Chilli Sauces & Everything Else Hot
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Hot sauce, chilli jam, sambal, chilli oil, pepper sauce, sriracha... a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, just as chilli sauce by any other name will bring the heat!
These days, heat doesn’t necessarily mean burn though, with most artisans putting flavour before pain. Sure there’s some off the chart (or should we say scale, more about that in a moment!) eye watering, sweat inducing fire bombs, but there’s also the other end of the spectrum and everything in between with layered flavours first and spice second.
Now back to the scale, the Scoville Scale to be exact! This has been the universal way to measure the capsaicinoids in a chilli pepper since American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville invented it in 1912. It estimates the Scoville Heat Units (SHU) which act as a guide to the potency of the burn!
On the lower end of the Scoville Scale are well known peppers like capsicums which have 0 SHU, moving upwards to jalapeños at 10,000 SHU and Bird’s Eyes at around the 225,000 SHU mark.
At the other, more painful end of the scale are chillies with names like The Carolina Reaper, Komodo Dragon and Dragon’s Breath, which range from 1,400,000 to 2,400,000 SHU (yep that’s MILLION, not a typo) and with names like those, it’s easy to get the gist of intensity of the impending inferno. As of 2022, the hottest pepper in the world is known as Pepper X, a chilli so hot that the person who was supposed to name it must have spontaneously combusted after the first syllable and so it was dubbed with a single letter.
Anyway, it is the type as well as the quantity of chilli that brings the heat in your sauce of choice. You can pretty much tell from a label how hot a sauce is going to be, the name itself will often give it away – think Face Melta, Trinidad Scorpion or The Ripper. Most will be rated out of 10 or mild, medium, hot or extra hot but check the ingredients list for the chillies used and an insight into the flavour profile as well as the spice level.
So why do some people love the burn so much? Contrary to popular belief, there is no ‘chilli gene’, rather repeated exposure to capsaicins over time will build up a person’s tolerance. They say once you can push through the heat, chilli releases endorphins and dopamine to create a sort of natural high, which might explain why chilli heads go back for more time and time again! One thing is for sure though, whether you’re a fully fledged fanatic or fearful of the fire, there’s a chilli sauce out there to tickle everyone’s tastebuds!