In spite of being a person who was brought up by an Irish mum who fed us potatoes every day, I like my food fairly spicy. I still love potatoes but have taken a shine to hotter, spicier versions, like curried potato dishes, for example.
When I started to learn about curry, I was overwhelmed with the amount of spice options and combinations (the spices in my house as a kid were salt and pepper). It took a while to learn the curry spice basics, and I experimented with chili powders and fresh chili peppers to see how they blended with other spices, and of course, how hot I could go.
Prepared Chili Sauce
The chemical called capsaicin gives chilies their "heat." The chemical excites our nerves which produces the burning sensation we feel when we eat spicy chilies, but there is no actual heat involved. Externally, capsaicin is considered an irritant.
For those of you who like to cook with fresh chili peppers and have made the mistake of touching your face or your eyes with capsaicin-laced fingers, you'll know that handling chilies can be very unpleasant. This is where store-bought bottled chili sauces come in.
The beauty of a spicy, bottled sauce is that you're in control to use as much or as little as you like without the threat of capsaicin burns. With so many sauce varieties available, we can pick, choose, experiment with and create delicious food from an exciting spicy palette.
Chili sauce has become an enormous market for foodies and spice fans. The most popular chili sauces in the world are by Rooster Brand, created in Vietnam, now produced in Los Angeles. According to Entrepreneur.com, Rooster's 2014 sales reached $60 million dollars, or 20 million bottles, and it has never paid for advertising.
Better quality pepper sauces use simple, natural ingredients and sun-ripened fruits to give a fresher tasting pepper, as opposed to those aged in dark, highway-bound trucks. The Rooster Brand chili products are made of fresh red jalapenos grown on-site and ripened open-air in the California sun.
Another U.S. sauce brand, Corine's Cuisine, uses fresh ingredients like whole garlic cloves and real lime juice in their sauces, including Scotch bonnets ripened in the tropical sun for their spicy varieties.
For spice daredevils, the Canadian company Stasis Preserves makes chili sauces made with only locally grown Ontario fruits. Ghost chilies are 107 to 417 times hotter than the mildest jalapeno, so if you like a very spicy chili sauce, Stasis' Ghost Chili Hot Sauce should do it for you.
The range of chili options is astounding; small and large; red, green, brown and yellow; and mild to tissue-melting hot. The addition of chilies to food seems to brighten the flavour in the mouth and elevates dishes to a new degree of deliciousness.
Eat more chilies for your health
The addition of even a little chili in your meals can add a massive vitamin boost. Chilies give Vitamins A, B3, B6, and K, and a whopping 400 per cent or more of our daily dose of Vitamin C. Chilies are also high in iron, potassium, copper and magnesium.
The capsaicin in chili peppers blocks the release of Substance P, a neurotransmitter that blocks pain. According to Dr. Daniel Zagst, ''Capsaicin has shown its worth as a natural pain reliever by depleting the amount of Substance P, and decreasing the number of pain signals sent to the brain.''
''The most promising research into capsaicin intake is related to its cancer-fighting properties,'' he says. ''Prostate cancer tumors shrank by 80 per cent when exposed to capsaicin. Another study found it to destroy lung cancer cells and pancreatic cancer cells without destroying nearby tissue. The capsaicin kills these cancer cells by triggering the mitochondria in the cells to undergo apoptosis, or cell-suicide.''
If this isn't enough good news, chilies can also reduce the inflammation of psoriasis, regulate blood sugar, relieve the pain of arthritis and fibromyalgia, lower cholesterol and triglyceride, and aid in weight loss. The consumption of chilies, with such flavour and so many health benefits, is constantly on the rise.
There is still a time and place for plain potatoes, but exposure to new foods means more eating, and more eating means a deeper appreciation of food. Through experimentation with world cuisine, I have expanded my culinary horizons and learned to enjoy the delicious complexities of many spice and chili varieties.
To open the mind as well as the mouth allows us to experience new and exotic foods, and that, after all, is the spice of life.
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Surprisingly, one of the world’s spiciest hot sauces can be found at a Buffalo Wild Wings near you, or on their online store. When Roberts asked a representative how spicy this sauce was, they replied, "The Scoville units for the Blazin' sauce range from 200,000 to 350,000 depending on the peppers and the season, but it is always hot!" Photo Credit: © Buffalo Wild Wings
This super-hot sauce is a fiery concoction of chile extract, fresh habanero peppers, cayenne, garlic, and onion and clocks in at a face-melting 357,000 Scoville units. It can be purchased from Hot Sauce World for $8.98 a bottle, but you might want to read the comments section before making the investment; this sauce takes its toll. Photo Credit: © flickr/ kieran krud
CaJohns is famous for making some of the spiciest hot sauces in existence, and this one, which also happens to be the world’s first white hot sauce, is right up there with them. It’s so hot that it supposedly "sparkles and shimmers" when you shake it, according to Roberts. CaJohns suggests using it to spice up cocktails, but even one drop might be enough to give your margarita a heck of a kick. It can be purchased for $9 per bottle. Photo Credit: © CaJohns Flavor & Fire
The red savina pepper is twice as hot as a habanero and 65 times hotter than a jalapeño. Melinda’s blends the fiendish pepper with habaneros, fresh carrots, onions, lime juice, vinegar, garlic, and salt to create an elixir that’s been lab-tested and certified to clock in at 577,000 Scoville units. If you can handle the heat, this sauce actually sounds quite delicious. A 5-ounce bottle can be purchased for $5.14. Photo Credit: © flickr/ zorbs
This new product from the company that started it all takes the Naga Jolokia pepper, also known as the infamous ghost pepper, blends it with pure hot pepper extract, salt, and garlic, and unleashed unto the world one of the hottest sauces known to man, clocking in at a whopping 650,000 Scoville units. We’d recommend watching the video of it being eaten before making your purchase. Photo Credit: © Dave's Gourmet
According to legend, this sauce originated when the company’s founder worked in a bar and was eager to close up shop when 2 a.m. rolled around. So he fried up some wings and doused them in this sauce, and told the patrons that they could stick around for longer if they could eat four of them. Needless to say, it worked every time. A 3-ounce bottle can be purchased for $29.95, but a disclaimer needs to be signed first! Photo Credit: © flickr/ Mugley
The Henry Family Farm has been growing chiles for 30 years in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and this, a blend of straight ghost chiles with just a little salt and vinegar, is their spiciest offering. Because it’s such a gourmet product, a 5-ounce bottle sells for $24, and because there are no extracts involved you can really taste the chiles. Once you can get past the heat. Chef David Rosengarten is a big fan of this sauce, and is selling it, along with two other varieties, on his website. Photo Credit: © Henry Family Farm
If the 2 AM Reserve isn’t hot enough for you, you could always kick it up one more notch with their 3 AM reserve. It’s 20 percent hotter than the original, and a drop of this stuff on your tongue will most likely alter your entire outlook on the universe (it's about as spicy as law enforcement-grade pepper spray). For the truly brave (crazy?), a 3-ounce bottle sells for $49.95. It comes in funky bottle, signed by Blair himself. Photo Credit: © Blair's Sauces and Snacks
There’s a good chance that the folks at Pepper Palace weren’t exaggerating when they called this concoction the universe’s hottest. Forty pounds of ghost chiles go into every batch, and according to the company the stuff contains a ludicrous 3.5 million Scoville units, making it 700 times spicier than Tabasco. We’re getting into some crazy territory here, and if you’re insane enough to try it, you can purchase it through their website for $14.95. Photo Credit: © Facebook/ Brandon's Hot Peppers
Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the top of Mount Everest. What we have here isn’t a sauce, or a food really, but tiny crystals composed of pure, uncut capsaicin. At its most powerful, the chemical packs a walloping 16 million Scoville units. The strength of this stuff borders on what the human mind can even comprehend. You can purchase some if so inclined, but honestly we’re not too sure what you’d do with it. Just to give you an idea of its power, the crystals come sealed in a vial, which is then sealed in a waterproof carrying case. On the side? A pair of gloves, a face mask, and forceps. To activate it, dilute it with some alcohol and heat it up. But we wouldn’t advise it, because it’s the absolute spiciest substance on Earth. (Photo Credit: © fflickr/ Suviko)
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