Each of these condiments has its own distinct brand of heat. Keep them on hand to add a burst of flavor to any dish.
1. Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce
Country of origin: Mexico; "chipotle" is a combination of the prefix chi (for "chile") and potle (Aztec word for "smoke")
Main ingredients: chipotle chiles (dried, smoked jalapeños) and adobo sauce (seasoned tomato sauce)
Heat index: medium, with a smoky, slightly sweet, meaty, and savory flavor. Drying and smoking concentrates a jalapeño's heat.
Consistency: rehydrated, soft chiles in tomato sauce
Where to find: canned, in the Latin foods section of most grocery stores
Best uses: They're usually not added after cooking, but are often an ingredient in chili, soups, and sauces.
Country of origin: Thailand (named after a seaside town)
Main ingredients: red Thai chiles, sugar, vinegar, salt, and garlic
Heat index: moderately hot and spicy, but rounded with sweetness and deepened with garlic
Consistency: thick, like bottled barbecue sauce
Where to find it: Asian markets, or order from www.ethnicgrocer.com . The most common brand, Huy Fong, comes in a clear plastic squeeze bottle with a rooster on the label and a bright green cap.
Best uses: Enjoyed as a table condiment in Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, it's also great with non-Asian dishes. Try it in place of ketchup on most anything-French fries, omelets or scrambled eggs, pizza, hot dogs, and hamburgers.
3. Sambal Oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
Country of origin: Indonesia
Main ingredients: chiles with little additional seasoning other than vinegar
Heat index: intense
Consistency: somewhat thin, like tomato puree
Best uses: Stir into sauces and marinades.
4. Hot Pepper Sauce
Country of origin: United States
Main ingredients: Tabasco Sauce, the most recognizable brand, is made with hot peppers grown on Avery Island, Louisiana. The peppers are mashed and fermented in oak barrels for up to 3 years, then mixed with vinegar.
Heat index: moderately spicy and vinegary
Where to find it: grocery store shelves near the ketchup and barbecue sauce
Best uses: Use on almost anything that needs a little heat.
Country of origin: Japan
Main ingredients: Nicknamed "Japanese horseradish," wasabi is grated from a rare plant that is not actually related to horseradish. The real thing is expensive and hard to find in the United States. (What Americans eat-and our recipes use- is a blend of horseradish and mustard tinted green with food coloring to look like wasabi.)
Heat index: varies; has pungent, intense spiciness that registers first in your sinuses and makes your eyes water
Consistency: thick, toothpastelike texture
Where to find: Look for tubes of wasabi paste or powder (to reconstitute with water) in the Asian food section of large supermarkets or in Asian markets.
Best uses: Serve with sushi, mix into mashed potatoes, or use in a sauce or marinade for strong-flavored fish.