Basking in the hot California sunshine whilst the rest of the country freezes over, we found ourselves asking: if we’re so hot, why are we so obsessed with hot stuff? Do we think it might make us hotter? Hot dogs, hot tubs, hot bodies, hotshots, hot tickets, hot darn, does it always have to be so hot?
Here’s our guide to some of the hottest numbers around town:
Hot Rooster Sauce
In Spring Street, downtown, the number one hot sauce was born: Sriracha, otherwise known as Rooster, or (cough) Cock Sauce (it has a signature Rooster on its label, see). Maker of Sriracha, Huy Fong Foods is an $85M business now, its sauce ranked by Thrillist as Number One for its “alarmingly red, garlicky, love-fire that you can put on everything”.
Sriracha Sauce reaches nearly 2,500 heat units, (above banana pepper, apparently) on the Scoville scale that’s used to measure the spicy heat of a chili pepper (yes, there is such a thing: it means you can dilute this saucy sauce up to 2,500 times and it will still have sizzle!).
We love a couple of hot sauces made by local makers with locally grown ingredients:
Farmer & The Cook‘s Hot Sauce: Steve Sprinkel is the farmer of the Farmer and the Cook (well-known for its Ojai restaurant of course); he grows beautiful chilies on 16 acres above the Ventura River; and Olivia Chase makes them into an incredible Cajun hot sauce:
There’s a lot of experimenting going on out there with the hot sauce explosion: one local farmer we know tried grinding up infamous ghost chilies in his barn and had to stop, it was getting hard to breathe in there!
In an LA kitchen, chefs Christian Page and Willy Barling began tinkering with raw, lacto-fermented hot sauces until they came up with a small, hand-bottled line all their own. They kept the name simple—Willy B’s—and chose the tag line “Hot, yet approachable.” It’s raw, it’s fermented, it’s wild:
The ancient Mesoamerican societies revered the chocolate bean, but when they made a frothy beverage out of it they liked to give it a hot kick, and the combo got the Conquistadores hooked:
“The Spaniards, both men and women that are accustomed to the country are very greedy of this Chocolate. They say they make diverse sorts of it, some hot, some cold, and some temperate, and put therein much of that “chili”…”
Sophie and Michael Coe, The True History of Chocolate
It’s even gathering steam served cold, like the favorite Mexican Chocolate ice cream flavor in the sandwiches created by the Churro Borough dessert pop up.
Most like it hot, then, it would seem, but now let’s get down to the business of where to find the hot stuff around Los Angeles. Eat LA has its ‘heat map‘ but that’s really just about restaurants in demand. What we need is a heat-seeking guide to food so hot it’s hard to breathe!
LA Weekly’s list is a lot of fun:
“So you think you like spicy food? So did we, until we subjected ourselves to the unbelievable gauntlet of pain that is Los Angeles’ chile-obsessed food scene. Indian curries potent enough to cure chest colds; Thai salads that make your eyes burn…”
The top of the LA Weekly list was the Dynamite Curry Crab at Jitlada:
“it’s not just hot — it’s bee-sting-swelling hot; sensory hallucination hot; call-a-priest-for-your-last-rites hot…”
Other recommendations of note we found on our trawl for all things smouldering were the Lamb Tikka at Tibet Nepal House in Pasadena: “spicy as hell…” ; and (speaking of hell) the Deviled Chicken at Apey Kade in Tarzana: “hot-hot-hot cooking!”; how about Chichen Itza, which offers a variety of habanero salsas so spicy that only single drops are necessary on the food (Jonathan Gold warned, “If you are pale, the salsa will redden you. If you are dark, the salsa, a specialty of the Yucatán, will make you glow”); and if you’re feeling punchy try and win a spot on the Wall of Bravery over at Orochon Ramen with its “Special #2” (served with emergency bottles of milk!)
May your winters be forever hot!