For a spice junkie born with the red devil on my tongue, it was a day to remember when a tiny Thai restaurant in Ithaca, NY, offered me – not “4 Star Hot” or “5 Star Hot” on the 1-to-5 scale, but a mind-numbing, coma-inducing “Bangkok Hot”. It was indeed the kind of satisfying heat I’d get anywhere in the capital city of Thailand, and 2 years later, when I went back to that same restaurant, the manager remembered me as that “Bangkok Hot Girl”. I hadn’t died at the table from the rarely-ordered injection of a heap of bird chilli juice in my food. I had survived, and returned during my next trip to upstate New York to get more of the same.
So here’s the thing with `hot charts’ in USA. There’s no discrimination between the faint-hearts and the brave-hearts. Nothing to separate the hot from the very hot. This lack causes many nasty surprises for people on both ends of the spice spectrum, which is why I hold that hole-in-the-wall place in Ithaca in such high regard. Realizing the limitations of the 1-to-5 American heat scale, they had created a superhot category that stood all on its own. Patrons of Bangkok Hot knew what they were getting. Others who chose from the usual 1-to-5 range knew what they were saving themselves from.
If you keep up with food trends, you must already know that hot sauces are going to be explored like never before in 2017. According to Technomic, American diners with adventurous palates will taste ingredients found in cuisines from North Africa and Southeast Asia such as dukkah, ghost pepper, gochujang, harissa and sambal. Developing a keener appreciation, in other words, of the complexities and multicultural nuances of different kinds of heat.
This is a good time then, to start testing hot sauces-in-a-bottle at home to gauge your tongue-burning tolerance. And to make your selection easier, I’m only going to suggest some seriously hot sauce bottles that the manager from the Ithaca restaurant would have thought worthy of a Bangkok-level list.
SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION (CRAZY UNCLE JESTER’S)
• XXX Louisiana-style habanero hot sauce. Has the wonderful flavor you’d expect from a Louisiana pepper sauce. Each bottle of Spontaneous Combustion is loaded with the extreme heat of a whole bushel of habaneros. The only ultra-hot sauce to ever win the Louisiana-style category at the National Fiery Food Challenge.
PURGATORY HOT SAUCE (PUCKER BUTT PEPPER CO)
• Made with the world’s hottest pepper, Carolina Reaper, the Purgatory hot sauce measures a pyro-manic 1.5 million SHUs on the heat scale. There are no extracts used to make this sauce, which has flavors of onion and garlic, if you can possibly taste anything other than unbelievable heat.
BUMBLE FOOT’S BUMBLEF*KED (CA JOHN)
• Aside from the fact that it’s a whopping 6 million SHUs, the high-energy, heart-pounding Bumblef*ked sauce has been tastied up with ginseng, ginger, tropical fruits and caffeine.
MEET YOUR MAKER RETRIBUTION SAUCE (HEAVENLY HEAT)
• A blistering blend of 5 million ghost pepper extract with dried, ground ghost peppers. Meant to be added to food only (don’t use as a dip). Sold in spooky-looking, hand-crafted wooden coffins. Meet Your Maker is so wicked, Heavenly Heat makes you sign a waiver before you can purchase a bottle.
GET BITTEN BLACK MAMBA 6 HOT SAUCE (CA JOHNS)
• The 6 in the name stands for 6 Million Scovilles. That is 1,200 times hotter than a jalepeño. It’s mission is to bring pain. The Get Bitten Black Mamba 6 bottles come with a packaging that warns users to use responsibly. Avoid contact with sensitive areas and keep away from children and pets.