When most people think of hot sauce, they think spiciness. Of course, they are not wrong, but around the world, all different kinds of chiles — and other ingredients — go into the creation of the overall taste sensation we call spice. As a result, there are many iterations of hot sauce all around the world.
To find these hot sauces, we zeroed in on various cuisines from around the world, making sure each continent was duly represented. Unfortunately, Australia did not make the cut, because there is no one hot sauce that seems ubiquitous in the cuisines of Australia or New Zealand. At times, it is difficult to match a hot sauce with a country, because the world’s diasporic populations have introduced spicy sauces from their native cuisine to various national cuisines. For example, while piri piri sauce originated in Portugal, it is so popular in various African countries that we cannot fairly call piri piri a Portuguese condiment. These aren’t the world’s spiciest hot sauces, but they do rank pretty highly on the Scoville scale, the measurement of the pungency of chile peppers devised by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville.
Some of the sauces on this list are specific brands, as opposed to hot sauce recipes that are not patented. We chose them because their levels of popularity are so high that almost everybody in their respective countries knows them by name. There are other hot sauces in this list whose exact origins are unknown, as the chiles that they consist of have been in their cuisine for hundreds of years. One particular condiment is the perfect example of the globalization of hot sauce: It is named after cognac — though it has no cognac in it — because its association with the liquor makes it sound more classy and Western. You’ll just have to keep reading to find out what that sauce is.
There are so many hot sauces in the world, and each with its own character. You can even find out which one matches your astrological sign. Whether you love or hate spicy food, take a look at how the world enjoys this fiery condiment.
1. Aji Amarillo Paste - Peru
The bright orange aji amarillo pepper (and its pastes, sauces, and powders) have been a part of Peruvian cuisine since the Incan Empire. It translates to “yellow chile” because, when cooked, that’s the color it becomes. It is distinctive for its fruity taste, which comes through despite its strong punch of spice. Combined with cilantro and onion, this chile makes one of the most ubiquitous flavor combinations in Peruvian cuisine.
2. Erős Pista - Hungary
This branded sauce from Hungary, which translates to “Strong Steve,” is composed of a simple combination of paprika and salt. According to travel guide writer Rick Steves, Hungarians usually cook with sweet paprika, but keep hot paprika on the table, so each diner can customize the spiciness of a dish to his or her taste. Erős Pista is an even spicier version of your standard table paprika. According to Steves, “It is best used sparingly.”
3. Frank's RedHot - USA
Cayenne peppers are the base of Frank’s RedHot, which also contains vinegar and garlic. It gained its place in the American culinary cannon by being the primary ingredient in the original Buffalo wing sauce at Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York — where the iconic American food was invented.
4. Gochujang - Korea
Almost no Korean dish is presented without the option of gochujang, which is made from red chiles, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. Traditionally, the paste is aged and fermented in large clay pots under the influence of natural sunlight. Sunchang Traditional Gochujang Village, on the outskirts of the city of Gwangju, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Korea.
5. Harissa - Tunisia
The hot sauce most associated with the North Africa and Middle East, harissa originated in Tunisia and is a paste made of a blend of various hot chiles, which are either roasted or smoked, along with garlic, olive oil, and spices like cumin, coriander, caraway or mint. One way to make harissa truly unique is to add rose petals or rose water, as they do in some parts of North Africa.
Spice it up with the world's hottest sauces.
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