Chef Paulo “Toogy” Clavecilla wants to raise the profile of the humble siling labuyo, a variety of small chili peppers commonly found in the Philippines, to the hyper-ubiquitous levels of sriracha. Along with wife Laveena and friend JC Medina, the trio of entrepreneurs dreamed up Traydor Hot Sauce, a brand of siling labuyo-based condiments with avant-garde flavors. The goal: to become as iconic as those red bottles with green caps that summon the legendary flavors of Indochina wherever they appear.
Siling labuyo are small and tapered, often red (sometimes yellow, purple and black), very pungent and always pack in a hot punch. “It has a special burn — it stings and lingers,” Toogy says. To complement this, the team infused the sauces with Philippine ingredients like rum, mango, pineapple, lemongrass and coconut water. Traydor hot sauces are made in small batches, by a small staff supervised by Toogy, and feature fresh, all-natural ingredients with no artificial flavorings or heavy preservatives. The siling labuyo is sourced from local markets.
The trio had started formulating recipes in early 2014. Their project gained momentum when they were introduced to the Chiliheads Philippines community (yup, there’s such a thing), a group of farmers who grow and eat their own chilis, on Facebook. When Chiliheads held its first chili festival in October 2014, Traydor ended up sweeping the Labuyo Category of the Hot Sauce Contest. “That gave us further validation that we were really on to something here,” Toogy recalls.
“We recently attended the NYC Hot Sauce Expo to get a feel for global standards,” Toogy reveals. He hopes that the humble labuyo — and Traydor Hot Sauce — will make it there one day.
Traydor aims to provide variety in a market filled with very similar and conventional chili sauces. Judas, which is flavored with roasted garlic and tomatoes, is the most flexible of the bunch and you can put it on almost anything. Brutus has the taste of green apples, coconut water, lemongrass and cashew butter, and goes well with roasts and stews. Mango, pineapples, orange and rum feature in Damaso, which goes well with barbecues and seafood. Mata Hari is labuyo steeped with honey, and can be drizzled on pizza, cheese, barbecue, ham, and even pistachio ice cream.
So why name their hot sauces after infamous traitors? No one can really remember whose idea it was, but all agree it represents the product perfectly. “We decided on the name — Traydor — after having too many beers at a local resto-bar,” Toogy recalls. “We thought it was a cool name because it has recall, it’s very visual, and spot on — our hot sauce is very deceptive. The kick is disguised by very distinct and charming flavors.”
This article first appeared in the January 2017 issue of Smile magazine.