Now we had a starting point, but the road to creating a chilli champion was still fraught with challenges.
Nham Jin Jeaw is primarily fish sauce with bits of chopped up dried red chillies and a host of other herbs, all in the right proportions to create a balanced, umami-rich condiment. That was well and good for the Thai audience. We, however, were seeking a red sauce - the universally recognised colour for hot sauce, the sort that screams “lavish me over burgers, fries and chicken wings!” And, of course, it needed to be vegan-friendly.
To make red chilli sauce, one needs red chillies. Various types of chillies auditioned for the leading role - large, small, hot, less hot, sweet, fresh, dried. We settled on a 3 chilli combo to achieve the right flavour, spice level and texture. We then experimented with the other ingredients in NJJ, making various tweaks to create a few variations, then blended the suckers to produce prototypes of the silky red sauce.
We took Version 2.1 to FoodBytes! in New York to solicit feedback. We found out 2 things: 1) Americans love hot sauce; and 2) Americans love hot sauce.
Back at the factory, R&D continued in earnest, delivering variations of sauce tweaked in the minutest ways. Functional ingredients like turmeric, ginger, black pepper were also considered. In Singapore, our focus groups made up of friends, family and loyal fans, diligently tasted and rated the samples, providing valuable feedback.
Eventually, it happened! The candidate that ticked all the boxes - spice, viscosity, balance of flavour, complexity, sugar level.
Remember how we had coriander coming out of our ears, and this led to the birth of our famed Coriander Ginger Dressing? Well, there’s still lots of coriander looking for a home, and they were now to be incarnated as a Thai Coriander and Chilli Hot sauce. Hurray!