Monday, 18 March 2013

Sweet and Spicy: Habaneros' Hot Sauce review

Photo from

The last time I was in Birmingham Habaneros didn't exist. If it had, I would have forced the entire crew of the Times Spelling Bee to have lunch there.

One of the things I love about being MexiGeek is discovering new Mexican food products and suppliers here in the UK.

So when Habaneros offered to send me a bottle of their homemade sauce, I was like "Sí, claro!"

But first a little background on these guys.

Habaneros define their cuisine as "Mexican Street Food". The menu sticks to a handful of Mexican classics, with a focus on fresh, locally and sustainably sourced produce.

They import chiles and other speciality ingredients from Mexico; everything else comes from the local area.

The emphasis on local suppliers and short, traceable supply chains has always been a mark of quality in the food industry, but in light of recent events it has become pretty much essential.

Habaneros name the local farm that supplies their meats, and even their vegetable dishes are used with seasonal produce, so your veggie taco will have slightly different veg in spring than in Autumn.

Amazing! That alone would be reason enough to support them, but there are a couple other things that earn Habaneros a place on my "must-visit" list.

The burrito/taco fillings include barbacoa and chcken tinga!

The tinga is especially exciting for me. So many places would just dust some grilled chicken with chile powder and call it "Mexican". That Habaneros is offering a true classic of Mexican street/market food puts a big MexiGeek smile on my face.

Also, carnitas, barbacoa, and tinga all come with some significant time investments. These are marinaded, slow-cooked meals. So this menu shows that Habaneros are willing to put the time in.

Pickled Red Onions, aka cebollas en escabeche are my favourite condiment ever! I can never get enough of these.

And of course there are the homemade sauces.

All Habaneros' sauces are homemade right in the restaurant. This includes not only the one I tried, but its mild, medium, and extra-hot cousins, and of course Mexico's sine qua non sauces guacamole and fresh tomato salsa.

I tried the "Hot Sauce", which is their second-hottest sauce and the hottest one they generally offer to customers (the "Habanero XXX" sauce is apparently only available by request).

This is a smooth pouring sauce, rather than a chunky diping salsa.

Before I even opened the bottle the ingredients had me intrigued: habanero chiles came first (nice), plus there were some classic Yucatecan spices like allspice, black pepper, and cumin. And peaches!

For me, the peaches are the true genius-stroke of this sauce. Sweet and spicy is one of the world's great culinary pairings. You could easily achieve that with just sugar. But using fruit also boosts flavour, and since habaneros themselves have a fruity taste, it's an excellent match.

Fruit and chile go hand-in-hand in Mexican cuisine. A simple fruit salad will invariably be topped with chile and lime powder called tajín. Fresh and dried fruits feature in most of the moles. They even add fresh fruit or fruit juices to guacamole and salsa in the Yucatán.

It's an instantly addictive combination, and I've been putting this sauce on nearly everything I eat for the past couple days.

I've even been tempted to drink it straight from the bottle.

But be careful though. The sauce is made from habanero chiles, so it has a pretty healthy kick. It's nothing I can't handle, but if you don't eat chiles literally every day of your life like I do, you may want to use it sparingly. A little habanero goes a long way.