S and I like poking around supermarkets and gourmet stores. We especially like doing so when we’re travelling. Obsessive gluttons that we are, we’re always thrilled to find new and exciting products as well as old favourites that for some reason or other are either hard to or impossible to find in Singapore. We even have favourite places to visit. No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a stop off in City Super; similarly, Simon Johnson is a must when going to Sydney. I love stopping by Dean & Deluca and Zabar’s in New York and, of course, Le Grand Epicerie in Paris. S and I love Margaret River—the Napa Valley of Australia—and we adore both the Cole’s supermarket there as well as the tiny but wonderfully stocked Margaret Riviera.
On our recent trip to Taiwan, S spotted a tin of Fleur de Sel a la Vanille (de Saint Leu, Ile de la Reunion). Ironically, we did not see this in the much-hyped but disappointing Jason’s in Taipei 101. It was on a small counter in a French restaurant that we had visited with our friend Justin. Around it were a variety of other small gourmet products. When asked, Justin told S that this vanilla-infused salt was perfect for fish and other seafoods. S is a salt-addict. Not that she loves putting salt on her foods; in fact, she likes her foods to be a tad under-salted. Rather, she loves keeping our kitchen stocked with every and any kind of gourmet salt she can find. My favourite, from the many we have, is the Murray River Lake Salt that I’ve mentioned before. Anyway, I knew the minute S saw this fleur de sel, flavoured with vanilla from a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, we’d be taking home a tin. Amusingly, when we asked how much it was, the restaurant staff had no idea. No one had ever bought one before. Most of the restaurant’s customers had assumed that the products on display were, well, only for display.
Just as much as we like discovering gourmet products, we also love getting them as gifts from friends. On his recent visit to Singapore, our buddy Kevin passed up the hot sauce pictured above. I have to say that it has the best name and funniest label I have ever seen for a sauce. The picture is a tad fuzzy so for those without 20/20 vision, it’s called See Jane on Fire. Imagine my further amusement when, after googling the sauce, I discovered that it’s one of a set of three. The companion hot sauces are appropriately called See Dick Burn and See Spot in Heat. (You can buy the set of three here.
See Jane on Fire is a delicious sauce. It’s made from Cayenne peppers, water, salt, acetic acid, oleoresion cayenne, starch and carmel color. Unlike Tabasco, which can be watery and taste only of vinegar and heat, this sauce, while fiery, has a lovely cayenne flavour.
Dying to try out both these new gustatory finds, S decided to make something that would incorporate both: deep-fried sole filets with aioli and some sautéed greens. The batter for the fish used a little of both the See Jane on Fire sauce as well as the Fleur de Sel a la Vanille. We also dribbled some of the hot sauce into the aioli and sprinkled some of the salt over the fried filets. The dish was wonderful. The hot sauce, as I mentioned, had some real power as well as taste. It gave the aioli a lovely sense of spice. The vanilla-infused salt lifted the fish a little, adding another, albeit extremely subtle dimension, to this simple dish.