Trader Joe’s Yuzu and Habanero Hot Sauce

Normally I get hot sauces from specialty shops. But now and then I buy brands at supermarkets. So I saw two hot sauces at Trader Joe’s, yuzu sauce, and a habanero sauce.

I don’t buy habanero sauces that have carrot juice, and this one did not. In general, I’d say it’s a pretty generic product, not bad, not good. The simplicity of the ingredient list seems to have resulted in something pretty bland, though spicy enough if you are a weakling.

The yuzu sauce is something different. In some ways it reminds me of a Louisana hot sauce, there’s a tang to it. But the difference is a citrus flavor that outlasts and pervades the very mild spice. Its refined delicacy is something that I’ve put good use to: I have been using the yuzu sauce as salad dressing!

Unless you are hard up for a kick, I’d pass on Trader Joe’s habanero sauce. But the yuzu is worth it.

Yellowbird ghost pepper sauce, 4.5 out of 5 stars

Yellowbird is a small-batch artisanal hot sauce brand out of Austin, TX. I’ve talked some smack about their habanero sauce before.

Well, today I swung by the local hot sauce shop, as I was out of the spice, and needed some more. I chatted up the clerk and we were talking Yellowbird, how the serrano sauce tasted so good, and how the habanero one was second-rate. I asked him about the ghost pepper variety, and he told me to try a sample. So I did. And I liked what I tasted!

This is not the spiciest sauce in the world. But very few non-extract hot sauces are killer. And, unlike extract sauces, Yellowbird ghost pepper sauce doesn’t taste artificial or metallic. Real hot sauces have complex flavors. Though not as spicy as something like Dave’s Insanity, this will leave most civilians sweating.

But there’s more than spice! Yellowbird ghost pepper sauce has a rich and nuanced flavor profile despite the powerful spice level, with a strong sour punch that hits you in the face before you even realize how hot it is. The savor is pretty flat from the beginning to end, but I tend to get a sweet kick at the end. I’m not a big fan of sweetness in hot sauces, but it isn’t pervasive and overwhelming and serves as a nice accent before you start to get the sweat on as capsicum binds to your receptors.

Pain 100% hot sauce; 1000% pain!

While I was up in Missouri chasing the eclipse I met up with a long-time reader of this weblog. He was kind enough to gift me with several hot sauces. So I took the Pain 100% Hot Sauce into the office, and the verdict is that this is a very spicy sauce indeed (grown men running to the fridge!).

It’s somewhat curious, because the label says that it has habanero pepper. Not some crazy scorpion or bhut jolokia. Going by the ingredient label list there’s no way that Pain 100% should be as hot as Rapture, but it is.

How can this be? I’d say it has to do with simplicity. The Rapture has a relatively subtle and complex flavor profile. It’s a ninja, silent and deadly. In contrast Pain 100% comes at you straight-up like a samurai; a strong kick of salt quickly fades, and the simple but potent spicy builds up within a minute and starts pounding at your palette..

Pain 100% is very spicy and simple. It’s the meat & potatoes of hot sauce. You know what you’re going to get, and you can describe the taste in a few sentences.

Beyond cholula, sriracha, and tabasco

In the United States it seems that the restaurant table top hot sauces are dominated by an oligopoly. Cholula, tabasco, and sriracha are ubiquitous. And there’s a reason for this: they are delicious. All of them have their own unique flavor profiles, as you no doubt know. But there is a whole world of hot sauce and spice beyond these three canonical flavorings.

Recently the Trinidad scorpion pepper Rapture was recommended to me by a friend, and I brought it in the office. Almost immediately it became “the” office hot sauce. It’s complex and delicious flavor, and the high spice content fueled by more than 15 peppers per bottle, have fueled an enthusiasm for hot sauces among my co-workers.

The moral of the story is that readers should explore the a bit more of the world of hot sauce taste than they do right now. Don’t limit yourself to the Pepsi, Coke, and Dr. Pepper of hot sauces.

Thumbs up on the Rapture Trinidad Scorpion sauce

Andy Kern recommended the Rapture Trinidad Scorpion Pepper Hot Sauce to me. It’s a little on the spendy side, but I trust Andy’s opinions on this sort of stuff. So what does it bring to the table that you couldn’t replicate with pure cap?

Often many very spicy sauces taste chemically. That’s the capsaicin extract. The aim of a good sauce in my opinion should be that it still tastes like food, not a scrubbing acid. This is where some of the Dave’s Insanity sauces fall short. They’re spicy, but they’re not tasty. I don’t believe in the efficacies of “cleanses” so there’s not even that silver lining to ingesting lots of Dave’s.

The flip side is that many “spicy” sauces, often of the habanero brand, are lathered in various sweet syrups whose aim in my opinion is to mask the spiciness, but signal to people that you are into spice. Some element of sweetness may help in flavor, but it shouldn’t be the dominant aspect in most cases. Spice in my opinion goes well balanced with salty and sour flavors, but sweetness should be held in moderation. Different sauces have different temporal “profiles” based when the savory and sour and spicy “kick in.”

Rapture Trinidad Scorpion Pepper Hot Sauce does not have the problem of sweetness. It’s a genuinely spicy sauce that also tastes like a sauce and not a chemical. That is, it is “vegetably” if it makes sense (the fresh tastes of green Thai pepper come to mind to illustrate what I’m talking about). The spice kicks in immediately. For how spicy it is I don’t feel like the aftertaste of spice is too extreme (probably that suggests it’s a less oily sauce). The other flavors, a mix of sour and salt, with a touch of sweetness, have a longer amplitude, and leave more of an aftertaste.

Much respect to whichever saucier put this together. Overall I highly recommend thisRapture Trinidad Scorpion Pepper Hot Sauce , though I would caution that this is not for civilians. But it’s not insanely hot like the Final Answer.