Let’s Talk Sauce Trends
But first, let’s ask: Why do we even care about sauce trends?
The easy answer is, well, because sauces are important. As one of the world’s first food reviewers and restaurant critics, Grimod de la Reynière, would say, “A well made sauce would make even an elephant or a grandfather palatable.”
While I won’t strive to test his theory, I do agree with the sentiment. Sauces are the magic liquids that bring bland foods to life or make good dishes unforgettable. A proper sauce can be the difference between OK and incredible. Point of fact; macaroni is fine but add cheese sauce and you’ve got gold!
With that in mind, it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of the sauce world to find new trends, inspirations, and ingredients, much like these:
Italian food is well-known for it’s uses of sauces. From accuighe to alfredo, burro to bolognese, Italian cuisine has a range and depth to its sauce library many countries could only dream to reach.
But recently, other global flavors are making their way into mainstream Italian fair. One great example of this is Harissa. Hailing from North Africa, Harissa is an aggressive sauce (often a paste) made from roasted red peppers, various chili peppers, herbs like coriander, spices like cumin, and olive oil.
While this may not seem, at first glance, to be a sauce fitting for Italian fare, keep in mind the coast of Marsala, Italy, is only about 50 nautical miles from Tunisia. Doesn’t seem so odd now does it?
Piada Italian Street Food, based out of Columbus, OH, have found great success in using Harissa in their power bowls. This helps to prove how quickly the market is opening to new flavor experiences. Just two years ago, many felt that harissa was too far out for the mainstream customer. Now in 2018, it seems to fit in just fine.
Global flavors continue to permeate the menus in national restaurants. Datassential research on sauce trends has shown a 7% increase in chimichurri, a 3% increase in harissa, and a 1.5% rise in gochujang sauces on menus in 2018. Also moving their way in at 1% increases are Peri Peri sauce and S’Chug.
A person familiar with these sauces may see an additional thread that holds them together: Heat. All the 5 sauces listed commonly have a spicy profile, with chimichurri being the mildest and harissa being the hottest (traditionally, of course).
If you follow our blog regularly, this shouldn’t be very surprising. As we’ve discussed previously, hot sauce sales are at their highest ever, spicy BBQ sauces are quickly becoming the most popular in their category, and Asian cuisines with commonly spicy profiles (Korean, Thai, Filipino) are becoming mainstays.
Move Over Canton
It seems that Kung Pao sauce is having a revitalization moment, thanks to the vegetable-centric dining trend. Kung Pao, or Sichuan, sauce is known for its umami rich flavor profile balanced with the right amount of sweet and spicy.
This profile works extremely well in providing a hearty, meaty flavor to vegetable dishes. With the growing want for vegetable-focused foods in casual dining atmospheres, Kung Pao offers a natural, and familiar, fit.
Restaurants like The Plimoth in Denver with their Kung Pao Carrots and Fairytale Eggplant, and The Local in Naples, FL, with their Kung Pao Avocado, have been trend leaders in this category.
Even the national chain Kings Dining and Entertainment has gotten wise by serving Fried Kung Pao Cauliflower. I’d buy that for a dollar.
So, there you have it! Keep an eye out for Italian restaurants adopting unique sauce flavors, for Kung Pao to start popping up in restaurants other than Chinese and on application other than meat, and the continued takeover of global flavors. And through all these trends, runs a spicy core. The people want heat, so let’s give it to them.