I’ve been on the hunt for Asian hot sauces this week for a BonAppetit.com
assignment. There are tons to explore at Asian markets. The middle-of-the-night heartburn was worth it, I think…
During my search, I came across three unusual ones (above) at
Market in Saratoga (San Jose, CA). Lion doesn’t carry super offbeat ingredients
but once in a while, I discover gems. We didn’t include the three in the Bon
Appetit round up because they weren’t easily found in Manhattan and Indonesia was well represented in the piece.
That said, I save these three Indonesian “hotties” for VWK. I
like them but don’t fully understand them. Maybe you can lend your insights?
If you’re familiar with Indonesian chile sauces, the popular
ones are made by ABC (owned by Heinz). Tucked
near the ABC
Chili Sauces (Sambal Manis Pedas, Sambal Extra Pedas, and Sambal Asli), I found
mini squirt bottles of Gaga brand of Cabe
Rawit, a green chile sauce, and Dua Belibis brand of Saus Cabe, the red one. They’re both thick, potent and delicious.
The green one had more funk than the red one. I preferred the red one
more but the sight of the two made me wonder why the green chile version? Asian hot sauces don’t typically
come in green. They’re mainly reddish affairs.
Then there was Pohon Cabe brand of Sambal Istimewa, which I fell hard for. The bottle touts itself as
a source of Vitamin C but I can’t imagine eating enough to fortify myself with
vitamins. I suppose that Pohon Cabe expects you to consume lots of their sauce,
as if it’s a source of nutrition. I dig that but won’t try it.
But what is istimewa? Apparently
the term means special or extraordinary.
Online, I discovered Indonesian restaurants and resorts with istimewa as part their names. In
Malaysia and Singapore there are streets named Jalan Istimewa.
It seems like istimewa denotes
a certain high value that’s more than just saying something is tasty. I am not
100 percent sure and would love an assist.
In any event, the Pohon Cabe brand of special hot sauce is damn
delicious. Beautifully balanced in flavor and addictive. The bottle says that
it’s “hygenic, healthy, Halal, delicous and safe.” Ingredients included are
chile, salt, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and natural spices.
Do you have experience with any of these three Asian hot sauces?
I’m wondering about:
- How popular are these sauces in Indonesia, and
perhaps Singapore and Malaysia?
- The double duck Dua Belibis brand claims to be
Indonesia’s “superbrand.” Is it?
- What do people typically do with these sauces?
Are they simply table condiments or do you cook with them too?
Those are my burning questions. If you don’t know the answer, that’s
okay. Go out and try to find one of these and take a taste. Are they istimewa to you?
In the mood
to go hot sauce hunting? Get
yourself to an Asian market! Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Indian markets are fabulous
hot sauce hunting grounds. Because things are inconsistently shelved, mine the
aisles and end caps. Pay attention to the condiment section filled with jars
and bottles of sauces and seasonings. If there’s a separate
Indonesian/Malaysian/Filipino aisle, check it out.
Sometimes, Asian markets group certain brands together so walk around
and keep your eyes open. And, transport the bottles upright on the way home.
Hot sauces are usually well sealed but you never know.
If you find something interesting shoot me a photo and email!
Related post: Sriracha Hot Sauce Week (links to articles and recipes on VWK, BA and BusinessWeek)