Along with the Sriracha incidents that I recounted earlier this week was a neat new discovery. Last Thursday I found myself in a semi-downtrodden Indian market in Fremont, California, a Bay Area suburb with a sizeable Indian population. It was late afternoon and a storm was coming. The market occupied two shop spaces but its inventory filled only two-thirds of the area. The store’s sad state didn’t bother me much as I’ve been in plenty of strange Asian markets. I was chasing down an Indian ingredient and the cashier didn’t know what I was talking about.
It started to rain and get cold. The cashier grabbed his jacket but kept the doors wide open to make it easier for the handful of shoppers to push their carts out. I started feeling downtrodden since I was freezing and couldn’t find what I needed. Nonetheless, I walked every aisle because you never know what you may find.
Asian markets don’t have consistent floor plans so I didn’t expect to find Maggi Masala Chilli Sauce next to Maggi instant noodles (I'll write about these soon). You'd expect the former to be with condiments and the latter to be with dried noodles. Whatever. Here was the hot sauce looking at me in the eye.
My fascination with Maggi products stems from Maggi Seasoning Sauce, which I love on banh mi and rice. A subsidiary of Nestle, Maggi has country- and cuisine-specific food products all over the world.
I perused the Maggi Masala Chilli Sauce ingredient list, which included: water, sugar, chile puree, spices, salt, acetic acid, modified starch, xantham gum and sodium benzoate. Assuming that the ingredients are listed from largest to smallest amount used, the water and sugar being at the top pointed at the sauce being slightly sweet. The spices lent the South Asian imprint. I had to try it for about $4 a bottle.
Once home, I popped off the cap and tasted the red sauce with a chopstick. WHOA – it was sweet, hot, and pungent. The chile heat lasted on my tongue for several minutes. It was intense but I liked it because the Maggi Masala Chilli sauce wasn’t so spicy that steam was shooting out of my ears.
The sweetness came first, then the chile blast accompanied by a cuminlike edge. My husband tasted it too and agreed that the heat level bordered on being too much but never went overboard. The sauce was kind of funny because despite its heat, the sugar and spices made it really appealing. My husband deemed it suitable for barbecued meats. “It’s like Indian Sriracha,” he said.
A few days later, our computer consultant Manpreet S., a Punjabi native, came over to work on our home network. While I was happy to have him give us a tech tune up, I also wanted to query him about the Masala Chilli Sauce. (My food interview subjects are sometimes people who come to our house!)
Holding the bottle, I asked, “Manny, what do you know about this stuff?”
“Oh, that’s Indian hot sauce,” he said, smiling with surprise that I would have it around. “I use it all the time. Not that brand as much, but the other one.”
“There was another brand at the Indian market called Swad but I chose Maggi because it seemed to have faster turnover,” I responded. “How long has this sauce been around in India?”
“Since my teens and that was well over 20 years ago,” Manny answered. Maggi has been in South Asia for decades, according to their India site.
Googling the sauce, it seems like Maggi Masala Chilli Sauce is popular in Canada and the United Kingdom. You can order it from Amazon in the US but the bottle showing on the product page is not the right one. Here in the States, maybe it’s best to purchase the sauce at South Asian market.
Have you seen or tasted it? What are your thoughts and how do you use it? Do you liken Masala chilli sauce to being an Indian kind of Sriracha? Or is it a take on an Indian chile sauce?
I’d love to know more about this Indian hot chile sauce!
Related posts and links:
- Tackling Sriracha Myths, Truths and Confusion
- Has Sriracha become like Kleenex and Xerox?
- A Sauce to Crow About (NY Times article by John T. Edge covering chef use of Sriracha and the Huy Fong Foods company that produces it)
- 2011 CHOW 13 Awards of influential food people - entry on David Tran of the Rooster Brand of Sriracha