Monday, May 09, 2011

Hot Sauce Paradise

This is a shelf at the Hong Kong Supermarket in Brooklyn's Sunset Park Chinatown. In that aisle are chili-based pastes, sauces, condiments and other cooking ingredients from a dozen countries. I make it point whenever I visit that market to buy a couple different ones, even though English-language specifics are quite lacking from most of the labels. I guess that makes me brave or foolish. I've found a couple I really like, especially the one in the upper right which is a very fresh-tasting sauce with a bunch of different languages on the label but one that is actually made in the U.S. The shelves rarely look the same way in two consecutive visits and I've found a couple favorites that vanished the next time I looked for them. One was a particularly tasty blend of toasted ground chili in oil that added a perfect smoky flavor to stir-fry.

Everybody's New York City is a little different. Some people love the Broadway shows and the fabulousness. Me, I like the fact that in one neighborhood you can have your choice of lunch at a Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Turkish, Mexican, Ecuadorean, Salvadorean, Dominican, or Colombian foods, and then find a grocery store to match. And how the two Polish delis came to be in the middle of all that is anybody's guess.

There's often street food to match. Mexican esquites was new to me in this neighborhood: corn kernels in broth seasoned with epazote, then served with a sprinkle of chili powder, Mexican cotija cheese (sorta like ground parmesan), a squirt of fresh lime juice and a dollop of mayonnaise. Then there's the truck with the Salvadorean pupusas, and the Ecuadorean cart with some very scary-looking cooked meat parts I have most definitely not been brave enough to try. In the morning by every subway station are women with grocery carts full of piping-hot fresh tamales and hot chocolate.

In my New York, there's not a Starbucks for miles.


  1. "In my New York there's not a Starbucks for miles". I love that.

  2. I didn't see it on the shelf, but to they carry Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce?
    It is made in the town I grew up in in Rosemead, California, near Pasadena.

  3. Yes, of course they have Sriracha! Great stuff. You can get that all over town now. Did you see the article on it in the Times a while back? Interesting turns out Sriracha is as American as apple pie.

  4. Thanks, ish, I hadn't seen that article. Plus I bagged a couple new recipes to boot. :)

  5. we have discussed hot sauce before! the grocery i go to has a TON of american hot sauce and also a great international area where you can find lots of hot sauce from abroad. sriracha is one of the greatest, but there are many good kinds.

    garlic hot sauce is a particular favorite of mine, and there's a cannery near my mother's house that makes their own. it is delicious.

    recently, i have been making some custom blends from the four best kinds of tabasco: garlic, cayenne, jalapeno, and habanero.

    those, with some jack daniels bbq sauce, make the greatest chicken ever eaten anywhere. seriously.

    so, have you been relaxing the 'red foods' rule of santero, with your picture of all that delicious red sauce?

  6. Local garlic hot sauce...yum. There's a food cart I sometimes go to that makes their own habanero hot sauce. I want to see them make it some's so good and REALLY hot.

    On your last question, good catch, freebones. Yeah, as I find myself less involved day to day in the religion, I do cheat on my list of things to give up now and then. I still try avoid things that seem to be unnaturally red... but for hot sauce I'm weak!

  7. Just a few weeks ago my local paper ran an article on Sriracha - before that I'd never heard of it. I really must try it, as I do love some good heat. To me, one mark of a good Mexican or Asian meal is that my scalp breaks out into a sweat!

  8. Oh definitely try it MrBill. It's's thick like ketchup.

  9. Nice one. So is this the Hot Sauce Committee Pt.1?

    My New York is a nail parlor or hair salon every quarter-block. even with that we have a Scandinavian Deli, Mexican Restaurant, Greek Diner, Korean Deli, Greek Diner, Donut Shop, Irish Pub, French Restaurant, and Lebanese Deli before you hit a Starbucks.

  10. it wasn't really meant to be a catch, i just wondered. i have never really understood those rules. i was raised catholic (that went well, LOL). on fridays during lent, we weren't supposed to eat meat. i was always just like... "why...?" it made no sense. i think that about lots of things.

    some makes sense, like muslims and pork, but i still don't really get religious food restrictions.

  11. freebones, as I understand it Biblical food restrictions are quite different from Santeria ones. Biblical food restrictions are about certain foods being unclean or improper to eat: it's a morality issue for those who believe. In Santeria, the food restrictions are not because certain foods are but but because they re special, or sacred to the divinities who rule nature and our personalities. A believer gives up those foods -- makes the sacrifice of not eating them, in effect -- out of respect for the divinities. It's said, in fact, that a person who gives up certain foods can then consume them in dire situations as a way of getting the divinity's attention for some kind of needed intervention in their life. In any case it's not at all about going to hell for eating things you're not supposed to. I -- and Santeria -- don't believe in hell anyway!

    Cody I'm pretty sure I can peg your neighborhood from your list!

  12. fix this sentence:

    In Santeria, the food restrictions are not because certain foods are but but because


    In Santeria, the food restrictions are not because certain foods are bad but because

  13. If you said Bay Ridge, you were correct. I notice I wrote Greek diner twice,sub in a hookah lounge and a great (newer) pub run by a Welshman who plays Soccer matches and has a moms with strollers happy hour, a tapas place, and a Polish restaurant.

  14. fascinating! i know the whole catholic "eat fish on fridays" was originally instated because the fisherman were doing poorly, so the church helped them out. hilarious!

    i'm now even more curious... how do you know what foods (or colors of foods) are sacred to whom, divinity-wise? i like learning!