Let’s start by saying, I love chiles. Other chileheads will know that it is an addiction. You become addicted, not to the heat, but the endorphins that course through your body and cause the chile high. For those of you not addicted to chiles, you think that too much heat spoils your food, but all I can say, is you haven’t passed the barrier yet that causes you to have a out of body chile high, were the pain and pleasure your body is experiencing is like reaching nirvana.
I didn’t get my first taste of chile until I went to University and my friend Duncan introduced me to the heat and got me hooked on them, but my first taste of hot sauce (not Tabasco) was in the US. Since then I always keep a bottle of Dave’s Insanity Sauce in my refrigerator and mix it with mayonnaise for a spicy accompaniment.
I first went to the Houston Hot Sauce Festival on the first weekend I arrived in Houston four years ago, and thought, this is going to be a great city that puts on festivals like this. The festival is in its twelfth year now and is usually held in mid September in a field outside the Stafford Centre, Stafford, Texas, just outside the South-West of the beltway. Some of the vendors change from year to year, but there are old favourites that keep coming back each year from all parts of the country.
As well as hot sauce vendors displaying their wares, there is live music from Blues to Zydeco, beer and food, competitions and children’s entertainment including a fire-breather this year. Not all the hot sauces to sample are at the very top end of the scale, there are also some very mild spicy salsas, jams, pickles and cooking sauces to try. A few years ago a lot of the vendors would have been presenting hot sauces made with the Red Savina Habanero chile, since that was the world’s hottest chile at the time, but since then the Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper) and then the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T took over. This year the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is now the world’s hottest chile pepper at around 2 million Scovilles, and there were a few hot sauces to try containing them, but there were also hotter sauces, that combined chile extracts for more heat.
If you feel brave enough, you should try Cajohn’s Execution Station. There will be a row of about 8 hot sauces in order of increasing hotness up to a few million Scovilles. To put this into perspective a Jalapeño is roughly around 3000 Scovilles. This year the challenge was to taste was to sample the following hot sauces, Cojones, Kiss of Fire, Happy Beaver, Holy Jolokia, Trinidad Moruga, Angry Cock, Mongoose and Black Mamba. If you survive there will be a prize of a Cajohn’s beer koozie. These are very rare given the pain you have to suffer to get one.
One word of advice before you visit, capsaicin, the active ingredient in chiles that gives you the burn, isn’t dis-solvable in water (or beer), so if you need relief from the heat, take some cheese strings with you or seek out some ice-cream or milk.