In my household, Chile Crunch isn't just a condiment, it's an obsession. I'm only slightly embarrassed to admit that I order the fiery Mexican-style sauce by the case—and that we go through a jar nearly every week. Each time I place an order ($118!) for the ambrosial combination of roasted chile de arbol, onion, garlic, and spices suspended in canola oil, I consider replicating it in my own kitchen.
Then I remember my conversation with Susie Hojel, creator of Chile Crunch. She makes the condiment once a week in a commercial kitchen. The chiles—it takes one and half pounds of the peppers to create two cases of the sauce—are so potent, the she uses a mask and gloves when grinding them. Nope, don't want to go there.
And so, I'm an online shopper, which will hopefully change when Hojel secures local distribution. The goes-with-everything savory sauce (my family adds it to sandwiches, pizza, bibimbap, eggs, and soups) is the product of Hojel's childhood. She was born and raised in Mexico City and when she moved to Colorado in the 1980s, she missed authentic Mexican food and sauces. "In Mexico, you automatically have a sauce on the table at any meal. I grew up with something like this. [After moving] I used to have friends send it to me," Hojel says. Eventually, while living in San Francisco, she began playing around with her own version and making it for her family and friends. Several courses in commercial canning at University of California at Davis later and Chile Crunch went to market.
The sauce is sold on the shelves at West Elm in California and it's been written up in the Wall Street Journal, SF Weekly, and Foodzie. Last year, Hojel moved back to Colorado and is making the condiment locally. The next step is finding Denver-area markets to carry Chile Crunch. In the meantime, order it online—and don't say I didn't warn you.
Bonus: For more of my favorite condiments, check out "Flavor Punch" in the June issue.
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