The Art of Dipping: Hot Sauce as the Perfect Condiment for Every Occasion

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Show me someone who doesn’t like dipping their food and I’ll show you someone who needs more juice! And that’s what dipping is all about—the juice. To be perfectly reasonable, hot sauce is a great condiment for every conceivable food-dipping occasion. And get this: it’s a mealtime tradition all over the world and has been for a lot longer than you have, sriracha devo! Hot sauce is a breakout culinary star, growing in popularity as populations melt into each other in a shrinking world where hot sauce is a much-beloved condiment.

So, this article makes a case for hot sauce as the very backbone of the art of dipping. Beloved all over the world, hot sauce is more than mere peppers. It’s an international culture of flavor with a bite, widely shared cross-culturally on public and private tables all across the globe.

It Ain’t All About Scoville

Hot sauce isn’t measured by Scoville Heat Units alone. There’s a lot more to a good hot sauce! But it’s clear that no matter what measure’s applied, people love it, with the US market having clocked in almost $1 billion in market value in 2022. That figure is expected to continue rising precipitously for hot sauce brands of all kinds. Culinary culture with the bite of chilis is now the norm, alive and popular virtually everywhere.

The Chicken Wings Revolution

Photo by Farhad Ibrahimzade on Unsplash

In 1964, the potential for the unlauded chicken wing burst onto the budding fast food scene with a blazing hot, pepper-spiked sauce out of Buffalo, New York. The chicken wings revolution had kicked off!

Today, chicken wings are a beloved lounge food, enjoyed with a good pint of beer on tap. From the United Arab Emirates to Vancouver, Canada, you’ll find chicken wings on bar and lounge menus in a variety of wings sauces. From its humble origins in Buffalo, the once unloved (and wasted) chicken wing has gradually but decisively achieved global domination.

And how many people do you know who order those babies with extra sauce on the side? I include myself in their number, so consider this hot sauce activism! To be fair, the chicken wings revolution has been largely responsible for the diffusion of hot sauce culture as a global phenomenon. Hats off, Buffalo chicken wings sauce! You really started something!

Spicing Up Your Summer Get-Togethers

You can read all about the perfect spice rub, collect grilling tips, and learn to put a good sear on that meat until your head falls off. The truth of the matter is that it’s all about the hot sauce. Whether you choose to make it from scratch or to concoct it from several sauce brands, the sauce is the thing. Because hot sauce is the perfect condiment for grilled food too! People are even finding this out in the bland food capital of the world: the UK!

The sauce is the thing because it spices up your summer get-togethers like no other conversation starter, friendship galvanizer, or beer/hot sauce pairing discussion frenzy. Bringing the flavor to your BBQ this summer is all about the spicy, delicious hot sauce.

Tell your guests what you did to create it, or what exotic vacation/specialty grocery/New Orleans corner store it hails from. They’ll be singing the gloriously spicy hymns of hot sauce before the picnic table is even cleared. That’s the power of hot sauce. Surreptitiously and mysteriously, it acts almost as a type of social lubricant!

Picante Pero Sabroso

Meaning “spicy but tasty,” this phrase describes the Mexican way of doing hot sauce. This nation is known for the variety and delicious quality of its hot sauces, which are some of the world’s most deftly accomplished. With the magic of specific peppers deployed not just to sear your mouth but to delight it with flavor, Mexico’s kitchens create hot sauce magic. Because at the heart of the art of dipping is the addition of a flavorful juice to both bring the saucy goodness and some fire. Flavor is the reason, with heat being a pleasant counterpoint.

In Mexico, hot peppers don’t just burn. A great example of this truth is that chili peppers subtly form the delicious basis for the complex dish, molé. The dish contains, on average, 30 – 35 ingredients, including dried fruits, nuts, and (famously) chocolate. But strikingly, molé also contains a huge array of chilis, from cascabel to ancho.

Molé does not taste like chocolate. A respectable molé sauce tastes like the complex culinary traditions of Mexico and their ancient origins transformed. A hot sauce must reflect this tradition to get any respect in Mexico. It must, in other words, transcend “picante” to arrive at “sabroso.

Every taco stand, every restaurant, every hole-in-the-wall lunch joint you’ll find in Mexico has a home team of salsas the owners will pit against anyone else’s in town. In Mexico, food is about giving the people what they want. And what they want is picante pero sabroso—spicy but tasty.

The Dip of Epicureans Everywhere

From Buffalo to Beijing, hot sauce is a fixture in the culinary world. Coming from every culture you can name, it clears out our sinuses and warms our palates with the magic of hot peppers and food alchemy. Hot sauce is an international love story between humanity and saucy, spicy flavor.

And maybe that’s what really started in Buffalo. Hot sauce is a type of culinary magic imparting a layered experience of flavor; a complement that elevates all kinds of foods and every occasion. Maybe what started in Buffalo is a hot sauce revolution! From sidewalk shawarma to a plate of hot wings to a grilled Tomahawk steak, nothing honors the art of dipping like hot sauce.

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