The Hot Sauce Cookbook
Reviewed by Kenny Pailes, Fri., Aug. 23, 2013
The Hot Sauce Cookbookby Robb Walsh
Ten Speed Press, 144 pp., $16.99
I'll now confess my former ignorance. Despite my unabashed love for fiery foods all these years, I've been spelling and pronouncing "habanero" the wrong way. Maybe you have been, too. As it turns out, the famously hot chile's name should be spelled with an ordinary "n" not the Spanish letter "eñe." After all, "habanero" simply means "one from Havana," a reference to the fact that the pepper's first Spanish-speaking admirers found it in the Caribbean.
While The Hot Sauce Cookbook bills itself as a compendium of sauce recipes, former editor of Chile Pepper magazine Robb Walsh's expertise is best displayed in the narrative details like this pepper name trivia. Chile names might seem insignificant, but anybody who has stood in the produce section of a grocery store scratching their head at the differences between a pasilla and an ancho knows better. So, opening this nearly pocket-sized book with a glossary and photo identification guides immediately puts it in the category of essential shopping companion for the heat-loving home cook.
The recipes themselves, straightforward and well arranged, offer plenty of new adventures for the most seasoned chileheads, as well as simple ideas for uninitiated salsamakers. For the former, several pages illustrate the delicate, multiweek process of making fermented pepper mashes, which can then be used in the recipe for Homemade Sriracha. For the latter, there's an Easy Mole Poblano that can be made in an hour.
Despite the book's name, though, recipes aren't limited to just sauces, but also include an impressive array of dishes that use them. Vietnamese n'uóc mam châ´m is paired with summer rolls. Caribbean pepper crabs are accompanied by the unique taumalin sauce. Xnipec from the Yucatan is essential for Ensalada de Nopalitos. Ethiopian berbere helps you create doro wat. Hot ajvar from the Balkans is offered as a burger topping.
Compact and concise, this condiment cookbook offers a rare foray into international treatments of chiles and is a must-have for anyone who cares enough about peppers to keep the tilde out of habanero.