Peppers, Spices Turn up the Heat
The rise of niche Latin cuisine and Asian fare -- including Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Indian -- highlights a new love affair with scorching flavors.
What’s Hot in Hot
The ingredients that go into heat and flavor differentiation of hot sauces vary regionally. American sauce-makers reach for Sichuan pepper for its citrusy, tingling and numbing sensations; banana and pepperoncini peppers for their milder taste; and to jalapeño and cayenne peppers for instant peaking and rapid dissipation of heat.
European condiment makers use piquillo, a sweet chili, and cayenne peppers for flavors and color, according to global market researcher Mintel Group Ltd. The sophisticated complexity of the Sichuan pepper experience, markedly different from black, white or chili peppers, is gaining traction not only in traditional Asian hot sauces, but also in Latin and fusion condiments.
Benjamin Stanley, vice president and co-founder of Chicago-based Food Genius, analyzes restaurant menu ingredient and item combinations and notes that, “Hot sauces, curries, jalapeños and the use of the descriptor ‘spicy’ and ‘flaming hot’ and ‘fiery’ have been growing in the past six months, across all menus, restaurant types, segments and cuisines. “Buffalo” sauce, showing the fastest growth, is available in 33% more locations than it was six months ago and is being added to items like chicken wings, sandwiches, wraps, salads and even pizza.”