Heating up: how hot sauce zhoug could become a hit

It’s a street food favourite in Israeli and has been appearing on chain menus in the US. Now Waitrose has introduced it along with other ingredients influenced by world flavours.

19 September 2018
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Some saucy developments are happening in retail, but there is plenty of opportunity for it to translate into food service too. Food Spark has already highlighted the influence of world flavours on hot sauces and even how fermentation is getting in on the act.

But now a Yemenite hot sauce called zhoug or zhug, which has been making waves in America, has made it to the UK. In fact, Waitrose has introduced the Yemenite hot green chilli sauce into its Cooks’ Ingredients range – going with the zhoug spelling.

This spicy Middle Eastern style salsa verde has thousands of different versions, but typically includes herbs like coriander and parsley, as well as garlic, chillies and oil, which are mixed in with spices such as cardamom and cumin. Traditionally, zhoug is made by grinding the ingredients together using two stones, or a pestle and mortar, but it can also be whizzed up in a food processor.

Some describe the condiment as a cross between chimichurri and harissa and not only is the recipe versatile, but some liken it to pesto as it can be eaten with everything from bread to vegetables to meat. Just a few ideas include making it into a quick dip by combining it with yoghurt, using it on a barbecued lamb or as a marinade for fish, putting a dollop into soup or mixing it through rice or quinoa for a quick shortcut to flavour. Plus, on its own it’s dairy-free, nut-free and clean label.

Over in America, zhoug is being made by chefs in a number of restaurants including in LA, New York and Washington, but is also starting to take hold in fast-casual chains like Roti Modern Mediterranean and Naf Naf Grill. Both chains offer it on their customisable menus for things like build-your-own pita sandwiches, bowls, rice plates and salads.

Zhoug’s hot new status is part of the rise in popularity in Israeli food, where the sauce is enjoyed in street food, while across the US it’s widely available at Trader Joe’s.

Regional cuisines

Waitrose’s zhoug is one of a 100 products the supermarket has added to its Cooks’ Ingredients range. The range has been refreshed to reflect the changing tastes of shoppers, according to the supermarket, with key ingredients from cuisines from around the world from Korea to Turkey and Calabria to Japan. Taking inspiration from cookery books popular in the UK and developed with time-poor but adventurous cooks in mind, the supermarkets new range also reflects the rise in popularity of regional cuisines and casual entertaining.

Items that have been introduced include black limes, which add complex citrus flavours to slow-cooked dishes, Kalamansi Juice from South East Asia and Pul Biber, a Turkish chilli flake.

Michelle Gibbs, product developer of Cooks’ Ingredients, said: “We’ve tracked the major cuisine trends in the UK, looking at which ingredients our most popular chefs use in their recipe books. Recently, we’ve seen a rise in popularity of South East Asian, Japanese, Korean and Middle Eastern cuisines coinciding with a more casual approach to dining, meaning that people are cooking more adventurously at home than ever before.

 “Our goal is to ensure that every home cook finds the ingredients they need to make that impressive dinner for friends or a more experimental dish they’ve never tried before. We want to take the stress out of cooking and make these often hard-to-source ingredients and shortcuts available for everyone.”

The range features more familiar products designed to help add flavour and speed up home cooking, including Garlic Purée, ‘Nduja paste, Kimchi Paste and Porcini Powder, which is suitable for vegans and adds an umami depth to meat free dishes.

There are also other sauces and flavours in the range like Ketjap Manis, a sweet soy sauce from Indonesia and Japanese Togarashi, a seasoning made from cayenne, orange peel and sesame

So what does Sparkie think about these saucy new ingredients?


Sparkie says:

The new sauces are a market I have noticed opening up. The retailers seem to be playing it with some caution by introducing new ranges slowly and keeping things broad, like having a new Latin American range in Sainsbury’s, among other new offerings by Schwartz and a few other brands. This feels like them just pushing the door open a crack and seeing what comes through though.

I don’t believe it will be all too long before the more authentic traditional sauces begin to take up some shelf space along side this safer stuff. The ingredients range additions by Waitrose are a surer sign of the trend for authentic flavours – the other retailers always take some time to follow up on it.

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