There are times I feel certain I can’t live without chili garlic sauce. Unlike other hot sauces that (for me) have only one purpose (cholula on tacos, green tabasco mixed into green tomato salsa for grilled rib eye) chili garlic sauce can go on or in anything. This was once was the case with sriracha where, back in San Francisco, we’d eat fried spring rolls, five spice pork and a mystery meat-sauce-smothered rice all dotted with rooster sauce at Cordon Bleu at least once a week. It is impossible to imagine now, but when we moved to Denver in 2002 and were planning our wedding menu, our caterers had never heard of sriracha and you had to schlepp to an asian grocery store to buy it. How things have changed! I can now get most of my spicy condiments at the corner store and can quickly and easily satisfy the need for that final splash of heat, tang and salt.
A couple weeks ago, though, a new source of piquant drizzle arrived at our house by way of San Clemente, California. Created by our friend Matt Sisson (who went to California Culinary Academy with my cook-turned-custom-furniture-designer husband) Ghost Scream Hot Sauce is made from the “hottest natural growing pepper in the world.” The screaming label stared at me from the kitchen table all week while my husband dotted his eggs, sandwiches and rice with it. Eyes bugging just slightly, emitting some occasional, possibly involuntary “hoo!” noises, he liked it more and more and kept insisting I try it. I am no wuss with heat, but an initial, gentle dab on my tongue sent a slow, burning streak down my throat and numbed my left side for about fifteen minutes. So I was loathe to dress up my meal with it the way I might with the old familiar. But our friend and his family were coming to Denver for a visit and it only seemed polite to give it a proper go.
And that sauce surprised me. Did I still feel a slow, burning numb unlike any spicy before? Why yes I did. But I also noticed how the complex layers of floral notes, acid, sweet and smoke first coated my tongue before giving way to that exhilarating sensation. I can see how one might keep eating to keep tasting those first bursts of flavors and then keep eating it because stopping only makes you aware of the pain. And I am curious to see what might happen to someone ingesting large doses. Fortunately for us, an old high school friend of my husband’s is visiting this weekend and he eats anything. And lots of it. Who else do we know who competes in, let alone WINS a taco eating contest and can put down 96 (!!) pieces of sushi to win 1st in “Maki Madness?” He’s our guy and I’ll report back on what we end up topping with Ghost Scream and what a large quantity might do to your constitution.
In the meantime, I am enjoying a good dousing of the hot sauce on some leftover orange and fennel-braised lamb shank over grits. The acid cuts nicely through the rich sauce and a smoky vapor sort of lingers after each swallow. And for the one bite that really bit me back, I had an icy cold, potent swallow of ginger beer to set me straight again. Good stuff people.
If anyone is interested in tasting, selling or serving this tasty, numb-inducing sauce, let me know and I’ll arrange it. It’s truly unlike any flavor blast I’ve tasted and is a worthy addition to your condiment collection.