There is nothing like a dash of hot sauce to liven up even the blandest of all dishes. In fact, true to the genre of sauces all over the world, the hot sauce is not only an accompaniment but also does honors as the prime ingredient in many dishes.
The term hot sauce could not have been more apt for it refers to any hot and spicy sauce made from chilly peppers or chilly extracts and vinegar. Thus, you can have sauces made from any kind of chilly pepper (i.e., the fruits of plants hailing from the Capsicum family) like red peppers, habaneras or tabasco. The Tabasco sauce is the most popular amongst all the hot sauces available.
How hot your hot sauce is going to be is determined by the type of pepper being used. Thus, you have the bell pepper with a barely-there taste at one end of the spectrum and the robust habaneros, which will work up quite a steam, at the other end. Interestingly, it is a substance called capsaicin, which imparts the characteristic heat to the pepper.
The hot sauce is a popular constituent in many Mexican and Cajun dishes and in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. However, its most widespread use is, as a barbequeue accompaniment.
Barbecue sauce is poured onto grilled or barbecued meat. It is also used as a dipper. A hot barbecue sauce is usually a blend of sweet, sour and spicy elements and the most popular combination contains tomato flavorings, vinegar and sugar.
Barbecue sauces come in myriad forms, with every region boasting of their native BBQ sauce. Thus you have the fiery Texas variety with a tomato base, the vinegar and tomato based Arkansas variety tempered down by molasses, the white mayonnaise based Alabama type and the black pepper, mustard and vinegar concoction hailing from South Carolina.
For all the fire they spew, hot pepper sauces are easy to prepare.
Take a few peppers (the number wholly depends on how hot your sauce will be) like habanera or tabasco, a cup of water, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, one bell pepper, a tablespoon of paprika, salt to taste and cumin if you so desire. Chop or grind the peppers and boil it with all the ingredients. Lastly, crush this heady mixture in a blender. Your hot pepper sauce is ready.
A word of caution
While working with pepper and pepper sauces, do remember to don the gloves. Some peppers are nothing short of live ammunition and are known to cause skin irritation and are especially nasty when they get into the eyes.
There is more to a pepper than just the tangy taste. Peppers are storehouses of vitamins A, C and E, potassium and folic acid. So apart from the distinct taste, the hot sauces also impart some nutritional value to the dishes they grace.
The hot sauce holds its own in whatever dish it appears. As the saying goes, like it or loathe it, you just cannot ignore it.