Feeling the Burn

Six different indie foods to relieve your spicy fix, from Hawaiian beef chips to sweet Korean gochujang

There’s something about the temperature rising that makes you want to follow suit. If you’ve found yourself pouring Cholula over every single dish lately (I too, purchase mine in bulk by the half-gallon), break out of the rut with these artisanal delights that show off the versatile use of chile peppers, from sweet to smoky. Rather than try to make you cry, these handmade foods (and drink) use heat to surprise.

Mazi Piri Piri Hot Sauce

Believe us when we tell you the best piri piri hot sauce we’ve ever tasted is made by Bon Jovi’s former manager Peter Mantas in New Jersey. He makes Mazi (meaning “together” in Greek) in the style of Portugal’s Algarve region. The dense, fiery and extremely savory sauce is sealed with a cute cork top; the bottles and label designed by his sweetheart Leslie Feingold. They also offer the crazier Triple H, aka Habanero Harvest Heat, which we’ve still been too scared to taste; it’s only available February through August. Mazi Piri Piri sauce is often sold out at Brooklyn Kitchen but you can always order the old-fashioned way: via check or money order (2 for $30).

Fire Cider African Bronze

Made in Massachusetts, Shire City Herbals’ Fire Cider has been tingling our tongues and throats whenever we feel under the weather (or hungover). The apple cider vinegar-based recipe becomes palatable with a little honey, and their new Fire Cider African Bronze ($16 for 8oz) makes use of certified organic, sustainably harvested and fair traded honey via The African Bronze Honey Project (which supports entrepreneurship and beekeeping in Zambia with consideration to the environment). The raw, dark honey adds a deep smokiness while horseradish, onion, garlic, ginger and habanero pepper add even more kick to the apple cider vinegar base. Liquid torture for some; a miracle tonic for others.

Hot Pepper Paste by Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi

If you’ve ever wandered through the aisles of a Korean grocery store, you might have spotted tubs on tubs on tubs of hot pepper paste. Gochujang is such a household staple—don’t call it a condiment—that there are overflowing offerings from tons of brands. Sadly, most are pre-loaded with fillers, flavorings and corn syrup; and very processed. MIL Kimchi’s artisanal version (2 jars for $20) is made with malt syrup to provide that sweet, not salty, heat. The thick, sticky consistency has to be spooned out, not poured. We use it to transform simple fried rice or a bibimbap bowl, as a dipping sauce (mixed with some miso paste) for crudité, and as a base for stir-fry.

“Hot” Chocolate by Valerie Confections

Well, this is embarrassing… there’s no photo of Valerie Confections’ Hot Good Mix Chocolate Bar ($10) because we ate it too fast. What’s left is this “cheeky” awesome cardboard packaging by fellow Los Angelenos Commune Design; the two brands have been collaborating for years on delectable goods. The 61% bittersweet chocolate gets its heat from peppers and paprika; almonds, sesame seeds, raisins and flour de sel round out the crunchy magic.

Spicy Beef Chips by Maui Crisps

Coming in second place at the 2015 Made in Maui County Festival, Maui Crisps offer an alternative to tough, chewy beef jerky by taking inspiration from juicy Hawaiian pipikaula (“beef rope”). Super thin slices of local beef are marinated in sauces, then dried on the slopes of Haleakalā—and the resulting light crunch (and addictiveness) is seriously on par with potato chips. They come in four different flavors (Original, Spicy Teriyaki, Hot, Black Pepper) and naturally, the spicier ones disappeared almost immediately, but the gentle heat stays on the tongue for a while. As the young company’s just getting started, you’ll have a tough time trying to find it anywhere outside of Hawaii or even online, so send a kind friend to their local grocery store and ship (like our Social Media Manager’s mom did) or give them call at 808-877-4044.

Homemade Salsa by Salsa Pistolero

Like neighborhood milkmen of yesteryear, Miguel Banuelos drops by three different locations in NYC’s East Village weekly—Harry & Ida’s sandwich shop and general store, ABC Beer Co. and Mexican grocery store Miscellanea—to deliver his jars of salsa made from his mother’s recipes. Made with no preservatives and not shelf stable, Salsa Pistolero is meant to be eaten within 1-2 weeks; therefore it’s not sold online, as “freshness is what it’s all about and shipping messes with that,” he tells CH. The pure flavors in this salsa are near life-changing, from the spicy chunky-yet-smooth El Super Clásico to the runnier Chile de Arbol (“the salsa that bites back”). We’d like to request Banuelos to start bottling them in bigger jars.

Images by Cool Hunting