Greetings, fiery food fans, and welcome to the first of my ECCC sample reviews.
Today’s offering from the East Coast Chilli Company is probably their most unique item – A rich, black, honey-based sauce that matches wonderfully with the equally dark label that adorns its bottle.
It is, of course, as its elegant red text tells us, their Midnight 21.
Now, this sauce may look evil, with red flames licking at its sides and the words “Carolina Reaper” standing out in white, but the company assure customers that it’s made for flavour, not fire.
Something that can be seen in its four red pitchforks out of five heat rating and is reinforced by its recent great taste award.
They claim that this sauce is milder than their ghost pepper and habanero blend but I’m going to have to disagree there.
After swallowing most of the above spoonful, a tickling flame quickly built in my throat and began to spread forward across the sides of my mouth. Moments later, it had become a roaring fire that left me almost speechless.
This was not the low end of super hot that I had been led to expect and, while it was milder than most things with its chilli, I’ve had several milder ones as well. Mad Dog’s Reaper Sriracha, Sticky Sisters’ Tear Jerker and Encona’s hottest all spring to mind.
No, after a little retasting, I’d place this one at a serious
Just below the other surprisingly potent sauce I had this month.
So sure, it is technically weaker than a ghost pepper sauce but I’d be very surprised if East Coast Chilli Co’s is 60% superhot pepper like that one. I’d be very surprised if this isn’t the company’s hottest in reality.
Yet there’s a big difference here that’s worth addressing.
Whilst this sauce and Doctor Burnorium’s may both have a very similar strength, a similarly deadly design and far more heat than I expected, Midnight 21 really does taste like flavour was its focus.
When eaten in smaller quantities, it takes a short while for the heat to grab hold and you really get to appreciate everything else it has going on.
Its sweet and sticky, with a soy sauce darkness that strongly resembles teriyaki. It’s vinegar content is low and made from rice, keeping any sharpness to a minimum. The one part of this that doesn’t taste particularly japanese is the garlic. That garlic tastes charred.
It’s not bitter, mind you. They haven’t burnt it. That said, however, they have come quite close.
They’ve cooked it to a perfect brown and you can really tell. It’s a bold part of the sauce’s flavour and one that fits remarkably well with that dark, teriyaki taste.
Midnight 21 is an excellent product that I can find little wrong with, despite my initial shock.
If you like things seriously hot, this asian-style barbecue sauce is a definite winner.
It has the heat to blow you away but also the flavour to stand up to strong meats like pork, or to make tofu tasty. Brushed on finely before cooking, it will make a gorgeous crispy glaze.
Yet it’s just as good drizzled over at the end, ontop of stir-fry, halloumi or, my own personal favourite, a fried egg pizza:
Just be careful around those with sensitive noses. My friends don’t like me for this one.
Honey (63%), Soy sauce (11%) (Water, Salt, Colour E150a, Sugar, Soybeans 10%, Wheat), Rice vinegar, Garlic (8%), Rapeseed oil, Carolina Reaper chillies (3%).
Now you will notice an artificial colouring in there, E150a, or “plain caramel”. This dark brown or black colouring is made from burnt sugar in a similar way to actual caramel and, being common in many soy sauce brands, simply found its way into East Coast Chilli Co’s sauce. They haven’t added it intentionally.
Since it’s an ingredient in an ingredient, there’s likely very little of the stuff in Midnight 21. It won’t do you any harm but I do feel obliged to bring it up.
And who knows, perhaps it’s part what gives the sauce its delightfully sinister red glow when held up to the light?
As for the rest of that list, I don’t taste the oil at all but the reapers do add a tiny undertone that I quite like and so too does their light, clear honey.
Personally, I would have opted for a darker sort, like mexican or birch, but, now that I’ve seen how well the lighter kinds can works with soy, I may have to reconsider that in future recipes.
This has been a thoroughly enjoyable review to write, especially with all the eating (aside from that first spoonful) that it required. I can’t wait to try the rest of what the ECCC has sent me.
Their Midnight 21, at the very least, is fantastic.