Ever since I started commuting to Connecticut for work, I started doing my grocery shopping at the Grand Central Market in Grand Central Terminal. I’m usually in and out, picking fresh produce for what I’m planning to cook for dinner, but one day I spent a leisurely time inside investigating the other specialty products the different purveyors sell. One thing that jumped at me was the number of hot sauces for sale. They caught my eye because they came in unique packaging and different shades of reds and oranges. With the help of Grand Central Market’s public relations firm, I was able to sample different hot sauces and compare them with what I already had at home.
Check these from left to right and buy your favorite just in time for the Super Bowl:
1. Ass Blaster hot sauce from Southwest Specialty Food
This came in the most amusing packaging. The bottle is inside a replica of the actual outhouse at the company’s Arizona headquarters. It reminded me of a coffin so tasting it actually made me nervous. The Ass Blaster is fierce on the front of your tongue and it stays there for a long time while you’re eating. I’m sure it would blast my aSs if I have plenty of it.
2. Chimay Salsa Habañero
I like Tabasco sauces because of their vinegary taste. This is a little smokier than the yellow kind I already have and love so even though it’s stingy, the spiciness is short-lived and very tolerable.
3. Kaiska bulls habañero in tequila sauce
This is very interesting because it’s chunky and comes with onions. Despite the name, it has no alcohol in it even though it comes from the agave azul plant, the base ingredient for tequila. I use Kaiska as a condiment because there’s a little bit of sweetness to it that’s great as a rice topper.
4. Mazi Piri Piri sauce
Most commonly known as sauce from Portugal, the chiles are actually used a lot in East African stews and is great as marinade. Piri piris, meaning “very yellow” in Gujarati (after the Portuguese colonies in India), look a lot like Thai chili peppers–small in size but very powerful in heat. It’s also very oily. I noticed that when setting up the photo below: its “legs” are longer on the plate. The packaging is quite a bitch to open because it’s sealed with wax. I had to use a bottle stopper to store it but if you use it as a marinade, you’d probably end up using all of it at once anyway.
5. Valentina hot sauce
I associate Valentina hot sauce with tacos especially here in East Harlem. It’s easily the condiment that’s always present on eat-in counters in taquerias. I once sent my friend Anna a bottle of this straight from Mexico City but didn’t pack it well enough that she basically received a glob of hot sauce on her doorstep. This is probably the most tolerable hot sauce for me in this batch because I’ve had enough of it.
6. Louisiana jalapeño hot sauce
This is also very tangy, though not as spiky as the Chimay. The heat goes in the back of your tongue which may seem nothing at first but begins to kick while you’re chewing your food. The good thing about Louisiana is that it never overpowers the food you’re eating.
7. Cholula chipotle sauce
Chipotle is a dried jalapeño pepper that’s also been smoked. It’s mostly used in Tex-Mex cuisines. Though that’s not at the top of my Mexican food list, I like using Cholula when I make Subanik, a Guatemalan stew I learned to make from Francis Ford Coppola’s resort, to mix with the ancho chiles.
Note that on the photo above, the third and fourth dollop have actually been switched. The chunkier and darker one is from Kaiska; the more orange is piri piri. You can buy #1, #4, #7 from Grand Central Market. My friend Corey brought back #2, #3 and #5 from his last business trip to Mexico, though #5 is available in bodegas in most neighborhoods with a large Mexican population. I bought #6 from the New Orleans School of Cooking.
Check out the Grand Central Market in Grand Central Terminal
Call the New Orleans School of Cooking and they can ship a box of their best hot sauces anywhere in the United States
This Guatemalan stew brings back memories