Spice is Nice

I would like to review an important aspect of eating healthy and well (for me). It is the application of HEAT, as in, spicy hot. Even if (especially if!) you are living on rice & beans and trying to save money, it's worth it to invest in some hot sauce so you can spice up your life and alleviate taste bud boredom. Here are my favorites:

Mali pepper sauce
I'm not sure what this is made of or what it is actually called, but it is DAMN HOT. We got it at the Brattleboro Farmer's Market from the Malian food vendor, Dieneba Macalou. Just a small dab of this sauce is enough to heat up an entire plate of food. We usually have it at the farmer's market with a plate of Beef Saga Saga and white rice. I thought it would be good to stock up for the winter though, so picked up this jar. This sauce is pretty much just pure heat.

Black Bean Sauce with Chili
This is the next hottest sauce, in my opinion. It's a fabulous way to enliven a packet of ramen. It will also kick up any stirfry. I only add half a teaspoon to a stirfry, and that's quite adequate to set our mouths on fire. It has a fermented bean flavor, besides being very hot.

Tabasco sauce & Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
Both these sauces have a particular flavor I think, besides being hot. Tabasco seems a bit vinegary. I like it in a salsa situation, meaning if I use salsa, I'll use Tabasco (to enliven tacos, for example). I also like Tabasco in soups. I know there are other types of Tabasco sauce out there but have never tried them. I go for the red regular every time. As for the Sriracha, it tastes like Thai food to me, maybe because I always use it on Pad Thai. I've also used it in fish dipping sauce.

Hot pepper flakes & Cayenne
Hot pepper flakes are for pizza. Also good on a garlic & oil pasta--like maybe bowties with garlic & oil & pine nuts & fresh broccoli & parm. Mmm! I put "HOT!" on the cayenne because I recently thought I was grabbing the paprika and seasoned a batch of chicken tenders with cayenne, making it inedible to our smallest family member. Oops! I generally use this in making healing toddies or as called for in recipes.

Cut Mango Pickle
This stuff is AMAZING. It's spicy but doesn't burn or hurt. It's super-salty. It's also made with garlic, so has a nice depth of flavor beyond the salt & heat. Served with Indian food and some cooling raita, this is truly a treat. I could almost eat it by itself, but that would be wrong. Thanks to my parents for introducing me to this strange and magnificent condiment at a tender age. (Note: Does not taste like mango! The mango seems to just be a vehicle for the other flavors. It gets all tender and oily in the jar.)

After some recent experiences with habanero sorbet and a habanero salsa, I no longer think of jalapenos as being particularly hot. (A habanero? Now that's hot.) Anyway, I dice fresh jalapenos to add a bit of zest to tacos, quesadillas, nachos--basically anything that involves melted cheese, corn chips or tortillas, and salsa. I have no difficulty eating a whole diced jalapeno sprinkled over whatever is on my plate. I don't like the canned jalapenos, but other family members do. Someday I'd like to make a healthy version of jalapeno poppers, if there is such a thing!

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