What Is Thai Style Hot Sauce?


Like many commercially manufactured hot sauces, the store-shelf bottled version will be much different than what was originally conceived. This is true of many Thai hot sauces because they were authentically made and consumed for years before they were manufactured and sold as a sauce. A hot sauce with the Thai on the label does not guarantee it will be authentic.

What makes Thai hot sauce original?

Original Thai hot sauce will include the Thai chili or bird’s eye chili which has a Scoville Heat Unit of about 75,000 SHU. Thai hot sauce is similar in consistency and appearance to a chili sauce. Other authentic or homemade versions of a Thai hot sauce contain fish sauce and can be a very thin consistency.

A Thailand hot sauce may not exist under the same realm as hot sauces in the US or other countries, but they are often used for the same reasons, as a bold topping for food or as a dipping sauce. However, many Thailand dishes also use these sauces as a cooking aid as many other cultures may do.

One characteristic of Thai food is that it is spicy, so naturally, some of the sauces would be as well. Like other Asian cultures, hot peppers were originally consumed for health reasons. The chemical compound capsaicin that is found in chili peppers has proven to have many health benefits for the body.

There are many versions of hot sauces that fall under specific headings and this is true of sauces from Thailand as well but they all use a Thai chili or bird’s eye pepper. There are other species of peppers grown in and around Thailand that are used in cooking and sauces but the bird’s eye is what is most commonly used.

What is a Thai hot sauce made with?

Like many hot sauces, hot peppers and a few ingredients can make a bold and tasty sauce. There are a few versions of hot sauces from Thailand but most of them will include Thai chili as one of the main ingredients instead of pepper powders or pepper-infused flavors.

Thai chili

Many hot sauces will simply list chili peppers as the source of hot peppers for the sauce. Thai chili, Birds eye are common names for the small but potent hot peppers grown in and around Thailand. A hot sauce made with Thai chilis will be very spicy.

The Thai chili pepper is very hot and ranks about 75,000 on the Scoville scale. Compared to a cayenne pepper around 40,000 a Thai chili is much hotter. Using them in a sauce or cooking them with other ingredients will reduce the heat. Here are some of the other varieties of peppers from Thailand all having an array of different uses.

Spur chili

A spur chili pepper is not very hot at about 1,000 SHU. These peppers are about the same heat level as Anaheim or poblano. The more common red or green spur chili is not used in sauces very often but they are used as a garnish in dishes.

Thai yellow chili

Thai yellow chilis are banana peppers between 15,000 and 40,000 SHU. These are similar in shape to a Fresno but have a heat level of a serrano. The Thai yellow chili peppers are used in sauces and curry but not as commonly used as the bird’s eye.

Thai jinda

The Thia jinda is another Thai chili pepper with much less heat than the commonly used bird’s eye. These peppers are used in Thai cuisine but are not commonly found in a hot sauce. Their level of heat is between the yellow chili and prik kee nuk or Thai chili.

Bird’s eye chili, Thai chili, prik kee nuk

A bird’s eye chili pepper is very hot and is the type of pepper typically used in Thai hot sauce. These small peppers rank on the Scoville scale at about 50,000 – 100,000 SHU. They are also used in other Moroccan-style harissa hot pepper pastes as well.

Prik kee noo

The prik kee noo is one of the hottest peppers from Thailand at over 100,000 SHU and up to 250,000 SHU. These are sometimes mistakenly referred to as a bird’s eye chili because of their size. These peppers are used interchangeable with the prik kee noo but will provide much more spice.

How is it different?

Traditional hot sauces are made with simple combinations of ingredients like hot peppers. A Thai hot sauce will provide spiciness and umami flavors to any meal if traditional fish sauces are added. For some Thai style hot sauces fish sauce is as common as the hot peppers themselves.

Fish sauce

Fish sauce or nam pla is made from fermented fish. Like many fermented products, the fish are coated in salt and fermented for months or years. Fish sauce is a common ingredient in many Thai or Thai-influenced sauces as well as Southeast Asian cooking.

Fish sauce is very salty and much saltier in Thailand than other sauces from regional areas where it is also used like Vietnam (thekitchn.com). The sauce by itself has a pungent aroma and potent taste. There are many varieties of peppers used in hot sauces. The problem with many Thai hot sauces is they only list the peppers as being Thai Chili.

Fym Original Hot Sauce

Fym Original hot sauce uses Thai chilis in combination with other peppers but is not considered a Thai hot sauce. Although the peppers may be distinct of the region and have a specific flavor to them it could get lost in a hot sauce with many ingredients.

Pad Thai sauce

A Pad Thai sauce will commonly use soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce but has a very low level of spice to it. Tamarind is a common ingredient in a Pad Thai sauce as well as other Thai hot sauces. The brand Watcharee uses dried chilis and pepper powder as the spiciness.

Nam Pla Prik

Nam Prik is a hot pepper and fish sauce and lime juice combination. It is made with fermented fish but is not the source of the heat.  Lan Prik Chili Sauce uses fish sauce as the main ingredient and only lists chili as the source of any spiciness.

Sriracha

Sriracha Panich is cited as being the original sriracha invented in Thailand in the 1930s. The original being a bit spicier and runnier than the popular brand by Hoy Fung. This is not what is typically thought of as a hot sauce from Thailand.

Sweet Thai chili sauce

A sweet chili sauce is much different in flavor than a fish sauce-based hot sauce. There are usually almost equal parts of sweet and heat but often sugar will be one of the main ingredients. This may be a typical sauce found in a Thai restaurant and is similar to a chili oil from China.

Commercial Thai hot sauce

Commercial Thai hot sauce may not include some of the same ingredients as an authentic sauce, like many hot sauces. Simply because a sauce has the words Thai on the label does not make it authentic and these labels can sometimes be used for marketing purposes.

Thai Monkey Hot Sauce by Captain Thom’s and Dingo Sauce Co Chili Jam Thai Style Sauce are commercial examples of hot sauces that use Thai influenced ingredients in their sauces. Both of these gourmet sauces use non-traditional Thai sauce ingredients in a contemporary way to highlight a Thai influence.

Yai’s Thai make great flavorful sauces but are very low in heat. Thai Kitchen sauces by McCormick or Taste of Thai are other examples of great flavored commercial sauces. There are many versions of a Thai hot sauce. Other hot sauces like Louisiana style, Buffalo wing, or ethnic sauces like Gochujang will also have a variation from manufacturer to manufacture. Several hot sauces fall under the category of a Thai hot sauce but the authentic ones will have a high level of spice to them like many Thailand dishes.

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