G’day, folks, today we’re going down under to check out Matt Tangent’s other business.
Because, while he makes some fantastic Bang Bang Chilli Oil, his main passion appears to be his Aussie Hot Sauce. A company that deals exclusively in australian imports – Sauces that you couldn’t otherwise get in the UK.
On the menu for this week: Bunsters’ famously rude and to the point, twelve out of ten labelled sauce, and The Chilli Factory’s Scorpion Strike. Two serious hotties with quite the fan following.
Will they be worth the import costs? Read on to find out.
Assuming that you don’t mind the odd sweary label.
First up, let’s talk about the Scorpion Strike:
Its design is simple enough, with rich, desert browns backing the cartoony, sandy-coloured scorpion that fits its name – For once the arachnid, rather than the pepper.
The company logo resides above, small and white aside from the highly-stylised and almost circus-pattered, red “chilli” that gets the point of their range across.
Then, to the left, sits a small, black silhouette of australia itself, boasting the claim that they were voted the country’s best gourmet range.
But it’s not this claim that sells me on its authenticity and nor is it the almost blazé approach to its deadly critter. No, what really makes this label for me is the small, yellow bubble between its pincers. One which reads only “Deadly as!”.
“Deadly as what?”, you might ask, but, in doing so, you’d be exposing your lack of australian culture. For no true australian would ever be confused by this slang turn of phrase. One often used to exaggerate, yes, but also one that is supposed to hold true no matter how you fill that gap.
I’m going to be honest with you, though – That’s about all that I understand of it, myself.
And nor, for that matter, do I fully understand what they mean when they call it a “stupidly hot BBQ sauce”, since it’s very visibly not molasses-based and sticky.
But, despite the slight cultural differences at play here, the smell rising up from my spoon is instantly recognisable. It’s trinidad moruga scorpion.
Red, acidic, peppery and somewhat fruity, in an almost orange like way. Supported here by vinegar, not the 📽️ ascorbic and acetic acids of Hot-Headz’ scorpion sauce 📽️.
As a result, The Chilli Factory get a sharper flavour, with a little bit of bitterness upfront and less of the pepper’s uniquely blood-orange type notes coming to the fore. A bit of a loss, if you ask me.
You could, of course, try and argue that vinegar is more natural than diluted acid but that’s subject to opinion when both are essentially just processed fruit juice. If that were the only difference, then Scorpion Strike would be a strictly worse sauce in my opinion. But it’s not.
While Hot-Headz’ sauce uses very little besides its chilli, water and acids, The Chilli Factory’s Scorpion Strike has a more extensive ingredients list:
Trinidad Scorpion Chilli (58%), White Vinegar, Worcestershire Sauce (Soya, Salt, citric acid to regulate acidity (330), Glucose, Spices, Caramel Colouring (150d).
One which never closes its brackets around its worcestershire sauce’s components, making it hard to know what belongs to it and what the company have actively added.
But, either way, we do know that they’ve added fake worcestershire sauce – Not the real deal – to keep this particular product vegetarian and vegan. There’s no fish here and the sauce is 100% gluten free, according to its label.
What this addition to the Scorpion Strike does do, though, is add a subtle richness and darker element, to help it pair with roast, smoked and grilled meats. It’s still very much a scorpion sauce, first and foremost, but that little difference is enough to shift its usage. To make this a sauce for barbecue, even if it isn’t a traditional, american-style barbecue sauce.
And, of course, it’s a brutally hot one.
It’s not the fifteen out of ten that they claim – At least, not on my scale – but it definitely deserves the low end of my
Milder than Critical Mass and the Death at the Crimson Altar, yet barely so. Close enough to share a number with them, for sure, and practically identical in strength to the 📽️ other scorpion sauce that I mentioned. 📽️
The extra 1% pepper in the Scorpion Strike makes no obvious difference but it’s still one of the hottest natural products that I’ve tried and I find that particularly sharp vinegar choice makes for an equally sharp first impact. Before it warms all the way down to my stomach.
Is it a good sauce? Definitely!
But would I recommend it over other trinidad scorpion sauces? Only if you eat a lot of dark meats, or equally umami-laden foodstuffs.
It isn’t, otherwise, any better than similar, UK made sauces, which can be got for a little less.
But it’s not the only sauce I’m bringing you today.
No, next up we have Bunsters’ Shit the Bed twelve out of ten sauce – Not the maker’s hottest but apparently Matt’s best seller. And, unlike the Scorpion Strike, there’s very little like this second item.
A rich, chestnut-brown coloured sauce in a 236ml container that’s as much of a large potion flask as it is a bottle. And one that’s lightly adorned with a custom-shaped sticker label to full display its enticing appearance.
Upon that label, Bunsters keep things relatively simple, with little little more than a few flames and herbs to add life around the edges. Aside from that, it’s all business here, with their cursive company logo up top, the “Mega 12/10 Heat” rating down below and a super bold, 3D text effect sauce name in the middle.
It’s a crude name that clearly plays to the stereotypical teenage male sense of humour. The sort that often pigeon-holes a sauce into being just a novelty.
Yet I’ve had a few novelty names with a far better taste than I’ve expected in the past and even Chilli Pepper Pete’s 🔥📽️ Satan’s Shit 📽️🔥, clearly made for its novelty heat, had a remarkably good berry base to it.
I’m not going to write a product off without tasting it and the rest of this sauce’s minimalist packaging seems a tad more tasteful.
The custom-printed heat shrink – An impressive touch in and of itself – goes a long way to restoring my faith in the creator’s passion for flavour by showing off most of the sauce’s ingredients. Including the two different types of chilli that go into it.
It suggests a surprising amount of care that you wouldn’t expect from a sauce named “Shit the Bed” but, from the times that I’ve talked to Renae Bunster online, she really does seem to believe in using the best quality and healthiest of ingredients.
I don’t agree with her on all of them, mind you, and I personally consider her choice of salt to be one of the most pretentious foodstuffs on the planet. But I do aprove of her all natural ethos.
Here’s what goes into her sauce:
Orange Juice, Vegetables [Chillies (Scorpion and Bird’s Eye), Brown Onions, Garlic], Apple Cider Vinegar, Coconut Sugar, Coriander, Goji Berries, Lime Juice, Ginger, Himalayan Pink Salt, Potato Starch.
Now, himalayan pink salt is often sold as a healthier salt, with claims that, in addition to being sodium chloride, it also contains traces of either eighty-four or over a hundred other minerals that are all good for you, depending on the source. Claims that, I’m afraid to say, are not backed up by science.
Himalayan salt does contain a lot of mineral traces, that much is true, but the exact amount is both hard to measure accurately and a little variable depending on the conditions in which it has formed. There is no set number to be counted, or even any guarantee that other varieties won’t contain more.
Plus, the minerals that it does contain typically include such things as mercury, lead, aluminium, arsenic, cadmium and uranium, which are most definitely not good for you.
No, this pink salt is no better for you than any other salt but it’s not really any worse, either. All of these minerals are present in quantities far too tiny to have a significant effect on the body.
It’s just a slightly different flavour of salt. One that, to me, tastes like little more than a weaker version of your standard sea salt. But, you, know, it’s pink. That’s neat, right?
Anyway, it’s time that I stopped picking apart the packaging and ingredients list. The blend of chillies that this sauce uses is an exciting one that I’ve never had before – Thai bird’s eyes and the original, smooth strain of trinidad scorpion – and the onions and garlic have clearly been browned to achieve this colour. I’m expecting to enjoy this experience, even if I have seemed a little critical up to now.
So let’s get to it, shall we?
The aroma is rich and dark as I pour Shit the Bed onto my spoon and if flows with ease, carrying an even distribution of all its small chunks with it – fragments of leaf, pepper, berry and onion, all held in place by the potato starch that this sauce uses for thickening.
It’s an excellent consistency – Thick and gloopy, yet no struggle to get out the bottle and with a rather pleasing texture on the tongue. It’s not going to stick to meats quite as well as a traditional barbecue sauce would but it’s certainly going to do its best.
And roasted or barbecued meats are definitely my first thought, when it comes to Bunsters’ twelve out of ten, due to its rich fragrance and gravy-like browning of onions.
Yet there’s more to this sauce than that. More than its limited scent can reveal.
Shit the Bed is an acidic sauce. One filled with oranges, lime and cider vinegar to compliment darker and/or fattier meats, as well as most mexican dishes and, as it turns out, moroccan spiced cous cous.
And, for other vegetarian or vegan options, your roast doesn’t have to be animal based. Why not try it over something like nut roast instead?
In fact, I’d recommend trying out several ways of eating this particular item anyway, since it’s got so many different subtleties hidden beneath its deep, savoury base, like the slight natural sweetness of its coconut sugar, the scorpion that compliments its orange or the tiny herbal tinge of the coriander. Each dish will bring out a slightly different side to it.
In every single one, though, its strong
will shine through and warm you down to you core. A heat that seems to take its strength and throaty placement from the original trinidad scorpion strain and its sharper, more stinging feel from the bird’s eyes.
It’s not the most potent sauce that I’ve had, by any means, but it’s still a strong one that lingers in my stomach afterwards. And I still have to be a little sparing for that reason.
But I’m glad I have to. It means that it’s going to last longer and that I’m going to get to use it on more meals. That I’m going to be able to enjoy it for longer.
Because, while it has a bit of a bitter finish on its own, that particular aspect of this red label Shit the Bed vanishes when it’s got something to go with, making it a fantastic flavour and something that I really can’t find any faults with.
I can totally see why it’s Aussie Hot Sauce’s best seller, despite my initial scepticism, and I would definitely recommend this sauce, as well as Matt’s import site in general, if you have have a little extra cash to spare this christmas. Even if you’re only buying it for yourself.
Yet, while I would love to be able to end this review on that note, there’s one final thing that I have to do. To pre-empt the comments that will be headed my way – Be they here or over on social media – here’s a picture of my bed the morning after:
Ruffled but clean.