Today’s consumer is undoubtedly driven by choice. The ability to customise a menu is almost mandatory now, as more and more customers demand the freedom to have their meal prepared exactly how they want it – whether it be in a restaurant or at the local fast food chain.
Sauce is arguably the easiest way to give customers choice. A variety of sauces can transform an ordinary, staple meal – such as burgers, steaks or fries – into something worth leaving the house for.
A newcomer to the Brisbane burger scene, Super Combo seems to have cottoned on to this, finding a way to give customers more burger choices than ever before. The Street Fighter-themed burger outlet opened its doors in March this year, offering a similar product as the myriad of burger joints around the city. Except for one thing: a sauce wall with more than 70 different types of saucy add-ons to satisfy any burger connoisseur.
Super Combo owner Hao Vu says he and his business partner Michael Nham took inspiration from a burger venue in South Korea that had a similar sauce wall.
“It wasn’t anything big but it was the first time I’d seen a sauce wall where customers can just come and try whatever they want,” says Vu.
“So when we opened up we thought let’s just take it to another level and try and really expand the range and find sauces from all over the world.
“We’ve been purchasing them from America, but we’ve also a found a place in Adelaide that do a really good range and on my recent trip to Thailand I bought all these other exotic sauces.
“There’s no real fixed list of sauces that we stock, it’s just things that we see and things that we find when we’re abroad. It’s just a bit of a collection really.”
While there are mild, tasty options scattered throughout the collection, Vu says his love for hot sauces has definitely influenced the selection.
“We’ve got a lot of hot sauces and there’s some really fiery ones,” he says.
“When people see the sauces they kind of go nuts with it and they jump right in the deep end. And then there’s people that don’t even go there at all. It’s kind of all in or nothing with the sauces.”
Hot sauces have definitely found their place in the Australian market, and boutique labels are popping up all around the country.
Melbourne Hot Sauce owner and chef Richard Nelson says the hot sauce trend is definitely growing, and likens it to the growth of the craft beer industry.
Since launching in 2013, Melbourne Hot Sauce has won multiple awards including several first place wins in the 2017 Australia and New Zealand Mr Chilli Awards and a second and third place win in the 2016 World Hot Sauce Awards.
Nelson says the secret to his award-winning sauces is love, care and attention to detail.
“I approach making a sauce in the same way as creating a dish in a restaurant,” he says. “For me it’s all about simple clean flavours with a perfect balance.
“We aim to make a unique style of hot sauce that’s focussed on flavour balance rather than just the heat but at the same time can still be used as a daily culinary ingredient.
“Using quality fresh ingredients without adding any nasty unnatural ingredients is a must. We don’t use any thickeners, starches, emulsifiers, flavour additives or modifiers.”
He says while the mark of a good hot sauce is its ability to stand up on its own as a table condiment, there are many ways to incorporate it into cooking.
“We make a wide variety of hot sauce suited to different styles of cooking which are only really limited to the user’s imagination,” says Nelson.
“Dressings, marinades, basting, emulsifications, soups, sauces, curries, stocks. Anything that needs a little flavour punch.
“One of my favourite recipes over summer is a spiced avocado and lime sorbet with coconut chips made with our Tomatillo & Jalapeno hot sauce.”
But for those who can’t handle the heat, there are still plenty of options out there.
Mexican fast casual restaurant Zambrero is poised to relaunch its Trezigo sauce on May 25, a guilt-free option for the health-conscious diner.
It’s based on a combination of three Mexican ingredients – garlic, lime and coriander – and the result is a light, allergen free sauce that’s also suitable for vegans.
Zambrero CEO Karim Messih says the sauce was originally launched last year and was intended to be a limited time offering, but instant positive feedback has resulted in it becoming a permanent addition to the menu.
“At Zambrero we are committed to innovation so we are always creating, developing and working on our offering to ensure we give our customers the quality they expect,” he says.
“Trezigo is now back for good due to popular demand and customer feedback.”
Trezigo will join a list sauces on the Zambrero menu, which of course includes some hot Mexican flavours too, such as the Red Chilli sauce, made with Serrano chilli, peach and ginger.
Messih says Zambrero isn’t afraid to use ingredients not commonly associated with Mexican cuisine.
“An example of this is our creamy Basilo sauce which is a blend of basil, pine nuts and garlic,” he says.
According to Messih, a range of sauce options is key to offering a customisable menu for consumers.
“Having a diverse range allows our customers true flexibility in designing their menu item as our sauces range in heat, creaminess, mouthfeel and flavour,” he says.