Cooking is the ultimate example of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts—if you’re doing it right, anyways. Sauces prove an even more concentrated example where the balance of elements is doubly important since it’s largely their sole purpose to impart, achieve, and elevate flavor. That’s why when we find a great sauce—one that hits all the right notes—we can become so enamored. Addicted, even.
Like a sprinkling of fairy dust, the right sauce can make magic from the ordinary.
A few years ago I was stumbling through a farmers’ market near Brooklyn’s Prospect Park when I happened upon a vendor selling locally made hot sauces. Of the few I tasted, one, a carrot-ginger hot sauce, grabbed me with a perfect balance of hot chili, sweet carrot, and fragrant ginger. It reminded me of those bright, creamy dressings you might find alongside a small salad at a Japanese restaurant, only with the heat of the chili pepper.
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I bought the biggest bottle they had and in the coming weeks, it became a bit of an obsession. I stress that it was, in fact, weeks because putting this hot sauce on as much as I did—chicken, grilled fish, tacos, corn chips—it certainly didn’t last longer than that.
In an act of inconceivable stupidity, I threw the finished bottle out not having recorded the maker’s name. I suppose I subconsciously assumed I’d be able to find them easily on the internet, but that proved not to be the case, google as I might. Eventually, I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to make my own carrot-ginger hot sauce. By some stroke of luck, the very first recipe I tried—from hot sauce-centric blogger Chili Pepper Madness—was a near-perfect match.
This carrot, ginger, and chili hot sauce is absolute heaven. I make it in batches and bottle it, gift it, keep it on hand and put it on damn near everything. The only adjustment I will sometimes make is the addition of a little more ginger in the form of fresh, finely grated (since I’m a full ginger junkie) and a dash of sugar. This version is hot, in a wonderful way, but for me sweetening it just a touch means I can eat it all that much more without annihilating the lining of my stomach.