The Sauce Whisperers of Fiyah Heat Store Bringing Spice to Hong Kong
February 04, 2022
Like with every business in Hong Kong, Fiyah Heat Store, the city’s go-to online store for access to the world’s best and hottest hot sauce, started over a few beers on a rooftop.
Three friends, Ben Lee, Steve Carr, and Tim Sedo, were enjoying a hot day on a rooftop in Tai Hang, flipping burgers, sipping beers, and bumping away to Steve’s playlists. Looking to spice up their burgers, the trio bemoaned about the lack of good, international hot sauces available to buy in Hong Kong.
With three different tastes, heat preferences, and life stories, “hot sauce brought them together.” From an idea on a hot summer day in August 2020, Fiyah Heat Store quickly became a reality when the hot passions of Ben, Steve, and Tim drew them into a business sourcing sauces from across the world and selling them to Hong Kong’s spice-hungry mouths.
“It was the idea of combining a fun new project, but one that all of us enjoyed separately: eating good spicy foods and sauce,” Ben told The Beat Asia in an email interview. “[I]t seemed a natural fit and a great idea.
At the Fiyah Heat Store, currently an online store, you can find a carefully curated selection of hot sauces sourced globally, Italian firelli hot sauce, British horseradish, Japanese habanero sauce, good ol’ Crystal from the U.S., Chinese ghost pepper, and South African peri peri sauce.
The trio have partnered up with the world’s most notorious spice companies, including Bee Sting, Black Mamba, Bravado Spice Co., Culley’s, Torchbearer Sauces, and Angry Goat Pepper Company.
Fiyah currently sells 28 sauces that have been featured on the famous Hot Ones Challenge – a YouTube series hosted by Sean Evans interviewing the hottest celebrities over a selection of increasingly spicy chicken wings.
“Spicy sauces are fun, deliver a punch and are highly creative so we felt we could not just be another direct-to-consumer retailer," Ben said, explaining their approach to beginning the brand last summer.
“The brand needed to have a life and personality of its own that matched the sauces and what we wanted to do with the concept, which is why we went with ‘Fiyah’ not ‘Fire’ to breathe more life into the brand.”
Hours of research were poured into the selection and curation of their sauce collection. Steve spent extensive hours prior to the launch of the store scouring the web and world for sauces that they could take pride in.
Tim says that the trio try every sauce, give it a “yay” or “nay,” and think about the fit in their sauce portfolio and about food and drink parings.
“Although our collection always evolves, we have some producers that we particularly focus on and have built some longer-term partnerships with.”
After curating a base portfolio of the sauces found across the world , that scream Fiyah, the next step was spreading the word about their exciting F&B venture. “We are happy with where it has landed so far and the momentum we have built in Hong Kong.”
Ben was brashly optimistic about the success of selling spicy sauces in Hong Kong. “[The city] is well known for its restaurants and good food. Spicy foods are a staple of all Asian cuisines. As a city that merges cultures and ideas from all four corners of the world, how could hot sauce not go down well in Hong Kong.”
Fiyah does not just focus on loud and crazy spice. Sauces sold in the store are blended with mango, avocado, kiwi, cactus juice, honey, blueberries, chocolate, and peach. “For me personally,” Steve commented, “I wanted to get a range in to showcase the wealth of flavours rather than the misconception that hot sauce is purely about heat.”
Fiyah sells upwards of 150 different and unique sauces, catering to all heat levels, from mild and medium to hot and extra hot.
In the early stages of launching in late 2020, Fiyah was a slow burner, working with small markets to engage potential customers on their wide selection of spice. “As we've explored more markets and events around the city, we're certainly seeing more regular [customers] joining and asking us to bring in more and more [sauces]. It's been a fun ride so far,” Ben said.
People did not jump onboard and buy into the project, Sam explained. As Fiyah grew online and in Hong Kong’s F&B industry, the trio now have customers ordering monthly and seeking the “latest, greatest, and hottest sauces.”
Fiyah now works with the city’s restaurants and bars to partner their sauces with their friends’ food. They have hosted tasting sessions and sauce production methods at Haus, host a monthly “hot sauce takeover” at Alvy’s pairing global sauce with HK$5 wings, and brought six of the hottest sauces in their inventory to Honky Tonks for their one-year anniversary to test customers eating six wings doused in spice.
“People’s tastebuds are growing more global in general,” Tim said, referring to the love that spicy sauce is getting in Hong Kong and worldwide in recent years, “our palates are getting used to in higher heat levels.”
Tim likens the global hot sauce scene to craft beer 10 years ago. “It is pushing forward new and bold flavours backed by more compelling brands and experiences. It’s an exciting time to be involved and change the way people think about the category in Hong Kong too.”
Do not get me wrong, Hong Kong has some delicious hot sauces and chili oils, but what was commercially available from outside of Hong Kong was pretty limited. We moved [on] and the response here has been great.”
Despite being part-time connoisseurs of spice, their favourite sauces change every month. At the moment, Ben loves the chipotle from Black Mamba, Steve’s current favourite including Ay Maria! from Colombia, Dawson’s Sichuan Ghost Pepper, and Poirier’s KO Sauce by Heartbeat.
Tim’s go-to changes every day and every meal. When he needs heat, he goes for the Dawson’s Ghost Pepper Mash. For more chef-like times, he picks any sauce by Lucky Dog, and a citrus and tangy addition to food, Hong Kong-made sauce Flagrant is his go-to.
“We also stock sauces from Hong Kong’s first bodega sandwich spot, Fat Chads, which are absolutely delicious,” Tim pointed out. “I strongly suggest trying them all.”
Whilst the Fiyah trio have never officially recreated the Hot Ones challenge for online or an event, they have plans for the future. Steve told The Beat Asia to “stay tuned.
“Every time we do a group tasting or event, it feels like a Hot Ones challenge. It’s fun to take people through the experience; I am impressed with the heat levels that people in Hong Kong can level up to,” Tim commented.
The team at Fiyah Heat Store are taking the future one step at a time but relish the opportunity where the trio can bring their business locally and physically. “Down the line it would be great to have our own space to entertain and showcase the wide range of sauces we have available,” Ben said.
Steve is currently working on an exclusive Fiyah range of sauces, employing their skilled expertise, tongues, local ingredients, and spice; the plan is to expand their current range and bring sauce makers to Hong Kong.
“We are most excited to partner with Hong Kong chefs and restaurants to help them commercialise and distribute their sauces more widely across [the city], Asia, and the world,” Tim said.
“Heaps of hot talent here!”
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