Hey folks, this week we’re exploring the far reaches of the UK with a couple of sauces from northern irish producer, Rock A Doodle Do. A company built on classic metal music puns.
If that’s what you’re after, though, you’re going to have to be patient because I’m not featuring their Can I Play with Mangos quite yet. Instead, I’m focussing on their “Irish Legends” bundle, designed to shine a light on the local mythology. Because, what can I say? I’m a sucker for fantasy themes done well.
It doesn’t take a real fantasy fan to know the one on the left, though. The banshee, famous for its bone-chilling, soul-piercing shriek, is definitely a part of popular culture. Albeit a tad less so than your dragons, unicorns and vampires.
It’s the second sauce – The one on the right – where we see something that I’d consider genuinely obscure.
The Pooka, according to Rock A Doodle Do, is “a Malevolent Spirit and a shape-shifter that can take any form it chooses”. Unlikely to do humans any harm but always eager to be their horse for a wild and death-defying night’s ride, taking delight in their terror.
What they don’t say, however, is that this dark creature is also the steed of the more well-known dullahan – The headless horseman – and that it, like the banshee, can be a deathly omen.
You’d think that that would be a selling point for these sauces.
Instead, though, the Banshee is simply sold as a louisiana-style sauce – Meaning red, aged and vinegary, like Tabasco – that makes for screaming hot wings. While Pooka is apparently a fruity extra hot with ghost peppers and pale ale.
Again, the Banshee holds promise – Especially as I’ve never had a louisiana reaper sauce – but it’s that blend of peaches, limes and ghosts that really sounds appealing. And, while I do want to talk about their packaging a bit, I also feel like I’ve kept you waiting long enough. So let’s skip to the taste test:
Starting with the Banshee, what I smell as I decant it is an aged funk with slight hints of ketchup and of malt but, on the tongue, that malty flavour is a whole lot stronger. And I don’t like it.
In fact, I dislike it in the same way that I disliked Firemite.
It’s strong, dark, salty and acidic in its flavour and, while it doesn’t quite resemble “famous yeast extract”, its overtones are, at the very least, that of a vegetarian worcestershire sauce.
It does have a little more nuance to it than Firemite did, with a cooked tomato and cayenne element coming through underneath, but it’s still very much a malt-forward product that I’m not into. Even, this time, in meals.
And its suggested use with melted butter on wings? Well, let’s just say that you’re going to want to buy unsalted if you’re dead set on trying that. Its
seems to get amplified by the dairy, not negated, but so, too, does the salt already in the sauce.
I foresee some people really liking the taste of the Banshee but, whether they do or not, I’m not one of them and I’m calling it a flop. Not just because of my own preference but also because it fails at the very thing that it was designed for. As a UK-made wing sauce meant to be used in a buffalo style, it should, at the bare minimum, pair well with the UK’s standard, salted butter.
So, is the Pooka any better?
Personally, I don’t think so.
I think that it makes a better buffalo sauce but that’s only because it’s less salty and less strong flavoured. The taste of the butter comes through more but the sauce, itself, is just as bad.
It’s light and creamy, yet it’s more tomato and carrot than it is peach and lime. And, while I can taste the pale ale, it adds more of that dry, cloying, beer-like note than any of the fruitier flavours that we recently saw in Brighton Hot Stuff’s Hop Sauce.
Plus, the stinging
of Pooka’s roasted chillies is completely at odds with the smooth mouthfeel of its oil-blended base.
I could see it working its way into a cream of tomato soup, since that’s what it most reminds me of, but I can’t see myself using it anywhere else because it’s just such an underwhelming flavour. Slightly beer-y, yet otherwise bland.
Here’s the long list of what I was supposed to taste, just to reinforce my disappointment:
Onion, Carrot, Tomato, Roasted Bell Peppers, Tomato Puree, White Wine Vinegar (Contains Sulphates), Ghost Chillies (10%), Dorset Naga Chillies (10%), Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Lime, Ginger, Peaches, Stabiliser (Xanthan Gum), Golden Pale Ale (Contains Barley), Maple SyrupGum), Maple Syrup
And I’m not even getting the peppers.
The packaging is a thing of beauty, with its metallic sunset rendition of the local landscape, glowing Pooka in silhouette against its shadowy hills. And the greener glow against the night-time blue that they’ve used for the Banshee really makes it seem more sinister.
I love the graphic design work of this company but I can’t recommend their products as anything but display pieces. They just don’t taste good to me.
Hopefully, that opinion will change when I try the “Can I Play with Mangos?” that I also picked up from them, but you’ll have to wait and see for that one.
For now, I’m just going to leave you with the ingredients list for the Banshee:
Onion, Carrot, Tomato, Bell Peppers, Tomato Puree, White Wine Vinegar (Contains Sulphates), Malt Vinegar (Contains Sulphates & Barley) Carolina Reaper Chillies (10%), Habanero Chillies (10%), Cayenne Chillies 20%) Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Lime, Ginger, Mango, Stabiliser (Xanthan Gum), Maple Syrup