My family is very competitive. Over anything. Sports. Games. Planking. Even at the dinner table. Over hot sauce. A typical point of contention at a Sunday dinner at my parent’s house would be over who could handle the most hot sauce. For some reason, a tolerance for spiciness has been equated with level of machoism. Even my husband has been brainwashed by this mentality. In defense of any questioning over his manliness, his Caucasian palette for spiciness has matured over the years, and he has developed quite a tolerance for heat. He’ll take a heaping spoon of hot sauce, and before dumping it on top of my mom’s already-spicy Kung Pao chicken, he’ll beckon over to my sister with a grin on his face: “Hey Catherine….look!” She’ll re-act with a patronizing eye-roll, and respond with a deadpan: “Okaaay, John. Cool!”
My brother, who is known to always stir the pot, will impose preposterous hot sauce challenges to his nephews and nieces. A typical dare: “I’ll give anyone $50 if you eat this huge spoonful of straight hot sauce.” The kids’ eyes will widen, and right before they’re about to accept his stupid offer, he’ll add at the last second: “And you can’t drink any water afterwards for 24 hours.” Mayhem unleashes. “Crazy! Unfair! You can’t do that!” We’ll spend the rest of the dinner debating if he could technically add on that stipulation at the very last minute, and then we’ll analyze if your body could physically survive all that hot sauce intake without water for 24 hours….and the dinner would just digress from there.
So when I say “hot sauce”, I don’t mean the green-topped bottle of Sriracha. That’s not hot sauce; that’s like ketchup. My mom developed her own hot sauce recipe because she was always left with a surplus of serrano peppers every time she made Kung Pao chicken (see 12/21/09 recipe post). She would only need four or five peppers for that. But when the Chinese supermarket sells a package with 10 times more than you need, you figure out what to do with the rest. Chinese people do NOT like to waste anything. Ever. That is why we eat cow tongue, pig stomach and chicken feet. Heaven forbid that you throw anything away. You simply add some soy sauce and sesame oil, and call it a “delicacy”. Voila! Suddenly, the most disgusting animal part is disguised into something “edible-y delicious.”