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Exploring and critiquing Calgary food through the eyes of three dysfunctional engineers
In my ever expanding quest to find the best and greatest hot sauces, I have sampled many a generic department store hot sauce – everything ranging from Frank’s Hot Sauce to Colon Cleanser – only to face constant disappointment. Most hot sauces found at Co-op, Safeway, or Superstore are usually either a) not hot enough, or b) are just too bland – they simply don’t pack the emotional punch. The only hot sauce to date that I can respect (and that can own my ass) is that Sri Racha hot sauce that gets commonly served at the pizza-by-the-slice places. But even then, my body’s gotten so used to it that I no longer experience the coveted anal ring of fire.
On my way back from ‘boarding at Lake Louise last week, I had the sudden brain flash to stop off at the Grizzly Paw to stock up on some delicious local, hand-crafted sodas and beers. As I walked into the store, I got momentarily distracted with all the cool Grizzly Paw merchandise. Turns out it was a serendipitous distraction as my eyes immediately gravitated to the “hot sauce” corner. “What’s this?” you say. Since when did The Paw start selling hot sauces? I don’t know, but did I really care? With awesome titles like “Acid Rain” and “Grumpy Bear”, I couldn’t resist taking a look…
To be honest, I was pretty sceptical: after years of disappointment, I roll my eyes at warnings like “This hot sauce is extremely hot. Use at your own risk.” Really? I bathe in this shit, biaaatch, I am pretty sure it’s not that fucking hot. Nevertheless, I turned over the hilariously titled hot sauce called “Alberta Crude” to examine the ingredients: tomato paste, jalapeno peppers, habanero peppers, peri-peri peppers…wait what? Habanero peppers? Surely, you jest? My eyes deceive me…
But, no, it turns out my eyes hadn’t deceived me. The ingredient list indeed contained habanero peppers, one of THE highest ranked chilli peppers on the Scoville Heat Index. The HI on these babies range anywhere from 325-570,000…and I finally found a hot sauce made out of them.
I was pretty excited at this point, to say the least. I took a look at the other offerings and settled on “Mother of all Hot Sauces” as my second choice. This one had even more AWESOME warnings like “Not for people with heart or respiratory problems” and “Give yourself a natural high…without working out or pumping iron!!”
I sped home and eagerly opened up the bottles. My initial instinct was to dump a whole bunch of Mother of All Hot Sauces (MoAHS) on my samosas, but common sense prevailed. You respect the habanero, no matter how much heat you think you can handle. So, I dropped a dash of MoAHS on a spoon and gave it a taste…
SH*T! THIS FUCKING SH*T IS HOT! My mouth and throat started burning instantly. I could feel sweat pangs forming on my forehead. My eyes started watering slightly and I felt the onset of a small headache. And this wasn’t the kind of heat that goes away after an instance. It stays with you, burning a hole in your throat and stomach. You don’t drink water to quench heat like this – you have to go straight for milk or yogurt!
Unfortunately, MoAHS is so hot that your taste buds can’t really process any other flavours – your brain just gets overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of the heat. This isn’t necessarily a pleasant sensation (as you might have figured out by now), but it is worth the $5 I spent on the bottle. I suspect that as my taste buds eventually get used to the heat, I will start tasting the other inherent flavours present in this potent creation.
Next up was Alberta Crude. The warning signs on the label were slightly less frightening: instead of being “extremely hot”, this one was only “very hot”. Haha. I tried this one by itself as well and was actually rather pleased by its mellow (er) heat index. My taste buds could detect hints of other flavours – the overall effect was that of a smoky, sweet BBQ sauce with more kick to it than a regular BBQ sauce. It went really well with the samosas I had at home, especially as the tangy notes in AC were reminiscent of tamarind chutney that samosas get traditionally served with.
Overwhelmed by how awesome these hot sauces were, I sat down at the computer to do some research on the interwebs. I knew that The Paw didn’t make the Hatari brand of hot sauces; their selection was limited to the beer-infused Grumpy Bear brand that they made in-house. Turns out there is an entire website dedicated to these hot sauces. This isn’t some mom & pop operation, it’s actually an entire line of hot sauces, bbq sauces, and dried spices that you can buy online or at retailers. BUT best of all….
Turns out “Sam”, the owner of the Hatari Bros. brand, was born in Africa, but eventually settled in good ol’ Calgary, Canada for some reason and has been pumping out his potent creations throughout Canada and US. Even the name “hatari” is a Swahili reference to a chilli pepper discovered in South Central Africa…though I wasn’t able to find any references to this particular hot pepper in my quick 1 min. Google search. Also, Acid Rain, which is one of the milder hot sauces, was actually an award winner at the Fiery Food Challenge, 2000. Damn, Hatari Bros. hot sauces have been around since then? #fail.
The next morning, as I was peeing, I felt a tinge of burning sensation at the tip of my penis. All was good in the world again. Order and balance had been restored. Although slightly peeved that I didn’t know about such an epic creation right in my own city, I am nonetheless proud that some of the hottest hot sauces known to man are made in Calgary!