Some Like it Hotter
In general, the source of most culinary heat is the chile pepper. Chiles come in many different shapes, sizes and degrees of heat. The bulk of a chile’s heat is in the interior seeds and membrane. At the top of the Scoville scale, which measures the hotness of peppers, are the habanero and Scotch bonnet varieties. Consumed unadorned, these are evil peppers. Stepping down from there are Thai chiles, then cayenne and serrano, followed by jalapeño. At the low end of the scale are Anaheim and poblano. Be very careful handling chiles — fresh or dried — as their volatile oils can easily cause you distress if your fingers touch your eyes, lips or other tender membranes. Hot sauces are derived from a variety of chiles plus liquids — commonly tomato juice and a splash of vinegar. There are whole stores and websites devoted to hot sauces, and while some are novelty products, there are many great hot sauces from around the world worth exploring. Louisiana hot sauce made primarily from cayenne peppers is the domestic standard. I prefer sriracha, a Thai hot sauce, as my go-to source of heat because it doesn’t have the sour taste of vinegar. I also like the mildly acidic taste of McIlhenny’s Green Pepper Sauce, which comes from Avery Island, outside New Orleans.