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Multipurpose hot sauce?

My husband and I have markedly different preferences (and tolerance) for heat, so I find myself adding erring on the safe side and adding heat to my own plate after the fact. I’m at a bit of a loss when it comes to Indian dishes… The cayenne and vinegar hot sauces readily available in the US just aren’t doing it for me.

Do you have any hot sauce recommendations that would enhance rather than detract from dals, or pair reasonably well with a broad range of curries (from warming spices to pungent mustard and fenugreek notes)? The latter part might be a tall order, so I suppose I might need a spectrum of hot sauces to match the diversity of curries 😉 I would happily make something from scratch if provided with a recipe.


9 thoughts on “Multipurpose hot sauce?

  1. My answer to this conundrum was hot oil. Fresh hot peppers , a lot of them, I particularly like red Savina habanero. Malagueta if I can find it is the best. But quite simply, stuff it in an old bottle with garlic, sometimes I add whole Indian spices (toasted) and pour the best olive oil you can buy. Let it rest for a couple of weeks. Drizzle onto your food as required.

    Good luck.

    1. That’s a really good idea! I am in fact growing some habaneros this year. I never thought to infuse some oil with them.
      I am particularly drawn to the idea of adding some toasted spices as well — sort of a bottled tadka?

  2. I make a chilli paste by blending chillies, salt and vinegar. It keeps for a long time, and will add heat to any dish. If you cook Indian food, just reduce the chillies (green, dried red, chilli powder etc) to suit your husband, and add some chilli paste to your food. You can also saute it in ghee to add depth of flavour (it will splatter so be careful). This will pretty much retain the spice balance of the original dish.

    The other alternative is to make cooked chilli pastes, and there are any number of these. I have a delicious, deeply flavoured one that is cooked for hours. Let me know if you’d like the link to the recipe.

    1. I would definitely love a recipe. My chillies are ripening without a particular game plan at the moment, so this could not be more timely.

  3. Another possibility is to use achaar, a condiment which is the Indian version of pickles. There are hundreds or thousands of varieties of achaar, varying by ingredients and which region of India they come from.

    Many types of achaar have distinct flavors that may interfere with the taste of the dish. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you want to keep it pure, I suggest mirch ka achaar, which is pickled red chilies. Pick the kind that’s pickled in oil and not vinegar for a neutral taste.

    [Here’s an example]( of what I mean. Hot red chilies stuffed with spices and pickled in mustard oil. It has an amazingly yummy taste and a little bit goes a long way.

    If you’re not ready to make it yourself, picj up a jar of chili-garlic achaar at your local Indian grocery, and give it a try. Shaan (a Pakistani brand) is pretty good for achaar. If you need something hotter, try a Hyderabadi brand.

    1. The nearest Indian market is a fair hike away, but I’m game to make my own!

      As much as I’ve played with various recipes for mains and veggie sides, I’ve yet to make a single pickle. I’ll start with mirch ka achaar for a neutral option, but the idea of having an arsenal of achaars to variously complement dishes appeals. As it happens, I also favor more assertive spices generally (not just heat) so this would be yet another way to customize the same dish to our respective palates. (Currently, I have a bunch of shakers with various masala blends I made to add spice at the table… Pickles are a more elegant option.)

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