Hot sauce enters the age of craftsmanship: “It’s a lot like grading wine” | food

“w“The hot sauce industry can be divided into three different eras,” says Matt Garthwaite of Melbourne-based Mat’s Hot Shop. Yes, that’s right, hot sauce has ages and a growing craft movement. Who knows?

Table sauces, like Tabasco—”literally chili and vinegar”—are the first age, Garthwaite says.

There’s the Age of Death, formed by thrill seekers, using chili extract used for maximum heat but minimal flavour. You can expect product names that focus on “extreme jokes, poo and little jokes,” says Garthwaite—era marketing “that’s going to kill ya,” if you will.

A customer browses for hot sauces at Mat’s Hot Shop. Photo: Mat’s Hot Shop

Garthwaite’s focus is on the “third wave”: small-batch producers, using actual chilies, not extraction. Prior to opening the Hot Shop, Garthwaite was exposed to the craft sauce development scene in the United States while living intermittently in New York when he worked in the music industry. Then a period of unemployment saw him jump from enthusiast to importer, sharing his picks with the emerging Australian market.

That was about four years ago, when there was a dearth of ‘natural’ Australian products – natural sauces which meant eschewing thickening agents, gums, extracts and preservatives. Now, Australian hot natural sauces are on the rise, with an emphasis on process, flavor profiles and “what you can do with chilies other than just heat”.

Gaspar Tse of the Hotluck Snack Club makes spicy kimchi sauce
“Pierced, spicy, vinegary, with a powerful kick”: Gaspar Tse of the Hotluck Snack Club whips up a spicy kimchi sauce. Photo: Niki Too/Hotlac Snack Club

Gaspar Tse, as a commercial chef, started the Sydney-based Hotluck Snack Club as a Covid side hustle. The signature condiment is the spicy kimchi sauce, a recipe that Tse developed over the course of six months with three kinds of chilies, fermented with “[mostly] Whatever goes into kimchi” like leeks, garlic, and carrots.

“It tasted like kimchi, and that’s the big thing,” he says. But it also tastes like hot sauce: “Kind of vinegar, hot, spicy, with a kick to it.”

Tse uses hot sauce “anywhere you want to add a little spice and acidity”. Eggs on toast are a given, but they work just as well as a stir in a noodle dish or in kimchi fried rice, a recipe he serves to customers. You pass the rice through a lot [aromatics] Then just finish with that hot sauce at the end to give it an extra boost.”

Lee Nash, also a chef by trade, first made his own Sriracha because he wanted something with more heat and no preservatives. Dingo Sauce Co is the result, made with direct farm produce from all over Western Australia.

Lizzo tastes her way through a variety of hot sauces
American pop star Lizzo tastes her way through a variety of sauces on her YouTube series Hot Ones. Photo: Hot Ones

Nash was happy to sell a few bottles locally, but says “it turns out there’s this…a global phenomenon in hot sauce” where the nuances of flavors and varying heat levels matter. “It’s a lot like grading wine or craft beer.”

With the help of a state-funded grant, Dingo Sauce Co. now sells in Singapore with the goal of expanding further into Asia. Appearances in two seasons of the cult web series Hot Ones (in which A-listers like Lizzo submit to a “trial by fire” interview) opened up the American market for him as well. “We got recognition…and that really kicked things off,” he says.

Garthwaite, who stocks the series’ lineup in Australia, says the Hot Ones’ impact is huge. “It’s a great platform for crafting hot sauce: 18 seasons, 10 sauces in season, and nine out of 10 [sauces] It’s a natural sauce.”

Chef Paul Carmichael is sitting at a table with a glass of white wine, eating out of a packet of French fries
‘Everyone Has Their Own Little Recipe’: Chef Paul Carmichael on Caribbean Hot Sauce Culture. Photo: Nikki To/Fink Group

Immerse yourself in hot sauce culture and you’ll find regional diversity, shaped by everything from taste and product availability to immigration and colonization. “I wouldn’t call myself an expert,” says Barbados-born chef Paul Carmichael, who most recently works at Sydney’s Momofuku Seiobo.

“Within the Caribbean, most, if not all, islands often have hot sauce on the dining table. It varies from place to place, and once it is in a place, it varies from house to house, because everyone has a recipe.” own little one.”

Hot sauce bottle in the middle of pouring.
“Just Eat It”: Carmichael’s “Drinkable” Hot Sauce with Habaneros, Vinegar, and Soy Sauce. Photo: Nikki To/Fink Group

Carmichael recently put together a box at home to serve Fix Chef’s Meal Kit with his signature hot sauce. The menu included “eggs in hot sauce” (boiled eggs seasoned with hot sauce).

“I feel like it’s drinkable,” says Carmichael. It’s not “a competition for the cutest thing on earth,” he says, adding that there’s no etiquette in the app. “Do as you wish, just do it.”

He feels no patriotic or familial duty to create something Barbadian; Just something delicious. Mustard sauce is a favorite in Barbados, with turmeric and plenty of Scotch Bonnet pepper. But the basic ingredients for a Carmichael are habaneros, vinegar, and soy sauce.

While his sauce is currently sold small on Fix, does he turn his hand to it more regularly?

“Well,” he laughs, “if… like a thousand people buy it, I’ll probably quit my job and keep making hot sauce.”

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