Happy tuesday again, everyone. This week, I’ve got something wicked to show you, from down in somerset.
The “Thirsty Dog” barbecue and sweet pepper “Roco Loco” sauces, from The Wicked Chilli. One using an unusual blend of jalapeño and naga chillies to heat up its cola and smoked paprika base. While the other mixes rare rocoto chillies with a more standard, unnamed variety and some red bells, for a purer pepper flavour.
For once, though, it’s not the flavour of those rare chillies that excites me but the unique feel of the rocoto’s heat. The unique gum tingle which made me love Char Man’s Caribbean sauce and which is integral to a few specific peruvian dishes.
I’m a huge fan of that pepper and I’m really hoping that its prominent position on the label of today’s red chilli sauce means that The Wicked Chilli are using it to the fullest. Yet I’m also very curious what the unsmoked jalapeño and naga bring to the flavour of their barbecue sauce.
The Roco Loco’s label does highlight its peppers and its pepper-forward nature well, making them its only art, but it also makes the very questionable decision to use a red background for those red chillies. With a magenta border topping off the all to similar colour palette, metaphorically, at the bottom and on the left hand side.
Add to that how cramped everything is, with the gigantic white text throughout and the black bar, at the top, for the company’s name and logo, and the whole thing almost looks amateurish. Until I realise that there’s a reason for it all.
The whites and pinkish tones highlight the softer, fruitier side of the chillies, echoed by their cherry-like shape in the art. While the sheer overabundance of red simply reflects the sauce, itself.
A shockingly intense colour, on my spoon, that hardly even seems possible. Yet there doesn’t seem to be anything unnatural in the ingredients:
red peppers, red chillies, rocoto chillies, sugar, ginger, lemon juice, garlic, onion, salt, wine vinegar (SULPHITES) tapioca starch, monosodium glutamate, acetic acid
Only a touch of extra acid, to preserve the colour that’s naturally there.
Personally, though, I don’t find the Thirsty Dog’s appearance as appealing.
It’s got a better selection of colours, certainly, but the bulldog in the corner tells us very little and The Wicked Chilli have done an awful photoshop job on the chilli that it’s licking.
More than anything else, though, I’m just bothered by the vast empty space to the left of that green jalapeño. And what’s inside hardly makes up for the lacklustre art:
For a barbecue sauce, this one is just as shocking of a colour but more because of what it lacks. Bordering on orange, with none of the visual signs of smoke or richness that I’ve come to expect. Especially from a cola sauce.
While the sticky, syrupy texture is there and so are the occasional shreds of its red and green chillies, the ketchup seems to dominate the Thirsty Dog’s colour far more than the cola. Implying that, despite being first ingredient, the cola was never cooked down enough to concentrate either its appearance or its flavour.
A fact that tasting it only confirms.
The Thirsty Dog was made from:
Cola (carbonated water, sugar, colour – caramel E150D, phosphoric acid, natural flavourings including caffeine), ketchup ( water, glucose fructose syrup, spirit vinegar, lomato, sugar, modified maize starch, salt, citric acid, potassium sorbate, natural flavourings) wine vinegar (SULPHITES) jalapeno chillies, naga chillies, onion, garlic, hot smoked paprika, salt,
And I can taste the cola in it. Just not nearly as much as the sharp, tangy blend of ketchup and vinegar. Nor even quite as much as the onions.
A good deal more, however, than the chillies and smoked paprika. Which play only a small supporting role in this sauce’s flavour, yet bring a strong tongue tingle that grows and grows. Keeping on burning ’til it hits the top of a
in my throat.
It’s a good heat – Both in feel and intensity – but it doesn’t make up for the Thirsty Dog’s lack of molasses and smoke. Nor does it fix its unwanted tang. So, unfortunately, I still can’t call it a good barbecue sauce.
But the Roco Loco is different. It doesn’t promise a known genre of pepper product. Only a bit of sweetness and a rare chilli with an equally unusual heat. The second of which I can see in the black flecks of blended pubescens-type pepper seeds – The only part of the sauce which isn’t stunningly crimson.
So it’s actually the fire, more than the flavour, which I’m excited for, this time.
I swallow my spoonful and, to my surprise, it’s weak. No heat at all, at first, then a high
comes in a few seconds later. As throaty as the last but far milder than most rocoto products.
And I can feel the slightest hint of numbness in my gums, perhaps, but none of that wonderful tingle, which sold me on this sauce in the first place.
Yet whilst their burn may be a touch disappointing, the rocotos are far from wasted on this sauce. Their soft, plum-like, fruit quality comes through ever so well, among the other red peppers in this blend. Meaning that, even though the sheer amount of garlic and sugar used makes the Roco Loco a sriracha, it’s a distinctly different, rocoto-flavoured one.
Which, while not what I was after, certainly has its merits. Especially over cheese, in place of cranberry sauce or mixed into pasta sauces.
Of today’s pair, the Roco Loco is easily the one that I’d recommend, since it’s a great showcase of the rocoto’s flavour. But, with its signature heat missing, it’s not a perfect representation of that rare pepper, either.
So enjoyable, for sure, but not what I’d call a must have.