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An English obsession with chilli sauce

It’s all about endorphins

In recent years, the English have developed a taste for chilli sauces. I’m a self confessed chilli head myself – I love a drop of chilli sauce to heat up a meal. There seems to be an English obsession with chilli sauce these days and I’ve wondered what it is about chilli that has me and others going back for more. This is despite chilli burn when eating some products and the inevitable gush of sweat! A quick bit of chilli research will answer that – capsaicin, a chemical present in chilli sends a burning sensation from nerve endings in your mouih to your brain. The bodies natural response is the secretion of endorphins, your natural stress and pain fighting chemicals that reduce your perception of pain and produce a sense of euphoria (endorphins are also released on physical stress such as exercise, which explains that high when you’ve been to the gym).

A nation of chilli heads

Chilli’s addictive qualities have seen chilli producers booming, with chilli eating competitions becoming increasingly fashionable and shops from supermarkets to delis stocking all sorts of weird and wonderful chilli sauces. I was recently meant to attend the Tyne Burner festival at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’s Tyne Bank Brewery. The festival saw various producers selling their wares in the confines of the brewery, with street food and beer available. The day included League of Fire chilli eating competitions which were hotly contested (excuse the pun) by the likes of Johnny Scoville, Adele Wilkinson, Justin ‘The Thunder from Down Under’ Rummel and the UK Chilli Queen, Shahina Waseem.

Can they take the heat?

My favourite chilli sauces

So, are you tempted to try some chilli sauce? I’ve listed my favourites – these are all available in England through various outlets – where possible I’ll include links to buy.

1. Sriracha from Flying Goose

I love this stuff. It’s not too hot and adds a delicious kick – it falls between 1,000–2,500 SHU on the scoville scale. Try it on chips or as a dip for crisps. It can be purchased here.

2. Shakey’s In The Valley from Chilli of the Valley

This was an instant favourite of mine – a shame it’s a limited edition and out of stock at the moment. A collaboration between Welsh chilli sauce producers Chilli of the Valley and English producer Shakey’s Chilli Shack, this is a blend of 24 varieties of chilli. It’s a hot one but natural and various flavours can be picked out. Keep an eye on the website here to purchase.

3. Sambal from Daddy Cools Chilli Sauce

English obsession with chilli sauce - Sambal

This is more a relish (or chutney), popular in Malaysia. It comes in a jar ideal for dipping and works wonderfully well added to a stir fry or noodles. The heat won’t overwhelm, it’ll add a nice warming flavour to your food. Sambal can be purchased from Derbyshire company, Daddy Cools here.

4. Psycho Juice – 70% Ghost Pepper from Dr Burnorium’s Hot Sauce Emporium

This stuff is a very hot – a couple of drops stirred into a sauce will do the job unless you’re a real chilli head and can take the heat.. Ghost Pepper (or Bhut Jolokia) is known as one of the hottest chillis out there – 1,041,427 SHU on the scoville scale. This will be hot enough for you. But if you’re a little mad, Bristol based Dr Burnorium’s Hot Sauce Emporium produces a hotter, extreme version of Psycho Juice.. You can buy the 70% Ghost Pepper version here.

And there we have it. The great thing about chilli sauce is that it’s not bad for you – in fact, it will boost your vitamin A and C and can be added to food as part of a balanced diet. My list of favourites will no doubt expand as I try them. Are you a chilli fan? Do you have any favourites? Let me know.