Is it just us or is it getting a little chilli in here?

Just because the temperature is rising outside, doesn’t mean the nation’s hot sauce fans are skipping any Scoville units (that’s the measurement of food-heat).

Discerning mouth-burning devotees will relish in telling you that even the blandest meal can be vastly improved with the simple application of a few dollops of hot sauce.

And there’s a huge variety out there to choose from, so in addition to rounding up some of our favourite spicy condiments, we’re giving you pairing suggestions too.

The budget option

There are dozens of entry-level hot sauces on the market, but few hammer the flavour notes quite as hard as Excellence’s range of tongue-tinglers. Instantly identifiable by the spice-addled eagle on the packaging, this sauce is a cupboard essential for chilli sommeliers. There are habanero, garlic and jalapeno variations, but as purists we feel the original version is the brand’s magnum opus. Our one misgiving is that sometimes the older vintages develop a sort of yellowish tinge at the top of the bottle, and this is a clear indication you need to re-up.

Pairing suggestion: Shake it all over your fries. Around Dhs3.50 for 177ml. Available for delivery from most supermarkets via Instashop or noon.com.

The military-grade option

As the appearance of The Grim Reaper – the literary embodiment of death – on the front of the bottle suggests, it’s not a drop for noobs. Essentially weapon’s grade hot sauce, it’s made from the hottest known chilli pepper on earth, the Carolina Reaper, hitting a nuclear, 2 million Scoville units (Tabasco is about 2,500). It’s a TikTok challenge waiting to happen. We have no idea why anybody would want to (perhaps you’ve always wondered what the warping of space-time tastes like), but you can order the silver reserve edition from the USA (with delivery dates to reflect that) via importer Ubuy for Dhs82.

Pairing suggestion: It really doesn’t matter what you put it on, all you’re going to taste is fire.

The Caribbean option

 

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Made with choice scotch bonnet and habanero peppers, Encona Hot Pepper Sauce holds a prestigious place in the hearts of many Caribbean food fans. It packs a pretty formidable punch, but sacrifices no flavour in doing so. The round smokiness of the scotch bonnet, and the cutting acidity are the perfect level-up for meats, stews and carb loads alike. The little taste of island life has been spotted on the shelves in Al Maya and LuLu, but it is elusive. We recommend trying to track it down through the usual grocery ordering apps in your area. If unsuccessful, you can order it from the US or UK through desertcart.com.

Pairing suggestion: Our guilty hot sauce pleasure is pouring rivers of this stuff over fluffy white rice.

The cheeky option

 

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You can’t really have a discussion about spicy food in the 21st century without nodding at Nando’s. This cult South African spice-slathering chicken chain is now a global phenomenon, built on a passion for piri-piri and precision-grilled poultry. Hot, citrusy and complicated… forget KFC, this is the secret herbs and spice blend recipe we want in on. And having sampled the full range many times over, we find the ‘medium’ sauce gives the best balance of heat and flavour. The sauces are available to buy from many supermarkets in the UAE, but for the real fans, we present the full restaurant-sized bottle available from LuLu at Dhs23.

Pairing suggestion: Chicken, obviously, but it makes a surprisingly welcome accompaniment to a steak too, or anything with a good char.

The most appropriate right now option

 

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The Zombie Apocalypse Ghost Chili Hot Sauce is a blend of the super-hot ghost pepper and always-classy habanero. Yes it is wildly warm on the tastebuds, but it’s more than the sum of its spice. There’s an entirely unique tang to it once the burning subsides, and we are a huge fan of using it to bolster the flavour of casseroles and stews. You can grab a bottle from whizz.ae for Dhs145.

Pairing suggestion: Whack it in your next chilli con carne, and pour over a bowl full of nacho chips. 

The best all-purpose option

 

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Pain 100% Hot Sauce has broad shoulders, carrying both a weighty heat punch and a complex flavour profile. It’s a habanero and capsicum mash, made with 100 per cent natural ingredients and a little sprinkle of acidic pixie dust. At once forceful and subtle, this sauce makes sense on almost any meal and is a tabletop staple for spice seekers. You can pick this up in supermarkets across the UAE (and via their delivery services), but if you strike out there, you can also get it online at Ubuy.ae for Dhs54.

Pairing suggestion: A handsome dip for grilled lamb chops.

The hipster option

 

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We’re not sure how the popularity of sriracha exploded so quickly, but this Asian hot sauce sensation is here to stay. You’ll find it cropping up all over trendy menus, in mayo, reductions or even **shudders** some more avant-garde desserts. There are plenty of brands to choose from, but one of the most popular is the Huy Fong Foods variety, emblazoned with a rooster, green cap and Vietnamese, Chinese, English, French and Spanish script on the bottle. The distinctive distilled vinegar and garlic taste create a jagged tastebud highjack that is so easy for extreme flavour fans to fall in love with. Get yours at supermarkets across the UAE.

Pairing suggestion: Eggs. It’s the ultimate omelette relish… don’t @ us. 

The wingman option

 

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The person that came up with a way of taking the scraggly bits of chicken nobody wants on a roast, and turning them into ‘hot wings’ was a marketing genius. And if you’re gonna make your own at home, the sauce we recommend is Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Wings. Actually it’s pretty good on everything. In fact, we pour so much of it, the food essentially becomes just a delivery vector for the sauce. Smoky, tart and with a modest heat rating this is an erry day, erry meal condiment. You can get it online from Union Coop for Dhs20.

Pairing suggestion: It’s the perfect marinade for chicken grilled on the barbecue.

The connoisseur’s option

 

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Purple Hippo Hot Sauce is a little-known, award-winning hot sauce that is a blend of habanero and scorpion peppers, balanced out with prickly pear cactus juice, agave nectar, strawberries, lemon and lime juice. Once you get past the initial burn, this sauce packs a whole olfactory orchestra of different aroma and flavour notes. It’s Cabo in springtime, a Hawaiian volcanic breeze, you hum the chorus, and this sauce will sing the melody. Available on special order through desetcart.ae for Dhs191. Use sparingly.

Pairing suggestion: Sausages. Trust us. 

Images: Instagram