Ketchup is for kids. Come to think of it, my kids prefer Sriracha or a habanero mayo.
This generation likes heat — it's in the millennial DNA. Red hot chili peppers are not just a band, they are a multicultural condiment. For the record, the condiment was first.
Tapatio, Tabasco and Frank's Red Hot sauces have been at home on tables for generations, for a go-to splash of flavor and fire, and arguably with the greatest commercial success.
This is an entrepreneurial generation, and now there are possibly as many varieties of hot sauce as there are craft beers. Some are mild, highlighting the dance between the peppers and vinegar; many highlight the blistering fire you are about to put in your mouth willfully. "Like licking a stun gun — put that on your chicken."
Nearly all fast food menus have hot and spicy items featuring jalapenos, habaneros, and ghost peppers, because it is fun to break into a crying sweat over a sandwich.
There is a market for that. But the hot and spicy trend is not all about how much one can endure above 50,000 Scoville heat units, or Tabasco. Heat condiments add intense flavor profiles with international dimension, highlighting regional blends of peppers and other ingredients.
Chili sauces and heat condiments can be found in the international section of your supermarket. You can also do it yourself with ingredients you can find in specialty markets.
What is trending in spicy condiments? There are many ways to introduce spice into a dish to elevate flavor as well as temperature. Do you prefer a sauce, a paste, a relish, or a weaponizable pepper?
Sriracha: It's fun to say — sri-RACHA! It's this generation's ketchup. That's Huy Fong Sriracha HOT Chili Sauce, the bottle with the rooster, made in California since 1980. This recipe for chili sauce came to California in 1975 with David Tran, a Vietnamese immigrant. The history is of Sriracha is the American dream, and a history of explosive growth.
Huy Fong has outgrown several factories in Los Angeles County, including a former Whammo factory once used to produce Frisbees and Hula-Hoops. They now reside in Irwindale, where you can book a guided tour.
They currently contract 1,700 acres for growing their red jalapenos. That's a lot of peppers!
Sriracha is featured on menus at Subway, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Burger King, Jack in the Box, P.F. Chang's, Applebee's, and many more.
Harissa: Popular in North Africa and the Middle East, harissa is the national condiment of Tunisia. This aromatic chili paste is a combination of various roasted peppers, tomatoes, garlic, coriander, cumin, caraway seed and mint. The flavors are concentrated and intense — a little bit goes a long way.
Traditionally served with lamb, goat, and kebabs, harissa is great on pizza, and it makes an intense dipping sauce.
You can find it in jars in the international section or in gourmet food stores, although it is pretty easy to make, and there is a difference.
Sambal: This chili paste from Southeast Asia, in its purest form, is made of peppers and salt, ground in a stone mortar and pestle.
Between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka there are literally hundreds of varieties ranging from mild to scorching, with a broad range of flavor profiles created with regional ingredients, including garlic, fish paste, tomatoes and citrus.
Sambal adds darkness and heat to soups, stews, and noodle or vegetable dishes; it adds heated flavor to marinades and spreads, and makes a great relish-like condiment to serve on the table.
Bhut Jolokia — the Ghost Pepper: For a long time, the habanero was king of hot chilis. But in the year 2000 the Bhut Jolokia was introduced from India, boasting almost twice the heat, at over 1,000,000 Scoville heat units.
Named "Ghost Pepper" for the way the heat sneaks in, the new Hottest Pepper in the World quickly became the premier fiery ingredient. Gloves must be worn to handle it. Both culinary and military applications were found, including salsa, spicy mayo, nonlethal riot grenades and pepper spray.
There were many who did not believe a pepper could be so hot — it's just a pepper, right? For a good time, search for "ghost pepper challenge" on YouTube .
When ordering a dish that features the Ghost, you are ordering culinary masochism, but you know that, and you are going to order it anyway. You will order it because you know it is going to hurt from the inside, thus manifesting your millennial angst.
No king lives forever. The ghost's SHU rating has since been surpassed several times. The current reigning champ, with a Scoville rating of 1.57 million, is the Carolina Reaper, also popular in nonlethal military applications.
Spicy is the direction, so go ahead — turn up the heat. Put away the weak sauce and replace those bland slatherings with the vibrant, intense flavors of heat condiments from Asia, India, the Middle East, and Irwindale.