Fiery Ade­laide of­fers all the mak­ings of se­ri­ous south­ern dis­com­fort, writes Chris­tine McCabe

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence -

THERE’S a curious sub­cul­ture in the US de­voted to the chilli and the con­sump­tion of fiery hot sauces and other sear­ing condi­ments. This same sub­cul­ture has found root in sub­ur­ban Ade­laide, thanks to the ar­rival three years ago of Seat­tle-based tor­tilla sales­man Joel Adams and his spe­cial­ist store Chile Mojo.

Adams and his part­ner Mor­gen Britt run this tiny jewel box of a store on The Pa­rade in leafy Nor­wood, crammed to the rafters with what is ar­guably Aus­tralia’s largest range of hot sauces (400 and count­ing), to­gether with au­then­tic Mex­i­can chillis and spices, corn masa and a broad range of pre­pared meals whipped up by Adams in his tiny kitchen wedged be­hind the Chile Mojo counter.

Think de­li­cious sal­sas and black bean salad, chilli Colorado with beef, veg­e­tar­ian chilli non carne, en­chi­lada sauce, taco beef and corn tor­tilla soup. And for those of us han­ker­ing af­ter the sunny tastes of Cal­i­for­nia (and with fond mem­o­ries of scour­ing the shelves of stores such as Trader Joe’s) there’s Mon­terey Jack cheese and a truly ex­cel­lent chorizo mix, es­sen­tial for the Satur­day morn­ing break­fast bur­rito.

As to the spell­ing of the store’s name, Adams says chile is the com­monly ac­cepted ver­sion among con­nois­seurs for the plant and fruit (giv­ing cre­dence to the Aztec name and the first spell­ing in Ro­man let­ter­ing), while chilli refers to the stew of Texas ori­gin.

Adams and Britt grow a broad variety of chillis in their Ade­laide Hills gar­den (many un­der glass), but those they tend to cul­ti­vate most ex­ten­sively are the Mex­i­can clas­sics: an­cho-poblano, ha­banero, jalapeno, pasilla-chi­laca and var­i­ous New Mex­i­can va­ri­eties (Ana­heim, Big Jim and Joe E. Parker).

A friendly or­ganic grower based in Ade­laide pro­vides the store with the pods they use in bulk, the green New Mex­i­can and poblano va­ri­eties, es­sen­tial flavours for chilli verde (a New Mex­i­can-style green chilli stew) and chillis reilenos (stuffed and fried chillis).

Stock­ing up on au­then­tic sta­ples of the Span­ish-Amer­i­can larder is all very well, but true chilli-heads visit Mojo in search of se­ri­ously hot sauces with a range of in­sane names, from Great White Shark Preda­tor to Burnin’ Bush (as in Ge­orge W.) and an en­tire se­lec­tion of Elvis condi­ments (Burn­ing Love and so on). Adams rates his sauces out of 10, be­gin­ning with reg­u­lar tabasco at 3/10 to Blair’s Mega Death at 13/10.

Any­thing over 10/10 is no longer con­sid­ered a sauce and can be used only when sub­stan­tially di­luted or in cook­ing.

Cap­saicin is the source of a chilli’s heat and there is a means of mea­sur­ing it, the Scov­ille Heat Unit.

In prac­tice, this is the num­ber of times the prod­uct must be di­luted be­fore heat is no longer de­tectable, al­though the test­ing process is not en­tirely ac­cu­rate, Adams says. For the layper­son, let’s say a fresh cap­sicum rates zero SHU; a fresh ha­banero 100,000 to 350,000 SHU; while the daddy of them all, the dried In­dian chilli Naga Morich (or Naga Jolokia), reg­is­ters a mind­blow­ing 970,000 to more than one mil­lion SHU. But this is small pota­toes along­side Adams’s locked cabi­net of private re­serve sauces, so hot as to be unimag­in­able.

Blair’s Re­serve 371 (hail­ing from, of all places, New Jer­sey) tips the scales at 16 mil­lion SHU.

Adams will sell you 1mg of this pure crys­talline cap­saicin for $500.

No one uses this in cook­ing, he says; it’s a col­lec­tor’s item, as are the other less fiery but still in­cen­di­ary Blair’s sauces (the 2am reg­is­ters 875,000 SHU and costs $59.99).

But as­bestos-mouthed afi­ciona­dos are more than happy to tuck into Dave’s In­san­ity Sauce at a tongue-numb­ing 250,000 SHU. Adams ad­mits th­ese num­bers are hard to digest, es­pe­cially given the ex­po­nen­tial rise at the top end of the scale.

‘‘ I’ve put it into a graph be­fore, but it just looked like an Al Gore sum­mary of the bio­sphere: nuthin’, nuthin’, some­thin’, then whammo,’’ he quips.

For us more mod­er­ate chilli fans, Chile Mojo sells a huge range of para­pher­na­lia from chilli seeds and sauces to nap­kins, tea tow­els, even chilli-adorned stilet­tos.

There’s an en­tire cabi­net de­voted to Mex­i­can condi­ments, in­clud­ing one of my favourites, the com­par­a­tively mild but very flavour­some Cholula; and reg­u­lar shop­pers can take ad­van­tage of a fre­quent fire card: you burn, you earn. Chile Mojo is happy to ship in­ter­state, with fans fre­quently call­ing to or­der some of Adams’s best sell­ers: Iguana Ra­dioac­tive, Pain 100%, Colon Cleaner and the rather more re­fined Vir­ginia Gen­tle­men Bour­bon Chipo­tle.

The www.chile­ web­site goes live in about two months, of­fer­ing on­line shop­ping. Un­til then, in­ter­state cus­tomers can email or phone to or­der. Chile Mojo, 225b The Pa­rade, Nor­wood, South Aus­tralia; (08) 8333 1931; chile­

Pic­tures: Kelly Barnes

Out of the fry­ing pan: Joel Adams dry-toasts dried chillis to bring out more com­plex aro­mas, left; some of the 400 sauces on of­fer at Chile Mojo, right

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