Welcome back, everyone, to the last of my importer highlights. At least for a while.
Today, we’re looking at a company called Sous Chef, who previously featured as the suppliers for my rare peppercorn taste test and the bean paste in my mapo tofu.
This time, though, I don’t want to focus on their ingredients. I want to take a look at their import sauce:
Why, because these guys don’t import a lot that’s ready to eat but they do import one of the most talked about sauces on Hot Ones. The controversial Ghost Pepper & Blueberry from Bravado Spice Co.
So today, I’ll be looking at that and a little something from the UK that they also stock. But we’ll talk about that item in a bit.
Before anything else, I just want to show you this close up of the Bravado bottle and say how good it looks.
Its got no real complexity to it and it lacks any imagery besides the white lines of the company logo but it still gets its flavour across with its combination of black label and pinky-purple borders that go oh so well against the midnight purple of the sauce itself.
The appearance of the bottle is more than enough to suggest the rich, dark purple flavour of what’s inside and its bold simplicity makes for a wonderful air of sophistication.
It is truly stunning to look at but how does it taste?
Well, we’ve heard what its bottle has to say on that subject but the sauce’s scent as it flows out tells a different story. One of strong, tangy vinegar, tinged with dark fruit and something else. Something that I can’t quite place until I see the flecks suspended in the liquid on my spoon:
It’s black pepper. An ingredient that I never would have thought to include but one that makes so much sense when I taste it.
It adds a touch of earthy, woody and, dare I say, peppery flavour that rounds out the rich, cooked-down berries of the sauce’s base and prepares the tongue for the sharp, sudden kick of the vinegar-enhanced ghost pepper.
Yet, even made to sting the tongue as it has been by the sharp, vinegar-heavy nature of this sauce, there quite simply isn’t enough ghost in here to reach above the high end of a
A heat which surpasses supermarket extra hot but only by a little bit and is still quite a way off that of most other ghost pepper products.
The chilli does, however, add a little bit of fruity, dark, red pepper flavour, just as a further undertone, to the base of this blueberry sauce. A note that’s mostly covered by the other ingredients but still works rather well when you do notice it.
There’s a lot to love about Bravado Spice Co’s Ghost Pepper & Blueberry sauce but there’s also one really big thing not to – Its vinegar content.
Nice as the base of this sauce is, it’s the vinegar which provides its bulk and the twang of its white wine variety is not a perfect pairing with everything else. Not that it’s even that which really puts me off.
No, what really makes me dislike this particular import is the sheer quantity of the vinegar. More, at least in flavour, than even something like Tabasco. Too much for even the places where I want a lot, like on a pizza or a cheese salad.
The only time that I found myself able to enjoy this sauce with a meal was when I added about a shot’s worth to a takeaway vindaloo, specifically adding the vinegar and wine-like notes that the dish is meant to have.
I am, by no means, a hater of acidic sauces but this one just goes overboard. And it ruins it.
If you want to try one of the biggest names on Hot Ones, you can get this particular product from Sous Chef but I really don’t recommend it. It’s been a major disappointment.
Not everything that I’ve had from them has been, though. Their spices were a lot of fun to experiment with, their chinese bean paste made for a great, authentic recipe and even today’s sauce taught me something about pairing blueberries and black pepper.
But also, today’s bottle of sauce isn’t today’s only item. And Man Food’s Wasabi Mayo is a lot nicer.
Not visually, of course, since Bravado’s label was a real looker, but Man Food’s is no slouch either. In fact, it’s nearly as evocative of its intended flavour as theirs was.
The unusual shade of brownish-green that it uses is a perfect fit for the green, spicy rhizome on which the mayo is based, while its almost pastel quality and the old-paper-coloured highlights that adorn it go a long way to portray the smoothness contained within. Plus, like Bravado’s colour scheme, the similarity to the condiment inside making for a highly coherent appearance overall.
It’s not quite as bold, perhaps, but it’s an oddity that will catch the eye all the same. But we’re going to leave the packaging discussion there for now. Mostly because I want to show off my spoonful while the label’s still on screen.
It definitely works with that label, no question about it, but it looks so alien. Too murky and yellowy green for a normal food stuff, yet still so pale and subdued.
If I’m honest, it’s a little uncomfortable to look at, especially with its slightly gelatinous texture. So it’s a good thing that the taste is better that it lets on.
I mentioned a moment ago what impression I got from the label and the real thing is, indeed, both smooth and horseraddishy – The second part fading in gradually as the rapeseed-heavy and mildly soy-tinged miso mayo flavour gives way.
It’s a harsh, unapologetic finish that doesn’t taste anything like the wasabi that I know (real or fake) but I’m not sure that I mind. It’s a great kick of horseradish and the contrast between it and the rich, creamy, yolky base of this condiment is excellent.
If you like horseradish, I would definitely recommend Man Food’s “Wasabi” Mayonnaise on your burgers, hot dogs and roasts. It’s meant for sushi but I’d say it’s far better suited to a roast beef sandwich and, much to my surprise, it really shines on spanish omelette.
It’s great for what it is and it has a sharp, rooty, very welcome but not overly strong,
It just isn’t quite what it was made out to be. Though perhaps its bold, in your face choice of font and 3D-effect “M” logo could have clued me in to that sharper side.
And, despite the product tasting more of western horseradish than japanese wasabi, I don’t feel like Man Food are entirely unjustified in the use of kanji behind their logo or the traditional japanese patterning of the fake printer dots in the background of the label.
It does, after all, pick up some mild asian vibes from that miso which, even on the roast meats that I recommend it for, are just enough to let you know that your meal isn’t entirely british.
Of the two items that I’ve tried today, this one’s definitely my favourite, but, again, they aren’t the only two spicy items that Sous Chef do. Just the most appealing ones that were ready to use, since the site mostly specialises in ingredients.
And that’s it from me for now but I’ll catch you again next tuesday. In the mean time, here are the ingredients lists:
For Bravado’s Ghost Pepper and Blueberry Sauce:
Blueberry, White Wine Vinegar, Ghost Pepper, Sea Salt, Black Pepper
And for Man Food’s “Wasabi” Mayonnaise:
Rapeseed Oil, Miso (water, soy beans, rice, salt, yeast), Pasteurised Free Range Egg Yolk (11%), Horseradish (horseradish, rapeseed oil, citric acid (acidifier), sodium metabisulphite (antioxidant) (Sulphites), Mirin (glucose syrup, fermented rice extract, sucrose, vinegar, phosphoric acid (acidifier), molasses), Rice Vinegar, Lime Juice, Wasabi Powder (2.4%) (horseradish powder, mustard, corn starch, wasabi japonica, citric acid (acidifier), ascorbic acid (antioxidant), colours E100 & E133), Honey, Sugar, Salt, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Mustard Powder, Potassium Sorbate (preservative).
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