Hey folks, how’s it going? Today, I want to take a look at a rather more mainstream company.
You’ve probably never heard of Salsa Tamaƶula but I’d be amazed if you’ve never heard of their signature product. After all, this “Valentina” hot sauce is the mexican staple, on almost every restaurant table across its home country.
So it comes as absolutely no surprise that MexGrocer stock it, along with their more obscure sauces. Any importer worth their salt should.
No, today’s big surprise comes in the form of a second bottle. Another sauce from the same brand, bearing their company name in the same white-outlined, green lettering on red and black.
A slightly smaller container of Salsa Picante Tamaƶula Muy Picante, colloquially known as “Tamaƶula Black”.
Why black? Because the Salsa Tamaƶula sauces are more commonly seen in yellow labels, with these darker ones denoting their extra hot variants – That “Muy Picante” on the packaging.
Extra hot might not actually mean “hot”, though, so let’s see what I make of them.
Yet, before I bust open these bottles, there’s one last thing that I’d like to mention: The ingredients list.
Yeah, you heard me right, the ingredients list. The single one that they both share.
Here’s MexGrocer’s translation:
water, dried arbol chili pepper, acetic acid, iodized salt, seasonings, spices and sodium benzoate (E211).
Acetic acid being the active ingredient in vinegar and sodium benzoate a food preservative that’s generally considered harmless. But, if it does worry you for some reason, just know that the mexican ingredients list specifies it as less than a tenth of a percent of the sauce.
It’s not going to hurt you here.
Though this does bring up an interesting question: Are they actually different sauces or just different bottles? There’s only one way to find out.
On the left, we have the black label Valentina hot sauce and, on the right, the Tamaƶula Black. They look incredibly similar – Both terracotta-coloured liquids with similar ultra-fine grains and a free-pouring, yet gloopy consistency – but there is one clear difference.
The Tamaƶula Black is swirled with a slightly darker, greyer tone, despite my best efforts in shaking the bottles. It’s not gone off, as it was perfectly sealed and four years from expiry. It’s just naturally separated slightly and not gone back together.
What could this mean for the sauce’s flavour? I have no idea but you’d better believe that I’m gonna find out!
Once in my mouth, the black label Valentina is tangy, peppery and spiced in that old, familiar mexican style – A style that makes heavy use of their anatto-based achiote spice paste. It’s rich and somewhat earthy, with an almost nut-like quality about it.
I like its taste a good deal but I have to admit that it’s a little on the simple side and that its got the high salt content of a rather hotter climate. It isn’t perfect, even if it is a perfect representation of mexican tablesauce.
And the Tamaƶula Black? That has a woodier, sweeter, redder flavour upfront, with a little more tang in the tail and a slightly more powdery texture. Combine that with its higher
compared to the Valentina’s low
and it’s very clear what’s going on here.
The two sauces do, indeed, have the same ingredients and the same chilli. They provide the same base flavour but the higher quantity of that pepper in the Tamaƶula brings its flavour to the fore, while its lack of freshness gives the slight powdered feel that I’m getting.
Ultimately, I don’t love these sauces. They have a little too much salt and acid for my tastes.
But I do like them, at least. They’re bold, spiced in a very different way to UK sauces and not shy about their chilli’s flavour. They’ll definitely see use and I can see them finding a home over rice dishes, soups, stews and egg muffins, in addition to the obvious mexican items.
If I had to recommend just one, though, the Tamaƶula Black has just a tad more complexity to it from its extra chilli taste.