Happy tuesday, folks. Today’s a bit of a special one.
Why? Because it’s shrove tuesday. The start of lent, now all but stripped of its religious significance and transformed into my favourite food-based holiday: Pancake Day.
A day for the appreciation of round, flat, pan-fried breads from all across the globe. Be they ultra thin and lightly crispy like a french crêpe or thick, puffy and well-risen like a japanese hot cake. Smothered in sweetness, as per american tradition, or served up savoury like the potato variety.
And hey, I may not consider the common gluten free alternative, the banana pancake, a true member of the pancake race but it is, quite clearly, pancake-inspired and utterly delicious. If you want to spend your pancake day with those, I’m definitely not going to fault you for it.
Me, though? I was brought up on blueberry ones – Good, thick, american-style pancakes, chock full of my dad’s favourite berries. And, if you don’t count peppers, quite possibly mine as well.
The sweet yet tart bursts of randomly distributed fruit added an extra level of enjoyment to my childhood breakfasts and I still love those pancakes to this day. Despite their mess.
It should, therefore, come as no surprise that I first tried today’s product – A chilli golden syrup – in that manner.
That glistening, sugary goodness, my friends, comes from Khoo’s Hot Sauce. And its bottle looks a little something like this:
Far better displaying its colour which, along with the lime and wacky-faced lemondrop chilli on the label, provides a pretty good indication of the syrup’s flavour.
The art is minimal – The lable largely taken up by a dark, somewhat textured, brown background – but what little of it there is is both informative and uniquely stylised in such a way as to be almost humorous.
Plus, while Khoo’s company name stands out wonderfully in bold red against the light grey banner up near the neck, his brand is instantly recognisable without it. Every single one of Khoo’s products shares that same, unmistakeable art style, so you can recognise which bottles are his without ever reading a word.
The one thing that this bottle doesn’t tell you, visually, is that it contains golden syrup. But, even then, the colour and clarity of what you see through the uncovered glass is a darn good hint, if you ask me.
There’s a lot of empty space on a Khoo’s bottle but, even so, I don’t think that I could ask for better.
So, how about the contents?
Well, in this picture of my spoon, most of what you see is actually the spoon. The syrup is light gold in colour, thinner than your average and really allows a lot of light through. Aside from 📽️ CaJohn’s Magma 📽️, it’s the most transparent chilli product that I’ve ever had.
Yet it still packs a fair punch in both heat and flavour.
Khoo calls this product three chillies hot with the little graphic below its name below its name but I’m inclined to go a little higher. On the low end of a
is where I’d place this syrup’s throat warmth. Hot but not crazily so, even if its initial mouth kick is more of a medium.
There’s a clear two-stage burn with this one and that’s important to note because it says a lot about what goes into it:
Sugar, Water, Lime Juice, Rice Vinegar, Molasses. Infused with Fatalii, Lemon Aji and Khoo’s Golden Chinense Blend chillies.
At least four different varieties of pepper but, more importantly, two different types. Species, as some would call them.
The fatalii and the peppers in Khoo’s golden blend are all chinense – Peppers that are loosely related to habaneros and the various superhots. But not the ají limon or lemondrop, which he calls a “lemon aji”.
That pepper is from the baccatum family and boasts a milder, yet more immediate, burn. A sharper one that hits more upfront and on the tongue.
You can feel the two distinct kinds of heat in today’s product and tell that several different chillies go into it but they work in harmony, the sharp, initial kick preparing you for the fire that grows in behind. And that, dear readers, is what Khoo does best.
Where other companies typically use one or two different peppers to highlight the unique qualities of each, he goes crazy with his blends until all the different heats and flavours fall into place.
I’ve seen lists of his name more chillies than I have fingers and no, you can’t taste each one individually. It’s not always obvious what each one contributes to the whole. But the results speak for themselves: A unique, well-balanced and highly nuanced pepper flavour in every bottle, with a fire that’s a full mouth experience, no matter what heat level you choose.
I don’t know how many peppers go into this syrup. Khoo doesn’t say.
What he does say, though, reflects what I taste – A multifaceted mix of citrus flavours that stems more from the two chillies that he does name than from any traditional fruit. The lime playing only a supporting role to what is, predominantly, a fatalii-forward syrup. One which, in this case, carries a pleasing light touch of oaky, yet fragrant pepper placenta.
For a golden syrup, this product is incredibly complex and the way it manages to seamlessly meld real citrus with chilli citrus, warming yellow peppers and light, golden sugar tones, while masking any hint of the vinegar needed to preserve its fresh ingredients, is a wonder to behold.
Honestly, I simply cannot fault it. But what does it go with?
Or rather, what else does it go with, since we’ve already agreed on pancakes?
Well, continuing the sweet breakfast trend, it makes for some rather enjoyable waffles and porridge but, despite today’s special occasion, I have to say than none of those worked quite as well for me as a classic slice or two of french toast.
And, of course, as most bold-flavoured syrups will, it’s definitely going to hold its own as a cocktail ingredient or as an addition to coffee and hot chocolate.
Plus, one can never overlook the potential for a good glaze over juicy meat or whatever pastries you might whip up.
Its maker seems to think it especially fitting for pulled pork but, combined with a just a dash of chipotle for smoke, I think it’d make an even better alternative to honey-glazed ribs.
Compared to a sauce, this item’s a little unorthodox, so your uses for it may also need to be. It is, however, utterly worth the effort and, once you get to grips with it, just as versatile. It’s an excellent product all round and pancake day is the perfect time to try it out, if you haven’t done so already.