MANILA -- There was a time in our lives when the only legitimate hot sauce in town was Jufran: that tangy, bright orange and mildly hot sauce in a small slim bottle that usually comes with your local pizza. That was my introduction to chili condiments.
Apart from that, most Filipinos back in the 1990s resort to bringing their own labuyo chilis to get their spice fix. Luckily, sometime in the last decade or so, more big brands like Tabasco and Sriracha became more popular in the Philippines, thanks to a boom in the food industry and improved accessibility to such products.
But did you know that a growing number of independent Philippine brands are conjuring up their own blend of spices? And they even come in varying levels of spiciness and in different forms too.
Collectively known as the Philippine Chili Federation, these brands form an open secret society that celebrates all the hottest things in life. And they are coming together to stage the 6th Philippine Chili Festival on Sunday, August 25, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Whitespace, Makati City.
Over 300 homegrown brands from all over the country are participating in the event. As a preview, I rounded out some of the up and coming products that are sure to turn up the heat in the local food scene.
1. Bad Boy Tikboy’s Death Cookie is possibly the hottest cookie ever. Spiked with the world's hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper, this hot snack comes with a fair warning: Eat at your own risk. For thrill seekers, you can test out your tongue’s limit with the Death Cookie Challenge happening at the 6th Philippine Hot Sauce Festival.
2. Mother Tongue Mushroom Chili dipping sauce blends two of the world’s most potent sources of antioxidants. It’s a delicious and healthy condiment that can spice up almost everything and comes in unique local flavors of tamarind or kamias.
3. Kraken Spicy Cuttlefish Garlic Crunch by Ghie’s Pot
Kraken is a personal favorite. I used to think that all chili garlic crunch products are pretty much the same, just with varying levels of garlic and other spices. This, however, is a game-changer, thanks to a unique blend of curry leaves and cuttlefish. It’s hot enough to tickle your taste buds and yet interestingly flavored to keep you wanting more.
4. Spicy Louie Habanero Rosemary in EVOO
This dressing in extra virgin olive oil was voted Best Chili Oil by the Philippine Hot Sauce Club in 2017. It is homemade, organic and is best paired with pizzas, pastas, sausages and other bread.
Basimati offers a range of all natural vinegar that is comfortingly familiar but with an excitingly unique flavor. The brand tags itself as "gourmet sawsawan" which basically levels up your Filipino dipping sauces. It promises to change your experience of local cuisine that goes or is made with vinegar like kinilaw and chicken inasal.
6. The Mad Hotter Dessert hot sauce
Who says hot sauces are just for savory or bland food? Epic’s the Mad Hotter dessert sauce is made to spice up your usual sweet snacks. Best paired with cakes, crepes, frappes and ice creams.