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These five fiery condiments boost the flavor in everyday dishes.

August 15, 2008

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 jalapeƱos) and adobo sauce (seasoned tomato sauce)

Heat index: medium, with a smoky, slightly sweet, meaty, and savory flavor. Drying and smoking concentrates a jalapeƱo'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.

2. Sriracha

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 . 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

Where to find it: Asian markets, or from or brand we use, Huy Fong, comes in a plastic jar with a green lid and gold label depicting a rooster.

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

Consistency: watery

Where to find it: grocery store shelves near the ketchup and barbecue sauce

Best uses: Use on almost anything that needs a little heat.

5. Wasabi

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.

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