Hey folks, happy new year!
Today’s the first day of 2019 and, as I did back in 2018, I’d like to kick things off with something fresh and green. Something that uses peppers as young as the year itself.
Or, to be more precise, two somethings:
The new Pablo Diablo, from Tubby Tom, and the rather older, more well-established Philosopher’s Dew from the Chilli Alchemist. Both jalapeño sauces but both very different takes from the green srirachas that I showed you last time.
And, for that matter, from each other.
Both companies employ their usual design techniques for these sauces and both house them in a classic, 150ml bottle but both also play up the green in their colour schemes.
Tubby Tom’s face may be on the front of his, like always, but the hat and war paint that bring colour to his otherwise black and white image have both gone bright, yellowy green, with streaks of orange to livening up the lines under his eyes and perhaps hint at the turmeric within.
Add shots of actual limes around the edges and he hardly even has to say “jalapeno + lime hot sauce” to get the message across. The vibrant colour almost does it for him.
Yet it’s the rim of white-flecked black around the black-flecked white of his rounded, custom-shaped label that really makes it all stand out. Especially from the slightly murkier green of the sauce itself.
And, while it doesn’t say anything more than the rest of the label, the almost night sky-like look of his equally dotted heat shrink around the neck really appeals to me on artistic level. It just looks so much more welcoming than the pure black that most of his competitors, the Chilli Alchemist included, tend to use.
In fact, for something that you might expect to be just as bright flavoured, the entire labelling of the Philosopher’s Dew is remarkably dark, it’s background almost black to match the wrapping above it.
Only almost, though, since closer inspection does show up a faint pattern of green leaves amidst the shadows, echoing the paler, more visible ones that we see forming a wreath around the company’s alchemy logo.
Still, I have to say, this isn’t the Alchemist’s best artwork. The jalapeños at the sides, despite being rendered in a single shade of green, are not nearly noticeable enough and the sauce’s green name atop two different shades doesn’t exactly leap out at me, either.
There’s not even anything to suggest the green tea, ginger and honey that make the product special. The only thing I like about this label is the clear plastic on which it’s printed, allowing them to fake the hand-charred edges that their original designs once held.
But that’s enough about the labels. It’s the sauce within that matters and that blend of ginger, honey, green chilli and not just green tea but matcha calls to me as strongly as any fine design. Especially after reading the ingredients list:
Jalapeno chillies (40.2%), rice vinegar, onion, ginger, (5.4%) garlic, lemon juice, soy sauce (water, SOY beans, WHEAT flour, salt), honey (4%), Matcha green tea (0.8%), olive oil.
A whopping 40.2% pepper and none of the usual herbs to bulk it out. Just an interesting array of more asian ingredients in their place.
I’m excited to talk about how they taste but, before I do, let’s have a look at the Pablo Diablo for comparison:
Water, Jalapenos 16%, Onion, White Wine Vinegar, Brown Sugar, Lime Juice 7%, Olive Oil, Coriander, Garlic, Salt, Turmeric, Spinach, Xanthan Gum.
A very different line-up, right off the bat and one that supposedly contains much less chilli but remember, we don’t know how much of that water was cooked off and how much is simply hidden by thickening from the xanthan gum.
What we do know, however, is that it’s going to be a rather more herbal, grassy blend, given its coriander and spinach. As well as possessing plenty of fruity acidity from its lime and white wine vinegar.
Most unexpected, though, is the brown sugar, potentially giving this sauce a minor molasses element to go with rich meats.
I’m now rather curious about both of today’s products so let’s cut ahead to the tasting, shall we?
The Philosopher’s Dew is a thick, green pulp that stays well mixed with its more liquid elements in the bottle but starts to ooze just a little after being poured.
Its up-front flavour is a smooth, green one of the peppers themselves, softened by that touch of finely powdered tea leaf and its milder choice of vinegar.
There’s a subtle sweetness there, too, and an undertone of garlic but then the lemon makes itself known. First as just a welcome citrus taste but then as a more serious tang, which only builds as the earthy ginger notes come in, carrying the jalapeño kick of this sauce up to a low
Not strong, as such, but a strong medium, all the same, and roughly double what I’m used to from its chilli. And, with all the sharpness that I seek in my green sauces, this one looks like it might finally replace the jalapeño Tabasco that’s held a place in my cupboard for so long.
It’s going to be my new go to for macaroni cheese but let’s be real here: That clearly isn’t what it was meant for.
The Philosopher’s Dew, at least so far as I can tell, was made with more asian fare in mind. Stir fries, thai curries and chinese bao. Alongside, perhaps, your old, reliable ham sandwich.
It’s not quite your typical jalapeño sauce but it does what it does well and a good part of that is showing off its chilli’s flavour in a way that other such products rarely manage. I’ll be getting some good use out of it and most likely going back for more.
But what about our other item? Tubby Tom’s Pablo Diablo.
Well, that one blobs just like the dew but has a much more even consistency. One that’s sticky from its sugar content and carries good-sized shreds of herb and pepper as it flows.
It doesn’t have quite as strong or welcoming a scent as the gingery, tea-tinged aroma of the Dew but, once in my mouth, it’s just as powerful.
that strikes me a little sharper, mid-way down my tongue.
Yet its also as strong and complex in flavour, starting off with sweet, oh so fresh coriander leaf, before letting its peppers and citrus grow in.
This isn’t the herb-free jalapeño sauce that I’ve quested after for so long but rather, a reminder of why jalapeño sauces use the herbs to begin with. Of what such a herb-based chilli condiment can be when done well.
Its initial freshness is, quite simply, beyond anything I’ve ever had in a sauce before and, despite being such a minor ingredient, you can definitely taste the spinach in that first burst, alongside the more common coriander.
Then an unusual take on sweet and sour, or perhaps thai sweet chilli, comes up from underneath, using its grape-based vinegar to merely support and round out the lime that takes us from fresh to fresh. While, at the same time, the mild, darker green taste of the jalapeño makes itself known as well.
And, of course, there’s a slight golden note from the sugar present throughout. Not molassesy enough for your barbecue but enough to improve many other meat-based interactions.
Chicken salad too boring? Pablo Diablo.
Meat feast pizza need a bit of brightness? Pablo Diablo.
Sick of smoky sauces on your shepherd’s pie? Pablo Diablo
Or how about some fresh herbs with the beef, cheese and veg in a taco? Now that, my friends, is where Pablo Diablo is at its best.
But it’ll even go (sparingly) into a chilli con carne that needs a little contrast.
It’s not going to go as well over my cheesy pasta as the Philosopher’s Dew but there’s very little else it can’t do. And all of the above applications have a vegetarian or vegan alternative available, so there really is no reason not to enjoy this sauce.
Unless, perhaps, you have a genetic dislike of coriander or hate green flavours altogether.
Regardless, though, while I’ve had a lot of good meals out of both of today’s products and would happily recommend either of them, I think it’s the Pablo Diablo that’s the real must buy. It just tastes so good and goes on so many things.
Even, if you take Tubby Tom’s advice like I did, mixed into the mayo on your chips.