Mama Africa’s Zulu Relish – Jalapeno, Lemon and Garlic
I’m checking out a hot sauce product from South Africa today which describes itself as Zulu Relish. Honestly, I don’t know all that much about South African culture and cuisine to assume much about this product. The most exposure I’ve probably had to South Africa is that which has been served up to me via Hollywood through movies such as Lethal Weapon 2, Blood Diamond, District 9 and Blue Crush 2 (Excuse me for a moment while I drift off to daydream about South African beaches with Sasha Jackson on them). Their serving description reads as: “Ideal as a table top condiment or a cooking ingredient for all fish, meat and vegetable dishes. Delicious as a dip, Spoon over burgers and sausages.”
With a curious blend of parts, seemingly more America meets Europe, the depth of ingredients is much more than expected from just the initial label front reading, and then it dawns on me that South Africa was quite the trade route option until the creation of the Suez Canal, and so, much like Italy, there are probably many influences on South African cuisine, which means the cuisine’s possibilities are probably quite vast. The lengthy, but interesting list of “Strictly Vegetarian” ingredients are: Water, carrots, onions, natural vinegar, jalapeno chilies, sunflower oil, cabbage, green pepper, garlic, sugar, mustard powder, salt, ginger, black pepper, oregano, sweet basil, lemon, lactic acid, coriander, and xanthan gum.
There will be a little work on your part getting the product out of the bottle the first time. Much like the claims of a certain name brand ketchup, you’ll need to tap the bottle a few times to free it up. The overall texture is somewhere halfway between typical pickle relish and a chutney. The aroma is a tart, earthy, and pungent one, with hints from the vinegar, onions, mustard, garlic, and oregano. There is also this subtle salty note that gets the mouth watering.
Taste and Ratings:
You’ll have an instant sweet and savory explosion of a near mustard-like flavor to start, and after a few spoonfuls, the pickled flavor of jalapeno and garlic starts to become more predominant. From there on, the myriad of spices takes the sensations of your tongue in just about every direction I can think of. I can see the pairing with fish or shrimp immediately, and can see where the idea to use this on a burger comes from, especially a tropical styled one (with grilled pineapple and some extra fresh jalapeno). The flavors are so variously intense that I would hate to waste this as a marinade; it should be used at full strength to compliment foods in small doses. The heat is at minimum levels on this, but the flavors are really intriguing, definitely a Notable, and I’d be amazed by someone who could guess every ingredient in it without reading the label. The end result here is that it strikes me as a great ‘secret ingredient’ for a home cook to add complexity of flavor and a hint of heat to something with very little effort.
Alright, well now that this review is done, I’m going to go ahead and get back to that Sasha Jackson beach scene in my mind.