“ I carry my own Frank’s Red Hot Sauce because there are a lot of places where everything is good and , when it comes to the sauces , they pull out Tabasco sauce. I’m like ” Are you kidding me? Frequently , Frank’s is the one thing I’ll have in my bag. ” __ Wendy Williams , talk show host.
The poet Maxwell Bodenheim (1892-1954) was extremely fond of ketchup. When invited for dinner , he would pull out a bottle of ketchup from an inside pocket of his greatcoat, and liberally douse everything on his plate with it. It was a habit that did not endear him to his hosts .
I am not that addicted to ketchup but I will admit to a fondness for hot sauce . I don’t sprinkle it about indiscriminately but I do like hot food. At the Chinese and other Asian joints that I frequent, I like to see a bottle of hot sauce on the table and , if it isn’t there I ask for it . My brother-in- law has similar tastes and we often commune about carrying our own bottle of hot sauce, à la Bodenheim, but we haven’t done it yet.
I agree with Wendy Williams that Tabasco sauce doesn’t fit the bill but Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is not much better. The trouble with both is that they are too vinegary . They’re fine with , say , a bowl of chili that needs to be jazzed up , but you can’t use them with Chinese or other ethnic foods without fundamentally altering the taste of the dish.If I ever get around to toting my own hot sauce it will be a bottle of Sriracha. Sriracha is hot , but not blazingly so , and it has a slight amount of sweetness to it which balances the heat . In terms of hotness , it is just about right unlike Habanero sauce or other tongue scorchers ;the hot peppers used to make Sriracha are red jalapeño peppers. Sriracha’s rise to prominence is little short of amazing . The sauce was first produced in America by an ethnic Chinese Vietnamese refugee in the early eighties and today his Huy Fong foods produces 20 million bottles of it yearly . Sriracha is also manufactured by several other companies ; the sauce is named for the Thai town of Sri Racha where it was first produced . But this post is not just about Sriracha ; it’s about my love of hot sauce and the other hot sauces that I’m partial to. When I ask for hot sauce at Chinese restaurants , they often provide crushed red hot pepper flakes steeped in oil . The hot oil can be used to ” heat” up your dish without fear of the taste being altered.
I should make it clear that I don’t use hot sauce indiscriminately . I won’t, for instance, ask for it in Cantonese restaurants . Cantonese food is supposed to be less spicy and I’m not going to desecrate it with hot sauce . However , in Szechuan and Hunan restaurants ,where the food has been toned down for suburban diners , I see nothing wrong in splashing on the hot sauce. One of the dishes most in need of it is the hot and sour soup which is usually too vinegary and not hot at all.
One of the things I love about Vietnamese restaurants is the little condiment stand on each table containing bottles of soy sauce , two kinds of chili sauce , Hoisin sauce and vinegar . There is often another separate container of sliced green chillies in vinegar . Who could ask for anything more ? With such a variety of condiments I’ m able to get the taste of the pho exactly right for my taste . The soy sauce also comes in handy because I like to moisten my rice with it ; I’m not accustomed to eating it plain the way the Chinese and Vietnamese do.
There are a few restaurant cooks who are offended when customers ask for any condiments . In their restaurants , they don’t keep any condiments on their tables , not even salt. They feel that the food they put out is perfect as it is and that no customer should have the temerity to change it in the slightest. I have no patience with such prima donnas. What they put out is food , not a work of art , and once they set it before me it’s mine. After all , I paid for it . It’s no longer theirs ; it belongs to me and I’ll do with it as I please. Thank you very much.
I can only remember one experience of these artiste- chefs . It was at an Asian restaurant on King street in Alexandria , VA, almost thirty years ago. There were no condiments on the table-top , none at all , not even the soy sauce dispenser found in almost all such restaurants . I asked for some soy sauce to put on my rice and the agitated waiter let me know that they were proud of their spicing and that soy sauce would not be necessary . Well, the food was very good but I told the waiter that I still wanted the soy sauce for my rice . After some whispered conferences in the kitchen , he brought out some soy sauce very grudgingly . As I tucked into my food I noticed the cook staring daggers at me from the kitchen doorway . It didn’t bother me a bit . It’s always these lesser cooks that have an inflated opinion of themselves and their food . I’ve since eaten at many top end restaurants and there has never been any such problem . On the rare occasions I’ve asked for some extra sauce , they have been only too happy to oblige .