HOT SAUCE (need banner)
[list][*](4/10/11) Added section on mechanisms of action[*](4/9/11) Added more sauces to recommendations[/list]
"Why in the fuck do people like hot sauce?"
It has been long discussed why so many people enjoy putting themselves in pain and rendering their food difficult to eat. Scientifically, the reason is that the burning sensation caused by a certain chemical in spicy food tricks the brain into thinking that the body is in danger, and the body releases pleasure-causing chemicals to respond.
In general though, hot sauces add an extra degree of flavor and intensity to food that few other condiments can offer. The right combination of flavor and spiciness can create a wonderful balance in food that simply can't be matched. Plus, some people genuinely enjoy the sensation.
"How does this oh-so magical fire liquid function?"
Glad you asked. The fruits of the plants in the "capsicum" genus, the genus in which all peppered plants are found, are loaded with a chemical called "capsaicin". Capsaicin triggers the same chemical receptor as high levels of heat do, causing what can quite literally be described as a burning sensation. Over time, exposure to capsaicin can give your receptors a better resistance to it, although some people are born with it as well.
Different capsicum plants contain different levels of capsaicin, with the weakest (bell peppers) containing none and the highest (bhut jolokia) containing a whole metric shit-load. The heat generated by capsaicin is measured in "Scoville units", in which substances are rated based on how much water it would take to dilute them completely ratio-wise. Scoville ratings are commonly given in ranges due to the differences in how people detect capsaicin. Here are the scoville ratings of some famous peppers:
: Bell pepper
: Banana pepper
: Anaheim pepper
, Poblano pepper
Jalepeņo pepper, Tabasco Sauce
10,000-23,000: Seranno Pepper
Cayenne pepper, Tabasco pepper
Habanero chili, Jamaican hot pepper
Naga Jolokia pepper (ghost pepper)
Police Pepper Spray (note: don't fuck with police)
Pure Capsaicin (crystalline form)
Hot sauce is good on just about any kind of food, even breakfast items (especially anything with eggs).
In the Americas, it is commonly used as a condiment or spread to give already good food an extra kick. The food doesn't necessarily have to be bland, but it certainly helps food with little taste. In Asian countries, hot sauces are typically thick pastes used as dipping sauces or ingredients in stir-frying. Of course, these are just the origins of its use. People all over the world today use hot sauces in many varying ways.
Believe it or not, most hot sauces are not just intended to burn the shit out of your mouth. Some (such as ones mentioned later) can be quite flavorful. Although the spicy element of hot sauces is certainly appealing to many who enjoy them, the flavor is just as essential. As far as specific uses go, I would highly recommend dousing any Mexican cuisine in large varieties of hot sauce. As you get more experienced and pick out your favorite brands, you get a sense for what goes well together flavor-wise.
The most famous brand of hot-sauce in the US would have to be Tabasco, which became the iconic hot sauce some time in the last 2 centuries
Of course, because just about everyone has encountered this sauce at some point, it tends to be a reference-point for every other kind. Although it's certainly versatile and delicious, by no means is it the hottest sauce out there.
Here are some brands you may encounter (enthusiast hot marked with *
[list][*]Tabasco (the classic, today there are many varieties)[*]Cholula (delicious tangy Mexican hot sauces)[*]Sriracha (Thai, popular among foul bachelors)[*]Frank's (Buffalo wing sauce, runs from vinegar to medium hot)[*]Dave's*
(The original too-hot-to-eat brand, sells really hot shit)[*]Blair's*
(Same sort of thing as Dave's)[/list]
These are just some of my favorites, of course, there are many other brands available.
And there we have it. I leave you with a list of sauces I recommend, in order of heat level where the lowest is around 1,500 scovilles and the highest is around 530,000 scovilles:
[list][*]Frank's Red Hot (the original buffalo wing flavoring, like vinegar with a hint of spice; very-low heat)[*]Tabasco Chipotle (smoky; low heat)[*]Cholula (sweet and tangy; low-medium heat)[*]Tapatio (similar to cholula)[*]Sriracha (Thai paste sauce, amazing on anything; medium heat)[*]Franks Xtra Hot (like the original but considerably hotter; medium heat)[*]Tabasco (the classic hot sauce, very tangy; medium heat)[*]Blair's Death Sauce (salty, strong flavored; high-medium heat)[*]Tabasco Habenero (a short burst of intense heat and unique flavor; high heat)[*]Dave's Hurtin' Habenero (tangy but strong, burning; very-high heat)[*]Blair's After Death (running the gamut of topping edibility, burn lasts for fucking-ever; very-high heat)[*]Dave's Insanity Sauce (not a topping, use one drop at a time if you're new, garlic flavor if you can taste it; insane)[*]Dave's Ghost Pepper (do not fucking eat without dilution, will last for half-an-hour; insane++)[/list]
Let's get some chillihead discussion going here.