The Essential Hot Sauces

“He who controls the spice controls the universe.”
― Frank Herbert, Dune

Oblique Strategy:
Don’t break the silence

I am all about the hot sauce. Food exists largely as a means to shovel hot sauce into my mouth. There is a simple test – if it doesn’t make the top of my head sweat – it isn’t hot enough.

Ok, I’ve been digging around my archive USB hard drive and found a blog entry from 2006, my second version of The Daily Epiphany, called The Essential Hot Sauces.I had a magazine ask for an article version of this – though they settled for a different one.

Right now, I have only three essential hot sauces. There are others that are good, but these are essential.


First, is Cholula, the one that I guess would count as my single favorite. It’s the one with the wooden ball for a cap – easy to spot on a shelf. What makes it special is the fact it is made with Chile Pequin (or Piquin, similar, but not quite there, to the cultivated Tepin), a tiny wild chili instead of some cultivated pepper. The sauce costs more because of that but it has a complex flavor unmatched in cheaper sauces.

Bufalo Chipotle

Next, I still have Bufalo Chipotle on my list. None of the other Bufalo brand sauces are very good – but their Chipotle is the best. I’ve enjoyed the various uses of chipotle (smoked jalepeno peppers) for years, long before they were as famous as they are now, and am a little perturbed at something I like so much become chic, Americanized, and homogenized. Still, the old standby, Bufalo Chipotle hasn’t changed a bit. Its flavor, from a smoked pepper, is very different from any other type of sauce, and it great for a change of pace. Also, it’s thick and dark in color (almost a black-purplish-brown) and can be attractive when used with a contrasting sauce such as:

The third sauce is one I learned to like since 1998. It’s Sriracha, and is an Asian sauce – the one in the plastic squeeze bottle with the rooster on the front.


It’s thick too, and a bright orange, and mixes well with other stuff. I think I eat more of this than any other kind.

I think I need to add a couple more – a Louisiana sauce at least (Something other than Tabasco – that old favorite seems to be getting too thin and vinagar-y lately) and maybe a habanera-based sauce (these are so hot… I want to find one with some flavor in it).

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

It’s funny to read this after all these years. It’s odd to thing about a time before Sriracha because it is now such a ubiquitous part of my life. Otherwise, those three are still essential.

At the end, I wondered about Louisiana hot sauce, since then I made up my mind and wrote a blog entry about it:

Tabasco or Crystal

A tough choice.

Crystal it is.

And I wondered about Habanero based sauce. I have a homemade habanero sauce that is great and the link takes you to a blog entry and recipe, but I don’t make it too often – it’s too dangerous (I’m sitting here sweating, just thinking about it). I will buy a Yucateco sauce, green or red, to keep on hand in case of emergencies. Be careful with it, it’s hot.

But what I wanted to write about, is that I am addicted to a new hot sauce. We were at a restaurant (already forgotten what it was) and they had a green Sriracha sauce that was delicious. It wasn’t very hot – but it had a great flavor. They had red and green, but the green was something new.

Green and Red Sriracha

What caught my eye was that the bottles were labeled Distributed by ALDI.

Aldi, if you don’t know, is this cool new model of a grocery store. There is one at the end of our street and over a block. I like it especially because it is uphill from the house. I ride my bike uphill and then buy milk or water or other heavy items and coast downhill back home.

Now every time I go there I buy three bottles of the green Sriracha. I eat a lot of it because it isn’t all that hot – so I put too much on. I put it on everything. And I mean ever-y-thing. It’s too soon to say if I will add it to the essential list – I might tire of it. We’ll see.

Hot Sauce Overdose

Halloween, French Quarter, New Orleans

Tabasco, Crystal, or Louisiana

I don’t think there is such a thing as too much hot sauce, but this guy will disagree. Not even the cool Mardi Gras beads could protect him.

Notice he has all three of the Louisiana Hot Sauces… the Holy Trinity: Tabasco, Crystal, and Louisiana (Red Dot) Brand on the table in front of him. No establishment should have less.

But that means you have to choose. Life is full of tough decisions. Though I have great respect for Tabasco, and like the Red Dot, I am a Crystal man myself.

Tabasco or Crystal

I’ve been watching what I eat with some success but sometimes I give in. Candy left a newspaper article in my office from last Friday – there is a new Cajun Restaurant in Richardson, Wicked Po’Boys. I couldn’t resist.

It’s located in the Eastside development not far from where we live.

Wicked Po’Boys in Richardson, Texas

They have put up a bit of an iron balcony out front to try for a little New Orleans style. Not quite the Garden District, but a nice touch.

A real balcony in the French Quarter.

Balcony in the Lower Garden District

The place is long and thin inside – but attractive, with a big bar and a big menu. I ordered a grilled shrimp po’boy and an Abita Amber, Candy ordered a roast beef po’boy. Most people think about po’boys and seafood (shrimp, oyster) but the roast beef or debris style is right up there too.

Blackened Shrimp Po-Boy from Wicked Po’Boys

Roast Beef Po-Boy from Wicked Po’Boys

Our sandwiches were greatness. I’m afraid we’ll be back. There are pots of gumbo that beckon. There are still oysters.

Now, if you are going to eat Cajun, you need to make a huge decision. There are a number of eternal “this or that” questions you must face during you short time upon this mortal plane. These questions must be faced and must not be shirked. Ocean or mountains? The book or the movie? Hot dog or hamburger? Paper or Plastic? Shaken or stirred? White or wheat? Boxers or briefs? Tea or coffee? Dogs or cats? Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? Coke or Pepsi? Shower or bath? Chocolate or Vanilla?

But the most basic question, the one that truly reveals the tint of your deepest soul, the most difficult conundrum of them all….

A tough choice.

Tabasco or Crystal?

Now I know some folks will put Original Louisiana  (the one with the red dot) there (and it is a worthy contender) instead of Crystal – but I’ve been to New Orleans and I know the truth. It’s Tabasco or Crystal. A tough choice.

Choose your weapon.

Here is the condiment rail at Wicked Po-Boys. If you are a true hot sauce eater you will recognize the bottles from the shapes on the top.

Now, I understand the duality of the Crystal and Tabasco choice. But, really in life, things do not come in twos. The duality of nature is an illusion brought on by our own weakness of perceiving the true nature of things. Life is not a duality – there are really three choices. Wicked Po-Boys recognizes this deep philosophical truth by offering Sriracha. Oh, and in Richardson, you had better have Sriracha.

But, as much as I love the rooster sauce, I’m not quite adventurous enough to put it on Cajun food yet…. It’s not that I’m afraid as much as I’m not sure how to improve on perfection. Sometimes the classics are that way for a reason.

So what did I choose? Ever since my visit to Avery Island I have held a deep respect for Tabasco. It is truly a culinary treasure. But it is also too vinegary. I respect Tabasco… but I ate the Crystal.

A lot of it.

By the way – take a look at the “best used date” on that bottle of Crystal in the photo above. You have to eat it by March 7, 2015. Don’t worry – it’ll be gone by then.

Wicked Po’Boys Set To Open In Richardson

Wicked PoBoys Facebook

First Look: Wicked Po Boys