Review: Scorpion Gourmet Hot Sauce

>> Saturday 22 February 2014

The Caribbean is known for its pepper sauce. Each country and each household has its own recipe and "secrets" for making this fiery blend of Scotch Bonnet pepper. Pepper sauce can be so hot (and flavourful) that it can make you gasp and cry involuntarily. The burn stings as it coats your tongue; you press your tongue to the roof of your mouth for some relief but you only succeed in spreading the heat for a full-on mouth burn.

One would think that with such pain you would not want to dip in to more pepper sauce with your next fork or spoonful of food, but, completely bewitched, you dip, slather and smear on more pepper sauce and continue eating. It's fierce heat yes, but gosh, the pain is pleasurable and you just can't seem to get enough of that mouthwatering (literally), flavourful sauce.

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Taste as we know, is subjective, especially when it comes to certain things where everyone feels that their version is the best or most authentic. With something as highly-prized as pepper sauce, preferences can range from colour to texture to heat to method of preparation to added ingredients. Therefore, when I was approached to review Scorpion Gourmet Hot Sauce, I only agreed on the condition that I am frank and unbiased. It is important to note that this is an unpaid review. The hot sauces were supplied by the company.

Here in the region when we say pepper sauce, we mean something very specific - a sauce made exclusively of very hot peppers (usually scotch bonnet). When we see the words hot sauce on a label we automatically presume it to be a mixture of hot peppers and other ingredients blended to make a different kind of "pepper sauce". And when you add the word "gourmet" in front of hot sauce, you have to know that we are speaking of something different from what we Caribbeans traditionally know as pepper sauce. This is not a criticism, it is an observation.

Made primarily for the North American market, Scorpion Gourmet Hot Sauce offers a taste of the flavour of the well-known scotch bonnet without the pain mentioned in the first two paragraphs of this post. I say this for 2 reasons: when it comes to consumption, West Indian pepper sauce is taken in small quantities given the potency of the heat. A hot sauce on the other hand, such as the Scorpion Gourmet Hot Sauce (which comes in 3 versions - hot, medium and mild) can be taken in much more generous helpings based on your tolerance for heat.

Scorpion Gourmet Hot Sauce is made of scotch bonnet peppers, carrots, tomatoes, mangoes, vinegar, salt, lime juice, citric acid and spices. It is a hot sauce. The 3 versions in which the sauce comes are differentiated by the colour-coded sticker at the top of each cap. Red is for hot, green is for medium and black is for mild. The sauce varies in consistency as it goes from hot to medium to mild. Mild is the thickest for a very simple reason, less pepper is added to the sauce, therefore the increased addition of the other ingredients thickens the sauce. Don't be fooled though, the mildest still carries heat.

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I asked two fellow pepper-heads to assist me with the taste-testing of the hot sauce and here is what we found:

  • Hot (red sticker) - has a full-body flavour of the scotch bonnet. At first there are subtle notes of sweetness but that quickly disappears as the heat begins to build gradually, but not to an unbearable place (well, not if you like heat). With dairy such as milk or yogurt or any dairy-based beverage or dessert, the heat quickly goes away. The quick relief makes you want to keep eating the hot sauce.

  • Medium (green sticker) - still has a lot of flavour of the pepper but you are beginning to notice the acidic ingredients.

  • Mild (black sticker) - with this version you are tasting more of the other ingredients such as the carrots, tomatoes etc. In this version, the vinegar is more pronounced and again, both of these observations are for obvious reasons - less pepper, more of everything else. We all agreed that we would use this version to introduce people to heat.

  • The sauce is highly aromatic with floral notes from the pepper. It is smooth in consistency, completely pureed. We all loved smelling and eating the hot sauce.

  • Unlike the more traditional West Indian pepper sauces - thicker with more texture and almost exclusively made of peppers - that you can add to make things like a curry paste, I won't add Scorpion Gourmet Hot Sauce simply because I think it would be wasted (and it can impact on the overall flavour of what you are making depending on the quantity used). The SGHS should only really be used as a condiment. Used this way, you will be able to truly appreciate tastiness of the sauce.

Personally, I think the sauce would be ideal to toss with fried chicken wings as one would when making buffalo chicken wings. The vinegar and acid in SGHS would complement the wings really well. The range of the sauce also makes it easy to make your hot wings from hot to mild.

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My taste-testers and I had the hot sauce with fried fish, fish cakes, french fries, sandwiches and with various meals. We enjoyed it best when we were eating finger-foods or bar-foods. What we did not like is when we ate the sauce with foods that we would normally eat with pepper sauce (rice and peas, fried rice, chowmein, rice and sautéed vegetables, stews). The vinegary-ness of the sauce was heightened and impacted on the flavour of the food. It was a bit too acidic. This is the main reason why I would recommend the sauce be used as part of a dip (mixed in or as is), something to shake or smear on to food.

Based in Texas, Scorpion Gourmet Hot Sauce recently won 1st place with the Hot (red) version at Zest Fest in Dallas (Asian style).

SGHS ships all across the US, Canada and the UK. You can buy the sauce online or at one of the vendors listed here.

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