Ok, no. I can’t do that.
Welcome back, everyone, to another hot sauce review. I’m continuing my look at the Secret Aardvark sauces. The original is beloved by many, with a lot of people considering it their favorite sauce. I can see why, as the sauce has a robust flavor that’s got depth and just the right amount of heat. So, how will the next in their sauce line go for me? Well, I guess I already spoiled it up top, but let’s actually get into an in-depth analysis. I’m looking at the Serrabanero sauce this time around.
There’s a lot of ingredients, so let’s get to it.
We begin with something I don’t know if I’ve seen a lot of: green tomatoes. Being in the South as I am now, fried green tomatoes is something I’ve had on numerous occasions. As it sounds, it’s a tomato that isn’t entirely ripened yet. Though there are also tomatoes that simply don’t get red and stay green as well. I don’t know exactly which they’re using here. I’m guessing simply underripened green tomatoes.
Next up, water. Then, we have onions. For the first bit of peppers, we have serranos. I’ve not had a lot of sauces that have had serranos in there. Though, considering how my own hot sauce turned out with 4 of them in there, I’m a fan. We then move on to roasted tomatillo. And no, green tomatoes and tomatillos aren’t anywhere near the same thing. Apparently, tomatillos aren’t even all that closely related to tomatoes. But anyway, I do like their flavor, and roasting them is just the way to go. We continue with the first vinegar: apple cider vinegar. Hopefully, that means not much in the way of sour/bitter vinegar bite.
Continuing with the “all things green” nature of this sauce, we have green habaneros next. Much like other peppers, green varieties are going to have a more vegetal flavor to them, as opposed to the fruity flavors of the more-ripened versions (same thing with the tomatoes, in fact). And yes, there’s still a ways to go in this ingredients list. I did say it was large.
Next is sugar. From there, cilantro. I really hope there’s not a lot of cilantro, because I’m one of those “cilantro tastes like soap” people. It’s very easy for me to bite into something with it and feel like I’m chewing on a bar of Irish Spring. Let’s hope that’s not the case here (though, the spoiler above I guess already dispels any tension there might be about that). Next on the ingredients list is salt, basil, white vinegar, and organic mustard seed.
And no, kids, we’re not done. There’s a couple lines left. Lime juice concentrate, cultured dextrose, spices, organic spices (odd distinction, but whatever), natural lime flavor (the lime juice concentrate wasn’t enough?), and turmeric.
Whoof. Did Roy Choy make this sauce? They threw the kitchen sink at it, apparently. I would actually love to know the genesis behind this sauce. Something consisting of just a couple ingredients I can see someone basically throwing together and seeing what happens. How did this sauce come about with sooooo much in there? That seems a lot more than just “a sprinkle of this. A dash of that” in its inception. Anyway, I’m getting away from myself.
The sauce has a very fresh scent. I can smell the basil, for sure. There’s no vinegar smell. It just smells like the herbs and some of the spices (I’m guessing there’s probably black pepper in here as well). The sauce is a sort of… how to describe it… a “smooth chunky.” It kinda reminds me of my sauce where it was chopped up but wasn’t super-finely blended. It’s like a chopped up pickle relish. There’s all the pulp from all the vegetables in a sort of sea of liquid. It didn’t really want to come out of the small spout on the bottle without a squeeze. And then, the chunkier stuff would mostly stay put while the juice soaked into the chicken’s breading.
So, a confession: today is the 2nd day that I’ve had this sauce. I normally type my reviews after the first time. But when I had the sauce about a week ago, my brain just went, “Wow! That’s really good!” and just kinda locked up there. And that’s honestly a bit of what’s happening again today, hence the joke at the beginning. Even preparing myself with the foreknowledge from last time I had this on chicken, I’m still going, “Ok, you really like this… WHY? You need to tell the people WHY.” And I’m like, “… because it’s good?”
Ok, breaking it down as I taste the sauce, what do I get? The first round is herbs. I get the basil, for sure. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was oregano in here somewhere. There’s a lot of… well… green flavors, for lack of a better way to describe it. The vegetal-like flavor of various things that aren’t entirely ripe yet (but in a good way. Like how I prefer bananas when they’re still slightly green). The sauce isn’t sweet, since ripeness brings sugar and while there is some sugar in here, it’s not forefront.
Honestly, I can’t think of any other sauces I’ve had that tastes close to this one. Many of the other green sauces I’ve had end up being like a salsa verde in flavor, like something you’d get at a good Mexican restaurant. This is a group of flavors that I don’t entirely think I’ve had before, and so am once more struggling to get my thoughts on screen.
So, anyway, once the herby/vegetable flavor starts to fade, I get a bit more of the acidity on the back-end from the vinegars and the lemon juice. It leaves with a fair bit of brightness in the mouth. From there, the heat starts to show up. It’s a very mild heat. Like, I feel that almost anyone can handle it easily, even spice light-weights (not meant as an insult. Not everyone can do spicy food). But it’s definitely there. The sauce gives me the start with herbs, the middle with brightness, and finishes on just a slightly spicy tingle to let me know it’s been there. It’s groovy and I like it and writing all of that has been more difficult than I expected. I really thought I might just be, “It’s good!” and leave it at that.
But yeah, this is a really good sauce that doesn’t taste like pretty much anything else I’ve had. At least, not that I can think of off-hand. I feel this one might end up being added to my go-to sauces list once I make another one of those.
Suggested dishes: well, I like it on chicken strips. I’ve gone through almost 1/3 of the bottle on my two meals I’ve had so far. But I would think this is great on tacos and nachos, or floating on top of a bowl of chili to add some brightness and acidity to it. Or just add to tortilla chips. It’s good enough to be the main focus.
Like before, you can find this sauce on the Secret Aardvark website: https://secretaardvark.com/shop/sauce/serrabanero-green-hot-sauce/ And like before, don’t let that initial price throw you. It’s for 3 bottles, which is their minimum order. Normally, I’d be like, “that’s maybe more than you need all at once” but in this instance, maybe getting 3 bottles at a time wouldn’t be terrible.
If you want a single bottle, I got mine from Fuego Box: https://www.fuegobox.com/products/secret-aardvark-serrabanero-hot-sauce?variant=13781778956330