Chinese hot mustard
Key ingredients: Dry mustard powder, cold water
This condiment’s beige appearance belies a formidable sinus-clearing ability, as any American-Chinese food newbie can attest. What’s even more duplicitous, though, is that it seems like it contains, I dunno, more than two ingredients… when it just doesn’t. It’s actually a simple mixture of hot dry mustard powder and cold water incorporated for maximum potency.
Key ingredients: Fermented broad beans, rice, chilis, salt
Not all doubanjiang, a fermented broad bean paste common in Sichuan cuisine, is spicy, but hot is probably the way most prefer it. Ingredient-wise, it’s fairly similar to Korea’s gochujang, except that it subs in fermented broad beans for the soybeans of its peninsular counterpart. Typically, the darker a specimen is, the more mature and spicy the resulting sauce will be -- an important factor to look out for when choosing the right one for your mapo tofu. Browse a few options here.
Key ingredients: Vegetable/sesame oil, chili flakes
If you’ve ever had Sichuan cuisine, you’re probably familiar with chili oil -- it’s that tongue-numbingly delicious, red-tinged oil served with wontons and in dishes like mapo tofu. Its simple formula (it’s just oil and chili flakes/chopped chilis) is often mixed with Sichuan peppercorns in China, and garlic/ginger in Japan to create rāyu, a popular topping for plain white rice; which, if you’re going to eat anything with a condiment, is probably a strong candidate. Shop around for either one here.
Key ingredients: Ground red chilis, shrimp/fish paste, garlic, shallots
The Thai (or bird’s eye) chili is world-famous now for its ubiquitousness in Southeast Asian cooking, but before it showed up in your spicy pad Thai GrubHub order (or in that stouter Huy Fong bottle), it got its start in condiments like sambal and nam phrik in Indonesia, Malaysia, and, obviously, Thailand. The common factor these sauces share is the inclusion of shrimp or fish paste, which imparts a rich flavor and also means that your ovo-lacto vegetarian cousin can’t eat them.
Key ingredients: Water buffalo/pork skin, chilis, galangal
There are many jeows (sauces) in Laotian cuisine, but jeow bong is certainly the bongiest (bong literally translates to “pickled,” because even though jeow bong isn’t pickled, it has a long shelf life and a funky flavor -- like a pickle!). This ubiquitous relish gets a uniquely chewy consistency from water buffalo or pork skin, and is a mainstay in many Laotian snacks like kaipen (a river weed). Scope out the recipe here.
Key ingredients: Coconut, red onion, red chilis, lime, cured fish
Sri Lanka is an island known for its serious spice -- even the meekest dish here will probably shoot you down. Coconut sambol, which is present on pretty much every Sri Lankan table, is somewhat similar in composition to its Indonesian/Malaysian/Thai relatives, except that it incorporates… coconut! It’s more of a relish than a sauce, per se, but seeing as it can get into exceedingly spicy territory depending on who exactly is making it, it merits inclusion. Learn how to make it here.
South Korea/North Korea
Key ingredients: Fermented soybean paste, glutinous rice
Gochujang is thicker and sweeter than most of these other hot sauces. It's viscosity comes from the inclusion of fermented soybean paste and glutinous rice, both of which give it a certain funkiness. You can find it most commonly in bibimbap and tteokbokki, and as far as bottles go, Sunchang's version is particularly popular.
Key ingredients: Horseradish, tomatoes, garlic
Not much grows out in Siberia, as hundreds of years’ worth of Russian novels have taught us. One thing that does grow out there, though, is horseradish (and despair). Khrenovina sauce has plenty of the former (the recipe's here), and the name loosely translates to “damn” or “balls.” It’s basically just tomatoes, horseradish, and garlic.
Key ingredients: Fenugreek, coriander, cilantro, dill, hot peppers, walnuts
The recipe for this Georgian hot condiment varies depending on which region you’re in, but it’s usually a hodgepodge of herbs and spices, along with several types of hot and sweet peppers that are ground together to a pasty consistency.
Masala chilli sauce
Key ingredients: Sugar, cumin, chilis
Indian cuisine, much like Sri Lankan, is already known for its bold spices and flavors. So, as one can imagine, there isn’t much need for additional hot sauces in the Indian cooking pantheon. That being said, the rise of street food and the globalization of the condiment market has contributed to a demand for portable Indian-inspired hot sauces. Masala chilli sauce is a popular addition to fried foods, and you should definitely check out the Maggi or Swad versions the next time you need a topping for your samosas.
Key ingredients: Cilantro, cumin, olive oil, green or red hot peppers
This red or green sauce is huge in both Yemen and Israel, where it’s also known to the legions of tourists in the form of a simple question: “Charif?” This, to the uninitiated, means “hot/spicy?” and is asked of pretty much anyone ordering shawarma or falafel from any food stand or restaurant. If you do like your meals charif, you’ll become acquainted with s’chug. Here's a simple recipe (from the Washington Post!) that'll get you nice and charif in no time.