinade. Portuguese grown and globally-acclaimed brand, Nando’s, is the perfect example of using the sauce for both these purposes. The Nando’s recipe uses a mix of Piri Piri peppers with salt, garlic, lemon, onion, oil, and vinegar to make their signature sauces.
Two friends and a meal later
When the Portuguese explorers set sail for the East, they were introduced to the unique taste of Piri Piri peppers. The flavour inspired Fernando Duarte to invite his friend Robert Brozin for a meal at a Portuguese restaurant in Rosettenville, South Africa in 1987. Upon tasting the chicken cooked in a Piri Piri sauce, the friends bought the restaurant called ‘Chickenland’ they dined in, and renamed it Nando’s after Fernando’s elder son. Nando’s not only prepares meals with these sauces, it also provides it as a condiment across their restaurants. Nando’s is the story of more than 1,000 restaurants spread across 35 countries, selling food made with a hot sauce that sells like hot cakes.
“Condiments are like old friends – highly thought of, but often taken for granted” – Marilyn Kaytor
Featured Image Courtesy : wikichegone.com