April 18, 2013 at 11:54 AM ET
Chile heads of the world, unite! The first annual New York City Hot Sauce Expo will be held April 20 to 21. This extravaganza brings together 100 of the world’s best hot sauces for a two-day affair in Brooklyn that will features awards given by celebrity chef judges, like Chris Santos of “Chopped” and Derrick Prince of “Master Chef.” These chefs have already tasted each and every hot sauce and will announce the winners of the Screaming Mi Mi awards on the first day of the expo. But the question is not only which sauce is the tastiest but in what direction is the world of hot sauce moving? Here are some trends for bringing the heat:
Pick a pepper
Though there are many different varieties of hot sauce, the trend is definitely going towards the spicier end of things. While in the past, there were far more jalapeno, cayenne, and smoky chipotle used in sauces, there are different kinds of peppers coming to the forefront now. Habaneros, Scotch bonnets, the truly frightening ghost pepper and the world’s hottest pepper, the Moruga Scorpian, make more appearances than ever before. For example, the aptly named sauce Tom’s Roid Rippin habanero pepper hot sauce has a pepper flavor that is forward and vibrant. Heartbreaking Dawns makes milder sauces using the Moruga Scorpian. Use these sauces in a chicken wing marinade or in a meatloaf glaze and the flavor will meld with other ingredients and lend intensity to the dish.
Big names behind sauces
Celebrity chef Chris Santos tells TODAY.com that hot sauce aficionados are getting savvier and crave more complex flavors. He believes that the public will be seeing more culinary inspired sauces, with exotic ingredients and flavor pairings, and thinks that more chefs will follow in steps of Southern stars Sean Brock and Hugh Acheson and start making their own hot sauces.
Both Prince and judge Adam Poch agree that while heat is a big player in the hot sauce game, it isn’t the only one. Poch is adamant that “flavor matters more than pure heat,” and tropical fruits like mangoes, pineapples and papaya are making it more and more into hot sauces. Devil’s Gold Hellfire Hot Sauce uses oranges, pineapples and papaya to balance out its searing hot bhut jolokia peppers, making it multilayered and more complex. Add some fruity habanero hot sauce to a deviled egg to really take it to the next level, or mix it with mustard and slap it on your favorite hot dog.
Hot sauce is often based on peppers that are traditionally from Asia, Africa or the West Indies. As expo founder and High River Sauces’ Steve Seabury puts it, “People are craving hot sauces with exotic peppers coupled with fresh ingredients to complement their food.”
Now, these peppers can be locally sourced. Take, for example, NYC Hot Sauce Company. Jon Bratton and his wife source peppers from Brooklyn rooftop gardens to make their own hot sauce and it can really be called a New York product. Now you can feel more patriotic than ever this fourth of July when you combine your favorite hot sauce with butter to serve over corn on the cob.
50 shades of pain
Though there are many ways to enjoy spice in moderation, there is are quite a few sauces out there that deliver just on the pain. With names like The Reaper, The Grapes of Wrath, Trinidad Scorpion Deathmatch and Jekyll or Hyde, these super-hot sauces, once novelties, are becoming more and more prevalent as chili heads come out of hiding and admit that they love the pain. Just a dab should do more than enough for you, but keep a bucket of milk handy!