Hello again, everyone. I’ve had today’s trio in my back pocket for a little while know and, as I understand it, so have two of the companies involved. Because, despite their products looking completely different, both Hot Pods and Foraged Fire have done their absolute utmost to highlight the flavours of fermented honey and garlic, in these two:
And, though our third item may have been made a little quicker, it still promises the same sweet syrup and bold root, at its core:
It’s Torchbearer’s Honey Garlic and, while it promises to be rather milder than their last garlic sauce, that reaper concoction was far from all heat. If They can bring the same creaminess and garlic kick to today’s product, without the world record chilli, my bottle’s going to be gone in no time!
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the lot and see how all three manage to set themselves apart.
Visually, Foraged Fire’s Fermented Garlic & Honey is the least interesting sauce of the day, with nothing more than maroon text and the company’s usual, chilli and allium-flower logo to add life to its plain, white label.
Yet today’s other two are housed in bottles, while it resides in a jar, strongly suggesting that Foraged Fire’s offering is more of a cooking sauce. A hoi sin style one, according to its small print. But Foraged Fire’s isn’t the only sauce with an unorthodox container.
Torchbearer may use a bottle, for their Honey Garlic, but it’s a whopping three-fifty mil and made of firm, yet somewhat flexible, plastic. It’s far from the standard “woozy” style and probably a little less fragile but, personally, I find that plastic just looks and feels cheaper than glass. Even when it does the job just as well.
And, while there’s a little more colour and artwork on their label, a well-dressed bear devouring honey only really gets one of the ingredients across. So the best art has to go to Hot Pods’ Swarm.
That Swarm shows us the garlic and chilli right upfront, being attacked by an eager wasp. Or perhaps just a bee with slim, yet bottom-heavy body proportions.
Either way, it’s a vicious-looking, yellow and black inset which clues us in to the presence of the honey. Along with the honeycombed, orange and yellow background, which would probably be a dead giveaway, even without it.
So, in short, swarm might be the most standard of packaging but its label says what it needs to and it does so with character. Though I am a little surprised to see that the sauce, inside, is just as orange-yellow:
Orange-yellow with fleck of red chilli, along with the paler seeds and garlic. All dotted throughout its medium thickness, pulpy texture.
But, when it comes to the tasting, that rich, bold, aged garlic plays a supporting role to a completely different type of pepper flavour. A tangy, yellow bell taste that makes up this sauce’s base and pairs oh so nicely with the equally tangy fruit. Pineapple and mango adding back some of the sweetness that fermentation took out of the honey, while the honey, itself, just adds those classic, golden flavour notes.
This sauce is not what I was expecting. It’s not sriracha meets mead, in the slightest, but it does still pack an intense garlic undertone and enjoyable hints of the honey, despite its more pepper-foward direction, and I really enjoy it over tacos or with a mediterranean style pasta sauce.
Like most of Hot Pods’ other items, its chillies aren’t a big part of its flavour but the use of lemondrops to support that tangy, yellow pepper taste still shows that the company owner knows what he’s doing. While the mixed reds provide the sauce’s slow growing, low
heat sting in the throat and across the left hand side of my tongue. Suggesting that there may be some carolina reaper in the mix but, if so, it must be an incredibly small proportion to keep it that mild. Regardless of the fact that Swarm is actually our hottest of the day.
Second in line for that throne, however, is Foraged Fire’s Hoi Sin. A product packing an even slower and more tingly,
mouth heat, which lingers far longer and is still pretty close in intensity. All hailing from a mixture of chinese long and facing heaven chillies, along with a mystery black variety that’s definitely in keeping with the product’s own colour:
Dark brown – almost to the point of being black – and seriously sticky, it’s not hard to see what the honey brings to our second sauce. Nor that its next highest ingredient is black beans. And, while it isn’t as visible in the colour or texture, that strong undertone of garlic definitely comes through, too.
Yet other major elements, like Tim’s signature two-cinnamon take on five spice, the richness of his toasted sesame, the subtle fruitiness of the miso and even the pine smoke of his chillies, aren’t anywhere near as obvious, on my spoon, and fail to really come into their own until you begin cooking with this product.
Diluting it down into a cooking sauce, with water and soy, helps to calm the intensity of the aged black beans and let the sauce’s complexity really shine through. Bringing forth the pine wood smoke, as well as the cinnamon and cloves, the touch of fennel and the star anise, all melding exquisitely beneath that rich, dark surface.
And, despite being 34% honey, this hoi sin isn’t anywhere near as sickeningly sweet as some take-aways and supermarket brands. Just sweet enough to contrast with the savoury flavour of the beans and liven up your pork, beef, tofu, noodles or anything else that you want to fry in it.
Another great product from Foraged Fire!
Speaking of high honey content, though, take a look at this:
This is the base of our third product, Torchbearer’s Honey Garlic sauce, when it’s been sat on the shelf for a bit. Darkish, golden honey, separating out, like the vinegar in a salad dressing, and making up the bottom third of the bottle. It’s going to need some serious shaking, before you serve.
When I do, however, it’s a lot thinner than I expected, rapidly flowing out of that wide bottle neck to fill my spoon with what has to be the strongest garlic scent of the lot. Sweet, yet also highly savoury and with quite an allium kick.
So that’s two for two with Torchbearer’s named ingredients and, while I might prefer something a tad thicker, I’m not all that inclined to complain about their texture, either. I mean, just look at that creaminess!
The blend of honey, vinegar and rapeseed oil (referred to as “canola”, in the US) creates a silken emulsion that shines through, despite the thin consistency. And my L.E.D. lighting sure does shine off of it.
When I put it to my mouth, this is a sauce that really coats my tongue and leaves behind a rich, long lasting, powerful, golden garlic flavour, which works wonderfully with the honey and the subtle, fruity notes of mandarin. It’s as bold as the hoi sin and a good deal more garlic-focussed, yet that creamy quality helps ease me in, as well as trapping the taste and the slow
throat heat in place. All for some seriously long enjoyment.
However, as I mentioned above, this sauce looks like a dressing and that’s because it is one. It’s not a product that I would throw over everything but it’ll make for some utterly astounding chicken or tuna salads, a gorgeous coating to new potatoes and a unique and intense garlic mayo.
I don’t know if I can choose a favourite, from today’s outstanding trio, but Torchbearer’s Honey Garlic definitely fits the theme the best, highlighting its key ingredients with their utmost intensity and little else to muddle the message.
Yet, as much as I came here for that honey and garlic hit, the hoi sin and peppery swarm are both just as worthy of my recommendation and just as deliciously bold flavoured, in their own ways. So I really would suggest that, if you love garlic as much as I do, you go out and try the lot. At least, so long as you’re not too vegan to enjoy the honey.
Hot Pods’ Swarm contained:
Yellow bell peppers, pineapple juice, water, mango, mixed chillies (9%), honey (8%), garlic (8%), onion, white wine vinegar, Aji lemon chillies (2%), salt.
And you can find more of its lemon chilli here.
Whereas Foraged Fire’s Hoi Sin was made from:
Raw Unfiltered Honey (34%), Fermented Black Bean Paste (18%) (Black Soy Beans (Soya), Sea Salt, Garlic, Ginger, Spices, Wheat, Koji Culture), Aged Chillies (10%) (Urf Biber Flakes, Pine-Smoked Black Chilli Powder, Dried Facing Heaven Chillies, Szechaun-Long Chillies), Aged Chilli Paste (Mixed Red Chillies, Salt), Fermented Garlic (10%), Black Rice Vinegar, Red Miso (6%) (Water, Soybeans (Soya) salt, Koji Culture), Roasted Sesame Seeds, Fresh Ginger Root, Spices (Star Anise, Black Pepper, Cassia Bark, Wild Fennel Pollen, Szechuan Pepper, Ceylon Cinnamon, Fennel Seeds, Cloves, White Pepper, Cubeb Pepper, Coriander Seeds).
And I don’t know exactly what chillies went into it but you can find all of the possible facing heavens, including the szechaun long variety, on this encyclopedia page. Or the urfa biber over here.
I, unfortunately, do not have a page to link you for our third sauce’s peppers, since they’re just generic reds but I can tell you that it was comprised of:
Honey, Distilled White Vinegar, Garlic, Canola Oil, Lemon Juice, Carrots, Mandarin Oranges, Tomatoes, Chili Powder, Black Pepper and Salt.
And that, my friends, concludes today’s review.
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