You don’t have to be a hot sauce aficionado to know that the market is saturated: Just look on the shelf of any good grocer, and witness a dizzying array of little red bottles that try to distinguish themselves from each other with crazy names and even crazier labels. Sometimes I view the hot sauce market as one big macho contest with competitors vying for big numbers on the Scovil scale, which measures heat, often with no consideration for flavor ( or even degree of edibility). But I can’t front: I love hot sauce and put it on almost everything I eat.
It’s not every day I get a box full of hot sauces from Ecuador in the mail, so when I do, I figure I should try them instead of relegating them to the back of my cupboard. I first met the folks at Don Joaquin Gourmet at this summer’s Fancy Food Show in DC, where I tried their Hot Pepper Sauce with Passion Fruit. Uniting two of my favorite–if not completely disparate flavors—the sauce surprised me with its combination of sweet and spicy. Here was a hot sauce with bite that actually tasted good to boot!
I guess the positive reviews spurred this latest shipment of what appears to be Don Joaquin’s whole line. In addition to bottles of their Hot Pepper Paste and Ground Hot Pepper, I also received their hot sauces spiked with various fruit flavorings such as passion fruit, pineapple, naranjilla (a native Ecuadorian fruit that looks like a yellow tomato and tastes somewhat similar to kiwi but even more sour ), and, gasp, strawberry. Wow! I’ve got to give them an “A” for imagination, because I would have never even dreamed up such combinations, even though some work better then others.
I’m certainly no expert when it comes to hot sauce, but I have had my fair share and I know what I like, so I’m just going to give you my pure, unadulterated opinion on these sauces:
Ground Hot Pepper – vinegary with a kick; and you can actually see the seeds which contain the active ingredient of chilies, capsaicin.
Hot Pepper Paste – Thicker and spicier than the ground hot pepper, but not much flavor. I would mix this with something else.
Hot Pepper Sauce – Thicker than Heinz Ketchup (probably due to the addition of tomato paste), but almost too tomatoey and not that hot.
Hot Pepper Sauce with Pineapple – Mildly spicy with a very sweet (almost too sweet) taste.
Hot Pepper Sauce with Naranjilla – Mildly Spicy with a tangy aftertaste. Very interesting flavor.
Hot Pepper Sauce with Passion Fruit – Mildly spicy with the definite sweet taste of passion fruit, which I love. Probably my favorite sauce in this line.
Hot Pepper Sauce with Strawberry – Taste more like a strawberry sauce with a bit of a mild kick. This is my least favorite flavor in this line.
One other thing I should note is that Don Joaquin’s hot sauces stand out for their no frills labels.
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