Happy tuesday again, everyone. It’s been over a year since I last mentioned today’s company but their name is one that I’ll never forget and their marmalade was darn good as well.
This week, The Chillees – Nick and Francine Lee’s punny little business – makes its return to my table with their Orangatongue Tingler.
An orange habanero sauce that their three out of five rating suggests may, in fact, be more than just a tongue tingler.
Right off the bat, though, I’m a little disappointed by its labelling.
The Twisting My Lemon Man that I had from them may have had the same, bland background but its imagery was simple and informative. It showcased the chilli and the fruit as one and there is no reason that this sauce couldn’t have done the same. Carrots and habaneros are not that visually dissimilar.
Or perhaps the ape that its name suggests to me.
But no, the only pictures on today’s label are chillies. Generic, red, finger ones that separate the front and back, like on that last jar.
And, with that jar looking significantly better than this bottle, today’s label just feels lazy. Like they’ve cheaped out on us artistically. Hopefully that’s the only place where they’ve cut corners.
Some would say that, because carrots are a relatively inexpensive ingredient, making them the main one is inherently a cost cutting act. I, however, am a little more lenient and open-minded. I enjoy habanero carrot cake and often mention carrots when describing the sweet, orange vegetable elements of similarly-coloured habaneros.
Carrots are an undeniably great pairing with the pepper and they add a small amount of natural sweetness to a sauce. Plus, if The Chillees’ chillies are particularly potent, they’ll help carry the flavour while keeping the heat reasonable. Even if they are purely adding bulk, that’s not necessarily motivated by money.
So let’s see how they work here:
It’s a smooth, orange-coloured sauce, as I expected, which is less of a liquid and more of an ultra-fine shred. Even finer than your standard sriracha but probably produced quite similarly – By blending the sauce to a pulp and then sieving until its smooth.
This appearance, despite the occasional whole chilli seed, suggests a soft and gentle flavour. One with which its punchy aroma simply does not fit. Because, as I pour it from the bottle, I’m getting fresh carrots, subtle hints of onion, cider vinegar and a great big whack of garlic.
So it’s quite the surprise when garlic isn’t the main flavour.
No, what seemed like undertones on the nose are, in fact, the main event and it’s sharp, acidic carrot that comes through most in my mouth. The garlic simply plays a strong supporting role, largely overpowering the onion and pepper.
And the vinegar is different to what I smelt, as well. It’s got a clear tang to it but not any of the cider sort’s oak or apple-like qualities. Instead, I reckon that its spirit vinegar, given life by the bitter lime and a very light browning on the garlic.
As a whole, this sauce is decidedly alright. Great with salad, chicken, eggs and/or thai curry but far from a favourite elsewhere, due to that tart, bitter acid coming through too powerfully and the flavour of the chillies, themselves, not being allowed to shine. Despite providing, at most, a high
that only slightly exceeds that of The Chillees’ two out of five.
The Orangatongue Tingler isn’t terrible but it’s not something that I’d particularly recommend, either, and it’s a real disappointment after the sheer quality of that marmalade.
Carrot, Vinegar, Lime, Onion, Orange Habanero (7%), Garlic, Sea Salt.
And the freshness of that carrot is crystal clear.
Carrots may have seemed like this sauce’s weak point when I was going into the review but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Their gentle yet bright, mildly sweet, soft, root vegetable flavour forms an excellent base for other flavours to build on – At least when they’re cooked with such care – so it’s a real shame that those other flavours aren’t anything to write home about. Just acid and an undertone of garlic, neither of which seems like it was given the same degree of thought.
There is some potential here, but I’ve had many better products in my time. Including at least one from the same company.