The Heat Goes On: Here’s a Rundown of the Local Restaurant-Made Hot Sauces You Can Buy
If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen—but grab a bottle of hot sauce on your way out.
XO: Taberu Rayu
This is the fruitcake of chile condiments. That’s not a slight—I love fruitcake. There are more than 30 ingredients, including bacon, pine nuts and dried scallops, in this sauce that’s a cross between the Japanese taberu rayu, or chile oil, and Chinese xo sauce. Each ingredient is individually deep-fried to dehydrate it, similar to how instant ramen is made, and then all of it recombined into the oil for a chunky, sweet and salty, umami-
$50 for 1 quart
The Pig & The Lady: Pok Pok Thai Chile Water
This is like Hawaiian chili pepper water turned up to 11: extra vinegary with the sharpness of garlic tempered with a bit of sweetness. It’s terrific whisked into some oil for a vinaigrette or as a dipping sauce to cut the richness of grilled or fried meats.
$5 for 4 ounces
Pai: Fire Water
Pai’s hot sauce is a smooth emulsion of chiles that really leans into the garlic. Fermented Thai and Hawaiian chiles lend it tang without vinegar. It’s simple and straightforward and it goes with everything, like the little black dress of hot sauces. Especially fried chicken wings. Just like that dress.
$10 for 5 ounces
Encore: Fire Sauce
Fruity habanero peppers are grounded with the earthy flavor of turmeric in Encore’s fire sauce. Apparently, so many diners were stealing bottles of this hot sauce from the tables, along with the house-made taco sauce (“like if Taco Bell’s sauce went to Harvard,” says the bartender), that Encore decided to sell it. It’s as good on tacos as it is in margaritas and bloody marys.
$9 for 5 ounces
MW: Hot Rod Sauce
MW’s hot sauce is like Sriracha at first, with a slight vinegary sweetness up front that leaves you wide open and vulnerable for the massive punch of heat that follows. I underestimated it when I first saw it in its puny containers—and then I tasted it and my face melted off.
$3 for 2 ounces
The Ripple of Smiles
The Ripple of Smiles serves its pho with a house-made chile sauce mixed with Sriracha: The first time I tried it, I begged the restaurant to sell me the sauce. Chiles, garlic and a touch of sugar are cooked down in oil until jammy. It opens up the pho broth, but I also add it to everything, from stir-fries to steamed kale.
$1 per ounce