On nearly every table in New Orleans, I found two bottles: one of Tabasco and one of Crystal. The people of Louisiana have strong allegiance to one or the other, and a missing bottle of favorite hot sauce can be cause for much grumbling. I dutifully tried both during my stay. Guess which one has taken up residence in my kitchen?
Crystal has a deep, almost smoky pepper flavor. You taste that intense pepper flavor first, the heat second, and then the vinegar and saltiness come into play. Sipping spoonfuls of the raw stuff, Crystal becomes strangely addictive!
The explanation is clear when you look at the ingredients. Crystal's first ingredient is "aged red cayenne peppers." Tabasco's? That would be "distilled vinegar."
Now, I love Tabasco and have used it to brighten my dishes for years. Maybe it's the novelty of Crystal that's attracting me at the moment, but I have to admit that it's doing a good job of winning me over.
Maybe, like the residents of Louisiana, I will have to start keeping both. And a bottle of garlicky Sriracha for good measure.
Do you owe allegiance to a particular hot sauce?
Related: Randy Clemens' Chilaquiles: Cookbook Review and Recipe from the Sriracha Cookbook
(Information for this post was gathered during a press trip to New Orleans sponsored by the Louisiana Seafood Board. All views and opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author.)
(Image: Emma Christensen)