Toronto's hot sauce scene keeps getting hotter. Once a novelty item, these fiery products -- along with equally incendiary salsas -- are replacing ketchup as the cool condiment of choice. Here's a roundup of grassroots hellraisers from right here in Toronto, many of which are participating in Harbourfront's Hot And Spicy Food Festival, held August 23, 24 and 25.
The star of Shauna and Joseph Jagnandan's Eat and Weep line of condiments is their Guyanese-inspired Hot Sauce ($4.99, 355 ml). A sweet, slightly sour taste gets countered with Scotch bonnet for fire, carrot for colour and applesauce for texture. Though its name suggest a chunky jam, the couple's Hot Mango Chutney ($3.25, 250 ml) is a smooth, fruity sauce with a pepper bite. Available at Lively Life (93 Front East, 416-362-1464) in St. Lawrence Market, Pusateri's (1539 Avenue, 416-785-8100), the Bay (176 Yonge, 416-861-9111, and others) and Rabba (37 Charles West, 416-964-3409, and others).
Heat score: 5 (out of 10)
Every weekend you'll find Paris -- no last name, please -- hawking his Jungle Boy sauces in front of a boarded-up storefront at 72 Kensington under an umbrella. Based on his grandmother's Trinidadian recipe, his relish-like sauces come in four strengths, from the wimpy-but-tasty Dimples to full-throttle Punishment (all $5.99, 250 ml). And he'll gladly give you a taste for free of his mustardy creation, thick with minced raw cauliflower, broccoli, star fruit, mango and papaya. Wonderful, especially with grilled seafood.
Heat Score: 8
Morris Rozen came up with Fireman's Blend ($6.99, 200 ml) while a frustrated home cook -- no sauce he tried had the desired kick. So he concocted this bright-orange mango-based elixir to solve his fiery dilemma. With a slow burn that builds, this Louisiana-style sauce is found at Nortown Foods (1 Promenade Circle, 905-889-1610) in Thornhill, Smokin Jo's at Dominion (735 College, 416-533-2515, and others) and IGA (623 Danforth, 416-466-5371, and others), as well as on his Web site, part of a Web ring aptly named Ring of Fire (ringoffire.net).
Heat Score: 5
Zonia and Calvin Slyfield's Joy of Harvest BBQ Jerk Sauce ($5, 355 ml) is only available by mail order or at their appearances at local food fairs and farmers markets. A mellow, barbecue-like concoction, it can also be used as a stand-alone table sauce and in dips mixed with sour cream or yogurt.
Contact: 416-281-2303 or email@example.com
Heat Score: 4
Tipper, of the Caribbean eatery of the same name (1341 Weston, 416-240-8335), has perhaps the most do-it-yourself packaging. He sells his tamarind-rich sauce in unmarked styrofoam coffee cups ($5, 9 ounces). Use it to fire up almost anything or as a baste when grilling chicken or pork.
Heat Score: 5
You might have heard the radio spots for Caribbean Menu and its kickass Mother-in-Law Sauce ($4.75, 500 ml). Only available at its east-side outlet (2740 Danforth, 416-693-7684), this watery fire-starter comes full of habañera pepper pulp and seeds and builds to a mind-blowing climax. Not nearly as off-the-scale as the hellishly hot Dave's Insanity -- a thermonuclear blast from the States -- this Mother-in-Law is always welcome.
Heat Score: 9
Dan Taylor and his Dan T's Inferno hot sauce company is a huge success, with his numerous sauces available at Loblaws and Dominion stores across the country. He describes his line as having "a balance of heat and flavour. These aren't sauces that have to be tasted with a toothpick." Despite the claim, his White-Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce caused our official taste-tester -- Power Serge -- to wince, cough, then sneeze. In his books, that's good. Smoked Cayenne-Chipotle Sauce is much milder and somewhat smoky, while Mustard Cayenne Pepper Sauce (all $3.49, 237 ml) recalls hot dog topping.
Contact: 905-564-3226 or www.dants.com
Heat Score: 6
For years, Mados' Caribbean Pepper Sauce ($5.79, 350 ml) was only known to foodie insiders. Made in exotic Ajax by Elizabeth Doctrov Mados, her delicious pumpkin and pawpaw (papaya) is still sold at House of Spice (190 Augusta, 416-593-9724) in Kensington, but is now distributed by the folks at Rhino (1249 Queen West, 416-535-8089), the Parkdale restaurant. Universal Grill, Tortilla Flats and Toba serve this versatile sauce, too. Great with almost everything -- including peanut butter sandwiches!
Heat Score: 7
Not a hot sauce as such, the Saucy Assistant describes itself as a "versatile liquid seasoning." Think of it as a power-boosting concentrate added to dishes like meatloaf or lasagna. Available in Original as well as Garlic, the intense Smoked Jalapeño (all $3.99, 375 ml) has lots of pepper pulp and a slight vinegar twist. Available at Pusateri's and Highland Farms (4750 Dufferin, 416-736-6606, and others).
Heat Score: 4