Hello again, folks, it’s time for a bit of sunshine. Opal Sunshine.
Today, we have the first of the sauces that she sent me and, in my mind at least, it makes sense to start with her first. Her original.
And, while I will talk about its packaging later on in this post, I want to talk about that name a little more before I do so. About what “Original habanero pepper sauce” suggests to me and how its flavour defies all expectation.
“Original” implies that this is her basic sauce. The one that’ll give us most insight into her company and cooking style but also the one with least going on. One that puts focus on quality and likely simplicity, over any particularly out there ingredients.
Combined with the fact that this is her habanero sauce, I’m expecting a bit of orange pepper fruitiness, a little bit of garlic and either tomato or carrot to bulk the sauce out and keep it in the hot but sensible range that I call three to four.
Looking at her ingredients list, that all seems to hold but there is one little shocker on there:
Habanero Peppers, Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Fresh Carrots, Onion, Garlic, Recardo, Lime Juice, White Vinegar, Sugar, Salt.
The carrot and garlic are there and it’s got lime juice to compliment the fruity notes that I mentioned but that second ingredient was not something I would have predicted. It’s almost as much scotch bonnet as it is habanero and I can tell.
Not that it’s the first thing to hit me come the taste testing.
No, the big surprise there is the bold, in your face flavour of the garlic – Definitely more than just a little bit – as it mingles with the rich, red recardo spices and the slight zing of the onions. It’s an excellent, spiced, aromatic and almost spicy taste which definitely compliments the earthier, more savoury fruitiness of the red scotch bonnet chillies.
The habaneros keep it a little brighter and presumably contribute to its warming, throaty,
but they aren’t nearly the main flavour that the title of this sauce would suggest.
This is not the product that I thought I was getting, going into this review, but I really like what it has turned out to be. It showcases a unique, belizean annato-based spice mix and really makes it work for the overall taste, while allowing me to pick it out just enough to see how it differs from the mexican equivalent.
To me, this “recardo” is a little more nutty, in a nutmeg-like way, and less rich than the mexican achiote and it tastes a tad fresher, though that might just be the added lime.
It’s almost as if mexican chefs age theirs but, without actually seeing the two made, I cannot say for sure. That is mere speculation on my part.
In terms of consistency, this sauce is neither thick nor thin, pouring quickly yet clinging to my spoon. And it contains a few, decent-sized shreds of chilli and seeds alongside its small dots of spices.
Its aroma has an almost worcestershire sauce tinge to it but I can assure you that it contains none of that. It is 100% vegan and gets its depth and richness from the spices and garlic, more than anything.
So, looking back, the red of its packaging does reflect the taste to some degree but a deeper, darker one would be a better pick in my opinion, reflecting the rich, bold, high impact flavour over the freshness of ingredients that the brighter shade might imply.
After all, the simplified woman with a pepper-filled basket on her head, used as the sauce and company’s logo, already suggests traditional methods and picking with care.
Placing that logo inside a white circle to really make it stand out, Opal’s label is by no means bad but it doesn’t really tell us what makes the sauce, itself, special. The closest thing we get to that is this belizean flag on the side.
Still, the quality of the label is only what sells a sauce the first time and it’s the quality of the contents that will keep people coming back. I would definitely recommend her original sauce for soups, stews, bolognese and chicken wings and I look forward to finding out what else it goes with as well.
Given the massive flavour hit that she’s brought to a habanero and scotch bonnet sauce, I would love to see Opal try her hand at a better roasted ghost pepper sauce than Doctor Burnorium’s or a fatalii gourmet jigsaw one that offsets the pepper’s pungent, floral superhot side with its spices to let the fruity, scorpion-like side truly shine, but I can understand why she does neither.
The ghost pepper is significantly stronger than the average customer is likely to enjoy and the peppers that she’s worked with here are much more traditional for her regional cuisine. Plus, even I can eat very little of that jigsaw.
The next two products that you see from Opal Sunshine will be sticking to hot but sensible, with the same peppers that she’s used today.