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 TeasersGene Expression Blog
Hot Sauce

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20160821_152743 (1) I got this hot sauce at Whole Foods. The original Whole Foods.

What a disappointment. Salty. Without much other flavor besides the spice. It was like a watery spin on Louisiana hot sauce. I couldn’t taste the “aromatic spices” and “fresh herbs.” And don’t tell me it is because it’s too spicy, I didn’t find it too spicy. I did find it very salty though.

• Tags: Hot Sauce, Miscellaneous 
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Yellowbird is a pretty good hot sauce. As you can see it gives you quantity, and the quality is decent. But there’s a major problem with the serrano and habanero brands.

According to the scoville scale the habanero is about 10 times spicier than the serrano. That sounds about right to me. So if you buy a habanero sauce, it should be around 10 times spicier, right? Well, not exactly since a sauce has other ingredients. But, it should be considerably spicier, at least.

That’s not what I perceive in the Yellowbird brand. The serrano sauce is nearly as spicy as the habanero line. What’s going on? If you look at the ingredients serrano is listed first for its sauce, but habanero is not first. Carrot is first. A lot of hot sauces use carrot puree in their sauces, but I find that a lot of “habanero” sauces overwhelm you with carrot flavor so that you can say you bought a habanero sauce, without tasting much habanero.

I suspect that that Yellowbird adds a lot more serrano to that lien than they add habanero to that sauce. So the label is officially accurate, but when you buy the two sauces they are not that different in spice levels, because the concentration of capsaicin is actually pretty close.

Overall I would say that the habanero sauce isn’t worth it. The Yellowbird serrano though is a good sauce. Because there’s a lot of pepper there is a fresh green flavor to it, and it’s not so sweet as some hot sauces. Like most good hot sauces there’s an astringency, but it doesn’t overpower.

• Tags: Hot Sauce, Miscellaneous 
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Da Bomb hot sauce

300,000 Scoville units

Recently I tried four of the Da Bomb hot sauces. I was prompted by a story in The Los Angeles Times about a student who got in serious trouble for putting Da Bomb: The Final Answer into the marinara at a cafeteria. Coming in a >1 million Scoville units I can see why this is a serious offense. But Da Bomb features other lines as well. Here are the four I tried out recently with some friends:

Da Bomb Ghost Pepper. This is a relatively mild sauce, and is more notable to me for its saltiness than anything else. The label says ~30,000 Scoville units, and that seems about right.

Da Bomb Beyond Insanity. At 100,000 Scoville units it’s taking it to the next level. I can’t really say there’s much distinctive for me about this sauce. It sufficed in terms of the spice, but it wasn’t exceptional in either that or flavor.

Da Bomb Ground Zero. Definitely not the least. At 300,000 Scoville units this will test a hardened pepper hound, but, it’s not physically dangerous. The taste isn’t as artificial and metallic to me as the Dave’s Insanity line. This is the closest in terms of utils to fresh habanero.

– Finally, Da Bomb: The Final Answer. I enjoyed this…but this sauce is a serious hazard. To be safe and comfortable you should handle it with disposable gloves, and store it somewhere that the unsuspecting won’t be able to stumble upon. In the end I have to go with Ground Zero because it’s not a pain in the ass. The Final Answer is really just a “stunt sauce’ in terms of usage as a condiment. Of course it would still be useful for cooking, but then I have to ask why you just don’t go with a pure capsaicin extract of some sort.

• Category: Science • Tags: Food, Hot Sauce 
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First, I recommend this article in The Smithsonian, The Gut-Wrenching Science Behind the World’s Hottest Peppers. Recently due to my foolishness I took a teaspoon of Dave’s Ultimate Insanity Sauce. The problem is that though my tongue has developed a very high tolerance to capsaicin, my stomach has not. Tasting a teaspoon of Dave’s Ultimate was actually tolerable in regards to the sensation in my mouth, but my stomach did not agree.

With that out of the way, for the past few months I’ve been sampling seven purportedly very hot sauces with a group of friends on various dishes. The seven are:

I will give each hot sauce up to 10 points, broken down by 5 points for spice and 5 points for taste.

Dave’s Original Insanity Hot Sauce gets 6.5, 4.5 for spice, and 2 for taste. These sauces are the real deal in terms of industrial scale heat, but they often lack subtle flavor or texture, and exhibit an almost chemical sensation. Hot, yes. Delicious, not so much.

Dave’s Ultimate Insanity Hot Sauce gets 7. Like the Original, but with 5 points for spice. To be frank I didn’t find this sauce much spicier than the Original, but my tolerance might be cranked up.

Dave’s Ghost Pepper Naga Jolokia Hot Sauce goes up to 7.5. It’s not as spicy as the first two, with a 4, but the flavor is also a 3.5. This actually tastes like a sauce, rather than an emulsion of capsaicin in oils. The flavor is astringent and simple. The ingredients highlight garlic pulp and I can believe it.

Melinda’s Naga Jolokia get’s a 7.5. 4.5 for flavor, and a 3 on spice. Melinda’s has a mild sour taste which slams you at the same time as the spice, and the garlic and carrot leave you with vegetable and aromatic aftertastes. This is a delicious sauce indeed.

Pure Habanero is also a 7.5. It’s a little spicier than Melinda’s, but not as flavorful. 3.5 for spice and 4 for flavor. I would say that its taste is simpler and less complex. I doubt it is “pure” habanero, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the range of ingredients is far smaller than Melinda‘s (I couldn’t find them listed on the bottle).

Mad Dog 357 Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce ranks at a 6.5. It balances heat and flavor, 3.5 and 3 respectively. But I have to say that the simple vinegar and sweet complement to the spice doesn’t do much for me.

CaJohn’s Trinidad Scorpion Hot Sauce is a 7. 3.5 for both flavor and spice. It remind’s me of Mad Dog 357, but the vinegar and sweet are muted by the addition of tomato.

I’ll probably order Melinda’s Naga Jolokia, Pure Habanero, and Dave’s Ghost Pepper Naga Jolokia Hot Sauce again. I’m looking for more sauces to taste, so put in your recommendations below.

• Category: Science • Tags: Culture, Hot Sauce 
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(via The Festival of Patience)

• Category: Science • Tags: Culture, Hot Sauce 
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A few days ago I came across this four year old article in The Wall Street Journal on the Naga Bhut Jolokia “ghost” pepper, which is reportedly hotter than Habanero. Since none of the local grocers carry the ghost pepper, I went online. I purchased some seeds. But I also ordered Dave’s Ghost Pepper Naga Jolokia Hot Sauce and Volcano Dust Bhut Jolokia Powder. The latter was spicy, but it actually wasn’t too potent. I’d expected a lot more. Think cayenne powder on steroids. On the other hand, the hot sauce was hot. And unlike Dave’s Insanity Sauce there were flavors besides the heat which one could discern. Unlike Dave’s Insanity the Dave’s Ghost Pepper doesn’t taste like it came out of a chemical plant. I heartily recommend it.

• Category: Science • Tags: Culture, Hot Sauce 
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Those who have dined with me in “real life” know that when I eat savory foods, with the occasional exception of salads, I tend to enjoy a great deal of spice. By “great deal,” I am someone who can down eight habaneros in 15 minutes while eating potato bread, even if I’m going to regret it later (true incident from June of 2010). Now, I understand for my long term sanity I need to be a bit more moderate, so I usually limit myself to two habaneros per sitting. Additionally, I’m always on the look out for habanero sauces which can combine spice with a richer flavor. Dave’s Insanity hits the spice spot, but unfortunately it lacks the fresh and subtle flavor which can be imparted by Thai peppers.

So today I was curious when I saw a habanero sauce from an outfit called The Cultured Kitchen. It was more than $5.00 for a small container, but I decided to get it. I was very disappointed, as it was basically spice flavored carrot juice. Instead of putting it on my salad, as was my intention, I just drank it down like an energy drink so as not to waste it. The Cultured Kitchen seems to market itself as the true “symbiosis of flavor and nutrition.” If so, why may I ask do you have to make your habanero sauces so insipid? I have a nice little pitch for the habanero sauces which The Culture Kitchen produces: hot sauce so bland that even a W.A.S.P. will retain their composure and grace!

If you are a small company which produces spicy and delicious hot sauces, feel free to contact me. I’ll send you a mailing address, and if I like your stuff I’ll be happy to tell everyone that it’s great. Of course to be frank I doubt that the market for my level of spice is going to be very large, but there are always suckers out there who want to impress their girlfriends!

Image credit: Ryan Bushby.

• Category: Science • Tags: Culture, Food, Hot Sauce 
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I’ll Have the Red: Hot Sauce, Island by Island. Seems like the scotch bonnet is the basis of a lot of Caribbean sauces. You might be curious about my reviews of hot sauces from 4 years ago.

• Category: Science • Tags: Blog, Hot Sauce 
Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at"