Hot Sauce with Pizza: a Study
Feature for 'Za the Pizza Zine #3
Why do people want to eat pizza with hot sauce? Why are they gastronomic buddies? For me, almost no food is spicy enough. Saucyness transcends all foods. And with pizza, I want to add sauce to the sauce. I used to eat the sauce off of chicken wings as a kid. I was a freak. And I continue to love hot sauce and pour it with reckless abandon all over my foodstuffs. The great thing is there are so many good options with hot sauce. The availability of good saucy stuff is just off the charts. But how do they work with our favorite delicious pizzas? ‘Za wanted to investigate a few tried and true favorites. Here are our findings.
Aardvark: Our own Portland signature, small-batchy hot sauce. Started as an underground situation, where the creators would leave the sauce all over town, ninja-style. It has a more Carribean and Jerk flavor. That sweetness can be overpowering depending on what you’re putting it on. Sometimes Aardvark takes over as a flavor, sometimes it complements the flavors. With pizza, it’s often dependent on the toppings but always a solid choice if it’s available. Only downside is the bottle is sometimes a bit tricky to squeeze.
Frank’s Red Hot: The tried and true, cheapskate, for all seasons hot sauce. We used to buy it in bulk in college. I would literally put it on any food that would accept it. My roommates even joked about having a hot sauce intervention when I got particularly overeager with the communal bottle. Yes, Frank’s is a one-note, salt/vinegar/spice, and tastes like a hot wing. Sometimes, that’s especially good on a pizza. Sometimes it doesn’t overpower the pizza, it just lays on top of it…like a chicken wing.
Choloula: While some might call it vinegar madness, Cholula can be the right taste for a slice. While it recently has come to light that the Cholulady looks like Bob Saget, that doesn’t derail the sauce’s slice appeal. The iconic wooden knob cap thing nonwithstanding, Choloula is a good option for anyone looking for spice, but perhaps not looking for a Scoville meltdown. While the vinegar might cut to the quick of some lesser digestive tracts, it works nicely against the backdrop of overly cheesey slice. Thank you basket bearing lady and your basket of spice. You may look like Bob Saget but your sauce sure is nice.
Tabasco: From the farms of Avery Island, Louisiana comes the most famous of all hot sauces, Tabasco, synonymous with universal hot sauciness for many Americans. Tabasco may boast its versatility: it goes on everything from eggs to jambalayaa to pasta and back again. It can be tasty on a slice if used sparingly. Thankfully, most bottles of Tabasco drip about as well as the water pressure in a dorm. A slow, withholding dollop emerges even after a good shake. The peppery bite is a nice juxtaposition to the vinegar but perhaps Tabasco is the best hot sauce when one is looking for a dash and not density.
Tapatio: Another peppery condiment with a smiling mascot, albeit Mr. Tapatio seems to verge on looking at best confused and at worst as if an alien might be occupying his body. Tapatio is generally available all over the US, from the corner grocery store to the desperation of a CVS food run to fancy pantsy markets. There’s good reason for that. This hot sauce is as versatile as it is ubiquitous, with intense pepper overtones and a lovely orange hue. I personally think this sauce rolls better with other food options like burritos, nachos or a scramble. Tapatio is certainly good on a slice in a pinch but not necessarily my first option. I think the flavor and thickness just overwhelms pizza toppings a bit. Good for a cheese slice though!
Louisiana’s Best: Ah yes, the economical shopper’s hot sauce, usually hovering below the $1 price range. Louisiana’s best, in all its salty glory, is much like Frank’s, a Louisiana, hot wing-esque sort of sauce but more acidic than savory. Louisiana’s Best can be a little watered down at times so it goes best with dishes that already have a lot of flavor. As far as pizza is concerned, it can make a slice quite wet and not really in a good way. But always a fair choice when it’s around if you’re looking for a dash of Cajun-y goodness in a pinch.
Sriarcha: Long before Sriarcha became the darling of the condiment world and appeared in everything from mayonnaise to namesake dishes at Wendy’s, it was just cock sauce. Or rooster sauce. Sriarcha, with its telltale intense bright red hue, a can’t put your finger on it sweetness and a signature thick stream out of a green cap inspires rabid devotion the world over. With this sauce, you’re going to get quite an overpowering flavor, for good or ill. Sometimes Sriarcha is just the right touch to a slice, particularly when things have sadly gone a more bland route. I think as a sauce it goes better on Asian inspired dishes where its intense flavor blends more seamlessly. I’ve unfortunately gone too far on the Sriacha route before and have had to abstain and that definitely applies to holding back on a good slice. Even a tiny dollop from that dropper can sometimes be a bit much.