It's time to have a grownup talk about hot sauce. If you go to a generic American restaurant and ask for hot sauce, you will be brought Tabasco. And it's a terrible choice, the worst kind of hot sauce.

Tabasco is a Louisiana hot sauce. Like its cajun brothers the primary flavour in Tabasco is vinegar. There's chile, too, but it's secondary. Vinegar sauces have their place, particularly in barbeque and cajun cooking. But Tabasco is the worst of the Louisana options: the vinegar is some industrial product with a one dimensional acid taste and the chile barely adds any flavour. If you want a Louisana style hot sauce try Crystal, Lousiana brand Hot Sauce, or Wintzell's sauce (made by Panola). They all have much better flavour: interesting vinegar and decent chile.

Vinegar is a poor seasoning for most American food, particularly anything with eggs and any of the Mexican-derived food we get in California. American restaurants should generally offer Mexican hot sauce. Mexican sauces are made primarily with chiles and water. There may be a little vinegar and spice for flavour but the acidity doesn't dominate. There's a zillion options for Mexican hot sauce but a few good common options are Tapatío, Melinda's, and Cholula.

I also want to give a shout out to Sriracha, the modern, Vietnamese-American hot sauce whose thickness, sweetness, and intense garlic flavour give an interesting third option. I find its seasoning too strong to use as a general condiment but it's a delicious alternative to ketchup or mustard for flavouring sandwiches.

Summary: you probably want Mexican hot sauce, not a vinegar sauce. If you want Louisana hot sauce, avoid Tabasco.

  2011-05-31 22:19 Z