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What’s not to love about hot sauce? When confronted with bland, flavourless food, it could turn your world around. And when it is food you truly love, just a drop could help elevate the taste to new levels you haven’t experienced before. There is magic in hot sauce.
We have spent many years looking for that perfect combination of flavour and spice only to be directed to department stores that have aisles full of imported condiments. We’ve often liked what we tried and yet couldn’t help but wonder why the Indian hot sauce market remained unpenetrated. After all, we aren’t devoid of a history of spice and the world can’t stop talking about ‘spicy Indian food’.
What makes our spice different from the rest of the world? Where do the innumerable varieties of native chili go? Why did it take so long for the prized Bhoot Jholokia to be bottled into a sauce? We have too many questions as you can see, but we may just have found answers to some of them, with our very first bottle of the original Indian hot sauce, Naagin.
The snake dances and much else
Hot sauce, we’ve always noticed, has a strange quality of packing a punch in every kind of food without hampering the original flavour. It’s perhaps why you can never have enough of it. Or why a drop leads to two, and then some.
The first thing you will notice about Naagin, after the name of course, is the design that pervades the website, the bottles and everything between. It’s cool, it’s Indian, and it’s kitschy without making you cringe.
So, yes the bottle has the quintessential BEST double decker bus and the Bandra-Worli Sea Link in the distance. It also has a parrot, a trumpet player and more. There’s a lot of chili thrown in for good measure. In case you are wondering, the sauce is manufactured on the outskirts of Mumbai which explains the imagery. They are trying to be not just uniquely Indian, but also rooted in the city they come from.
Let’s just admit it. We love everything about the branding!
Read the story of their origin on the website and it might deeply resonate with your own sentiments. It did with ours. They were as perturbed by the absence of an Indian hot sauce in the market and set out to create their own. They were tired of American sauces manufactured with chillies from Mexico and then imported to India.
They wanted to take the Indian spice culture and passion for food into a sauce that would not only be the flavour upgrade we are looking for, but uniquely and passionately Indian.
As you can tell, we were sold and set out to order our first bottle of Naagin sauce. We can’t boast of great spice tolerance, so we played it safe and chose the Naagin Original variant with a medium heat level. There is the Naagin Bhoot Extra Spicy for those who can handle it.
The hot sauce chronicles
Our Naagin hot sauce arrived, packed with care and without damage or leakage in days of us placing the order. It was a Mumbai address, so we can’t comment on delivery elsewhere yet. The bottle comes with the same kitsch branding and with a wide mouth that makes pouring easy.
We recommend you look for something to pair the sauce with and don’t try it on its own for the first time. At first, the Naagin sauce smells of sharp red peppers and the colour is a deep sunset orange. It’s hot sauce after all. We grabbed a bag of salted wafers and dipped one into the Naagin sauce. We didn’t feel an overwhelming amount of spice and carried on with the exercise until we had to stop.
The sauce is a bit deceptive to say the least and the first bite may not be a measure of the spicy punch it packs. The spice level gets deeper with every bite until your taste buds are tingling. We were initially a bit disappointed. Given our spice tolerance, we most often cannot handle a medium spicy hot sauce, while this seemed like a breeze.
What sets Naagin Indian Hot Sauce apart isn’t these spice levels though. It is the flavour. Made using native Bhavnagri (from Gujarat) and Sankeshwari (from Maharashtra) chillies, the sauce has a warm, well-rounded texture. It is sour, spicy and comes with a hint of garlic. It is a sauce that will not only add to your food a spicy punch, but shine on its own too.
Our first experience had made us braver and we were now pairing this sauce with every kind of meal and snack. We went through several bags of chips, a batch of homemade momos, open toasts and wait for it, a bowl of dal too. With every pairing, the experience was markedly different. The hot sauce doesn’t simply blend into the food pairings but brought out a whole new flavour.
Naagin hot sauce in the kitchen
Naagin Indian Hot Sauce is also the kind that will give you many ideas. Once you’ve paired it with dry foods and experimented with cuisines, you realise that this uniquely Indian sauce works beautifully with Indian food.
A few drops in a bowl of dal can take your ordinary home meal and turn it into a spicy surprise. Your omelette pav breakfast will never taste the same again, we assure you. What we realised over time was that the level of the bottle was depleting rapidly as both us and our guests alike were digging into the sauce at every meal.
It is food pairings that make this hot sauce so suitable for Indian meals and kitchens. We put a dollop of it into a lettuce, rocket and feta salad and we didn’t miss the spiky mustard we usually use in the dressing. The refreshing salad was made better with the taste of these unique chillies.
The native chillies, as you will be able to tell over time, have a flavour that is distinctly different from Mexican varieties or, for that matter, Bhoot Jholokia. They are warmly spicy without being pungent and have the ability to charm you slowly, but surely.
We can’t wait to use this in a lot of our cooking, both Indian and otherwise. Next in line is grilled chicken with Indian spices topped with Naagin hot sauce. We are also contemplating adding a dollop of it into an Egg curry. Until then, our breakfasts and snack binges seem incomplete without it.
We’d like to once again reiterate, if spice levels are all you are looking for, the medium spicy variant is not for you. But, if it’s about flavour, then the Naagin Indian Hot Sauce is a winner like no other.