Hot sauce or soy sauce: What’s the better ingredient added to sweet, savory and bland

The bottle of Soy Sauce used in our comparison. Photo by Zachery Zahrt.
The Valentina Sauce. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

When fellow Reflection members Zach Zahrt and Austin Miller discussed the perks of hot sauce vs. soy sauce one afternoon, they were torn. Zach loved the salty tang of soy sauce, while Austin loved the burn and sweet flavor of hot sauce. They couldn’t decide which was better, so they decided to have a competition. Both brought in several different types of food, divided it amongst themselves, and covered them both in our respective sauces. They then taste-tested each food with their favorite Our Family gluten free soy sauce and Valentina’s Extra Hot Sauce, then compared the two. Here are the results.

Hot Sauce as tasted and tested by Austin Miller and friend

First up were the eggs, which, by themselves, were disgusting. They had a sharp artificial flavoring, and the cheese covering them was flavorless. It was clear from the get-go that the eggs weren’t very high-quality; as a result, I knew all the hot sauce had to do was mask the eggs’ poor taste for me to win the match. Thankfully, the heat and the flavor of the hot sauce was enough to keep the awful flavor at bay. All I could taste was the vinegary burn of the Valentina. By contrast, the Soy only proved salt to the flavor of the egg, not adding any of its own. Zach and I both agreed to give the hot sauce the win.

“Hot sauce just seems naturally good on eggs,” Zach said.

Next, we chose to test the sauces on both plain noodles and cheesy noodles, for the sake of fairness. The thought here was that the fat in the cheese would neutralize the hot sauce, leading to a more flavor focused matched. Do to the low flavor quality of the hot sauce, I was afraid that the lack of flavor would destroy my chances of winning. Therefore, I thought that the plain noodles would be easier for me to win. Sadly, I made a crucial error in my judgement: cheese mixes well with vinegar-flavored things. Without that, the noodles were flavorless on their own, and, without any modifier, the hot sauce overwhelmed our palates, causing us to recoil from the foul flavor. Needless to say, the plain noodle victory went to the soy sauce immediately.

Next, we moved on to the macaroni and cheese. After the failure of the plain noodles, I figured that I had lost immediately because the cheese would neutralize the spice, leaving only the vinegar flavor. I was proven wrong, however, as the cheese only seemed to make the heat even better. This does raise concerns about the authenticity of the cheese we ate, but the results of the event made me happy. We both found the hot-sauce-covered mac to be quite flavorful and spicy, but the soy covered ones lacked a strong flavor, or any flavor at that. As such, we both gave the point to the hot sauce.

Next, we tested our sauces on a granola bar. I thought that I was going to win this one, as I knew chocolate and hot stuff is a common delicacy. However, I didn’t factor in the fact that the bar had nuts on it, so the saltiness of the soy sauce didn’t overpower the bar, leaving it with a delightful flavor. The round ended with a point going to soy.

Finally, we decided that the tie breaker should be a dessert food. Originally, we planned to use ice cream, but it would have melted by the time we could hold our competition. As such, we decided to use vanilla pudding. Going in, I was very paranoid, since hot sauce and pudding just sounds gross, and I know soy is good on vanilla ice cream, which is a very similar taste. During the mixing of the sauces, the hot sauce pudding turned a gross orange color, while the soy pudding gave off a sweet smell. When we went to eat the concoctions, we started with the hot sauce one, both expecting the soy to be more pleasant. However, I was happy to discover I was wrong; the hot sauce’s vinegar flavor had almost completely dissipated, leaving only a faint burn and subtle flavor. I thought it was good. Not good enough to eat it again, but good. Zach, however, found it disgusting. He quickly asked to switch to the soy. As we tried it, I found the saltiness of the soy and the sweet thickness of the pudding did not mix well together. Zach, however, seemed to find the flavor agreeable. We couldn’t decide who won the round, so we got our cameraman, fellow Reflection staff member Wyatt Draum, to try both. He preferred the soy sauce pudding, which meant that soy sauce won the competition with three wins out of five.


Soy Sauce as tasted and tested by Zach Zahrt and friend

If I were only ever able to consume one topping for the rest of my life, it would have to be soy sauce; there is no better suited condiment regardless of the cuisine. My friend and colleague, Austin Miller, happens to disagree with me on this point, claiming in fact, that it is hot sauce that is the universal addition. Going into this experiment, I was very skeptical, to say the least.

After all, who puts hot sauce or soy sauce on granola bars or in pudding cups? Following the first taste test (the eggs) however, my fears diminished… slightly. I frequently have both soy sauce and hot sauce on my eggs (preferably scrambled): soy sauce in asian dishes which have noodles and eggs, and hot sauce in everything else. While both samples were enjoyable, hot sauce on eggs is just too rich with American history (miners in the old west would frequent the hot sauce-egg combo after laboring in toxic mines and losing the ability to taste subtle flavors), and who am I to go against tradition? Also worth noting is the quality of the eggs themselves: although they were microwaved, you couldn’t have found fresher eggs in a chicken coop (regardless of what Austin may say).

The second item on the sub-Michelin Star menu was cheeseless microwaveable noodles. Without either sauce, the noodles were grey and flavorless, with a bland, soggy texture. The winner of this round was easily identifiable to both myself and Austin immediately following the first bite. Soy sauce would take its first win with a clear KO in the second round; there’s just something about plain noodles and soy bean products that go together. It’s the peanut butter and jelly of American-Asian cuisine.

As Austin and I entered the third round the more daunting dishes arrived and we entered into a new frontier of flavor exploration, microwave macaroni and cheese (Kraft). Although similar to the previous round the addition of cheese completely altered the consumption terms of engagement. The powdered cheese seemingly forms a water repellent surface on the noodles so any attempt to douse the noodles in soy sauce is futile. Austin’s hot sauce complimented the cheese very nicely as the vinegary taste contrasted the dairies silky smooth texture. In this round we unanimously agreed that the hot sauce was the clear front-runner in cheesy dishes.  

Inserted as a last second addition to our course line up, was a chocolate chip granola bar. Although not a very official round there was still a clear victor. The granola bar obviously should never be paired with either form of sauce yet in a way it was the best test to decide which topping truly goes with everything. While the hot sauce’s vinegar overpowered the subtle granola, the soy sauce complimented the nuts within the bar with a sweet and salty mixture. Once again soy sauce came out on top and took the momentum swing away from Austin’s hot sauce.

Next and finally was the course I’d been dreading most… pudding with our respective sauces in each cup. To state the obvious, it looked unappealing, a visual combination of baby food and baby barf. I tried the hot sauce vanilla pudding hybrid and soon after the first bite a strong feeling of nausea set upon my stomach. The vanilla of the pudding and the heat of the hot sauce had both been rendered completely tasteless, the only thing left for the taste buds to detect was once again a strong residual vinegar taste. Soy sauce mixed with the Snack Pack looked equally as disgusting yet went down much smoother than expected. I’d heard tell before the testing day that vanilla ice cream paired well with soy sauce and was in fact a growing trend. It was only logical that vanilla pudding would be equally as compatible.

I thoroughly enjoyed this last cup and in fact finished every last drop of soy sauce/pudding.


Austin Miller

I am in 12th grade. I am a reporter for the magazine.

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