Photo by CoLab
Hot Sauce and Chilli Oil: Where to Find the Best Spicy Condiments
There are some individuals who can’t get enough of spicy condiments, so they carry a keychain of hot sauce in case of emergencies (true story!). If you don’t know yet whether you’re suffering from a nasty case of hot sauce and chilli oil obsession, here are the symptoms (if you get more than five, welcome to the club):
- You collect different brands of hot sauces and chilli oils and call them your greatest hits.
- You always go for ‘extra spicy’ whenever you order spicy food.
- Your breakfast, lunch and dinner taste bland without your usual fix of hot sauce or chilli oil.
- Your friends no longer trust you when you tell them the spicy level is just mild.
- You try various spicy levels of hot sauces that’ll taste good with your favourite foods.
- You call yourself the hot sauce expert or chilli oil connoisseur.
- You’re enthusiastic to share your chicken wings smothered with hot sauce but no one dares to take even just one piece from your plate.
Hot Sauce and Chilli Oil Madness: A brief history
Hot sauce’s history goes all the way back to the Aztecs of Central America around 7,000 years ago (yes, 7000 years ago). They grind chillies and herbs with water to flavour their food. Some historians say that the ancient Aztecs use smoking chillies to punish misbehaving children and their enemies (ouch!). Chilli peppers were scattered around the world in the 16th century from Spain and Portugal all the way to Africa and Asia through selective breeding and ancient trade. In the late 1860s, Tabasco chillies became popular and one of the earliest hot sauce brands in the United States. Then in 1912, the American pharmacist (and probably hot sauce connoisseur) Wilbur Scoville invented the Scoville scale or Scoville heat units (SHU) to measure the spiciness of different chilli peppers.
Fast forward to 2020, the global hot sauce market is valued at $4.5 billion and is expected to grow moderately in the next few years (talk about chilli peppers on fire!). Hot Sauce Day is celebrated every June 22nd. No one really knows who made it official but maybe there’s a super secret hot sauce committee that we don’t know about who invented this special day.
Chilli oil, on the other hand, originated in Asia. Also called chilli crisp, it is common in most Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisines. Typically made of vegetable oil, red chilli flakes and other spices, chilli oil can be used as a dipping sauce for dumplings and tater tots, for marinating meat before grilling, or on salad dressings (just a slight drizzle). Chilli oil gets more exciting these days when added to desserts. One example is the Sichuan chilli crisp sundae with peanut streusel (yum!) and the vanilla ice cream with spicy chilli oil that became a TikTok viral.
Popular Types of Spicy Condiments
There’s no shortage of spicy condiments wherever you go around the world. Each region or country surely has their own spicier versions of hot sauces and chilli oils.
Harissa (North Africa)
SHU: 1,000 to 1,500 (Mild)
Harissa is native to North Africa made from dried chillies, herbs, coriander, cumin, caraway, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. It is thick and smooth, which is perfect for falafels, salads and grilled meats.
Chilli Oil (China)
SHU: 50,000 to 75,000 (Hot)
Commonly associated with Sichuan cuisine, chilli oil recipes also vary per region. It can be made from ground dried chillies, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, paprika, dried garlic and vegetable or olive oil. It’s perfect for dumplings, noodle dishes and salads.
SHU: 2,000 (Extreme Hot)
Sambal oelek is a popular variety made from raw ground red chilli, vinegar, lime, ginger, sugar and salt. It is made into a paste with a sour tang and chunky taste. Sambal is used as a dipping sauce, for marinating and spicy spread.
SHU: 450 (Mild)
Tabasco is a popular example of Louisiana-style hot sauce. It is composed of chillies, vinegar and salt that is fermented. The spicy level is just mild and can be a great entry level to try on pulled pork sandwiches, noodles and Buffalo wings.
Peri peri Sauce (Portugal)
SHU: 50,000 to 175,000 (Spicy Hot)
Peri peri pepper originated in Africa but was transported to Portugal in the 1400s. The popular peri-peri sauce Nandos is made from serrano pepper, vinegar, salt, lemon and onion. It is usually paired with Portugal's most popular national dish, the Peri peri chicken (yes please).
Salsa Picante (Mexico)
SHU: 2,000 (Spicy Hot)
Salsa Picante is a Mexican-style hot sauce with a consistency that’s similar to Louisiana-style. It is made from a combination of jalapeno, habanero, chipotle, and pequin chilies. It’s excellent in tacos, Spanish rice and roasted veggies.
The Best Spicy Condiments to Buy Online
Co-lab Pantry offers a wide variety of exciting hot sauce and chilli oil brands for your next spicy food challenge or hot sauce hunt adventure:
- Bar Lourinhã Hot Sauce (Green) - A$11.00
- Lagoon Hot Sauce - A$10.99
- Chotto Motto Crispy Chilli Oil - A$18.50
- Make It Spicy Gift Pack - A$49.00
Discover more spicy condiments here.
Co-Lab Pantry is an Australian online food and beverage retailer based in Melbourne. With over 150 of the best local restaurants, cafes and grocers as partners, we deliver ready-made meals, cocktails, pantry goods and produce to people’s homes across the nation.