Posted February 8, 2008 by Daniel in Reviews

Review: Valentina Hot Sauce

Please join me in welcoming Daniel to the HSB reviewer ranks. Daniel is a true chilehead and very eager to get into the wide world of hot sauces. Welcome Daniel!

Valentina Hot Sauce

Okay gang, this is my first official review for HSB, so go easy ““ and greetings from Jersey City, NJ. I’ve got a real winner on my hands and I’m excited to share the news. Valentina Salsa Picante is a Mexican style hot sauce available in Original and Extra Hot versions, either in a 12 oz. or a mammoth 34 oz. bottle, about the size of a small vase.

I scored the extra hot big mama on sale today for a whopping two bucks at a local Spanish supermarket, which is where you’ll most likely find it, if not in your Spanish foods aisle. Can you say recession-friendly pricing? Also, you can try your luck at a bodega, or as a last resort, Anyway, it shouldn’t be that hard to find if you do a little digging.

First off, I love the large sized bottle; it makes a statement that you’ve arrived as a culinary heat-seeker, or you’re a chef. Sitting on the table, it just can’t be ignored, you’ll be tempted to drizzle some on your corn flakes. The label is nondescript but that’s fine – take a look at the beautiful rusty red liquid surrounding it. What you have here is an authentic Mexican hot sauce that obviously, at 34 oz., wants to be taken to the dance quite often.

A run-down of the ingredients: Water, chili peppers, vinegar, salt, spices and a dash of sodium benzoate for preservation.

If you enjoy the liberal use of a Louisiana style table sauce, you’ll definitely want to pucker up to this one. For comparison, this sauce is much smoother, a bit thicker and lacks the strong vinegar twang common to the aforementioned style. The color and consistency are reminiscent of some of the hot wing sauces, a burnt-orange to reddish hue, and it clings well to whatever you use it on ““ it’s not runny.

Now for the taste: I bought a bottle of this to keep at my parent’s house, and during a recent gathering, I noticed my father had poured some in a ramekin and was serving it alongside tortilla chips. He does weird things like that, but it didn’t stop me from digging in. Salsa would have been preferable but I guess they ran out. Shame! Anyway, it was the perfect snack to wash down with a frosty one ““ it was that good as a standalone.

Valentina Hot Sauce

What I noticed about this sauce is that the chili pepper mash is of excellent quality ““ that’s what lingers. This full-bodied sauce is rich, very well blended and it’s the peppers that hold the stage ““ not the salt or vinegar. As far as heat, it has a nice bite that hangs around for a while, like that which a proper chili would offer, but not as pronounced. (A really good, spiced chili has a demonic way of not letting you do anything else but eat more of it, as you cry and sniffle on a cloud of endorphins ““ nothing else like it).

To me, this is a true chilehead’s table sauce. Since I prefer my general sauce a bit hotter than this, I usually end up going through the bottle fairly quickly, then when I get about 1/3 of the way through it, I add a blend of other already-opened sauces and a few dashes of a superhot to create a custom blend, so Valentina also makes for a terrific base if you’re into this sort of thing. Then I’ll reuse my emptied 5 ounce bottles, fill it with this mix and give it to friends as gifts ““ they always like to keep up with your heat tolerance it seems.

Valentina Hot Sauce

For this review I bought some Spanish food at a local cucina (kitchen), which consisted of seasoned rice and beans (mixed together, called “morro”) and a few slices of beef, which they call “bistec” prepared in a light Creole sauce. I couldn’t resist getting an empanada, as these go particularly well with hot sauce. To round out my meal, once home, I added tortilla chips, a few slices of jack cheese, some salsa, a cherry pepper and a few olives. Then I poured the sauce over most of the platter and went to work, adding more sauce as needed.

Other pairings that I recommend with Valentina are chili, tamales, pasta, pizza, omelets and oh yes, the venerable Bloody Mary. Hummus too with olive-oil brushed, grilled pita chips, Mmm!

Hopefully this brand will increase its distribution in due time. For the regular price of about $3.50 for 32 ounces, the value is incontestable given the excellent quality product. While Tapatio tastes similar and is much easier to find, I still think the Extra Hot Valentina gives it a run for the money; it’s a bit deeper, spicier and more complex in flavor. With these two in the ring, you know which lady gets my vote.

Appearance: 7/10 Considering that this is an all-purpose sauce, it holds court compared to most of the vinegar-based commercial brands, bearing an interesting coloration of dark orange and brick red.

Aroma: 7/10 Spicy, slightly smoky with a hint of sweetness

Heat: 8/10 Compared to most other common table sauces found in supermarkets. Heat being subjective, for my war-weary taste buds this sauce is probably about a 5, but it’s the flavor that shines through here, not so much the heat, although it’s still generous.

Texture: 8/10 Very smooth, rich and well-blended. Not runny and clings well to food ““ I’m thinking buffalo wings.

Flavor: 8/10 Yum! Almost drinkable, boatloads of whatever kinds of chiles they use just swimming around in the mouth. Nice, long-lasting peppery finish. Heat doesn’t get in the way of those peppers, but escorts them down the aisle respectfully ““ you can taste this sauce. A nice departure from the ubiquitous vinegar-laden clan.

Overall: 8/10 This well-made sauce champions the chile, just the way it should be. Also, a hidden gem when it comes to value and a great base to make your own rocket fuel.