Sauce is so much more than a bottled, processed condiment. As small batch, homegrown sauce brands take over kitchens, we curate some of the most unique spreads, and ask chefs how to use them

El Diablo

Husband and wife Nikhil Kutty & Tanya Nambiar started El Diablo in Delhi as a way to bring more innovative, unique hot sauces to the forefront. From mildly spicy to super spicy, their sauces cater to a range of palates, and it’s not just your run-of-the-mill spicy sauce. In a variety of interesting flavours, their Cranberry Ghost Chilli as well as Super Hot Ghost Chilli are two examples of widely appreciated sauces.

Chef recommends: Rachi Gupta, chef and founder of The Bread Bar, says as the cranberry ghost chilli sauce imparts flavours of sweet, spicy, and sour, “I would marinate a whole chicken with it and roast it, and serve it classic with the jus made out of the sauce, mash potatoes, and seasonal veggies.”

Peach & Melon

Another lockdown baby, Peach & Melon was founded by Minal Punjabi in April 2020, with a small menu first of just her favourite sauces, which she would make to make her lunch preps super easy and quick. Peach & Melon does artisanal sauces and handmade pasta with the aim to make binge-worthy food healthy, as their sauces are all natural, no preservatives or added colours whatsoever. Out of the range of sauces, the Sambal sauce is the most unique.

Chef recommends: Chef Karishma Mehta says thanks to the versatility of Sambal, it works in most Asian dishes. “You can just toss mushrooms in the yum sambal sauce and season it a little, and you have an appetiser. You can also make peanut curry using the sambal as a base. Add a little peanut butter and coconut milk to balance out the flavours. Add tofu, and serve hot with rice or noodles,” she recommends.

The Sauce Co.

Mumbai-based Riddhi Murpana started The Sauce Co., during the lockdown. The advantage with this brand is that it gives you safe, comfortable choices with nothing too bold, but healthier and more personalised versions of flavours you’re familiar with. They do Honey Chipotle, Red Pepper, and Chilli Garlic, out of which I really enjoyed tossing my stir fry in their red pepper sauce, which is not too spicy, but has a burst of peppery flavour to lift up a bland meal.

Chef recommends: Chef Karishma Mehta says the red pepper sauce works perfectly for paneer or tofu steak, with grilled vegetables. “To bind the grilled vegetables well with the paneer/tofu, you need a sauce that’s not bland or tart, and that also adds a lot of flavour,” she adds.

Big Fat Essentials

Delhi-based Big Fat Essentials does gourmet dips, savoury jams, and more too. But in sauces, from their sriracha hot mayo, to the most basic pesto, their collection of sauces is wide, and has something for every meal. Their hot BBQ and Chipotle Hummus are some of their unique sauces.

Chef recommends: Chef Anuradha Joshi Medhora, founder of cloud kitchen Charoli Foods, says, “If clean eating is your thing, the chipotle hummus is a perfit fit for your pantry. Make vegan quesadillas and add creaminess with this zingy, smoky hummus. It can also be used to make a pasta salad, or be stuffed in baby baked potatoes, quesadillas, a fresh vegetable sandwich, and a buddha bowl, among other dishes.”

Naagin

Naagin felt that India isn’t making full use of its spice culture, and decided to be the ones to start the trend. Their range of hot sauces explore different regions and their spice landscapes. For example, the Naagin Original represents the quintessential tastes of Maharashtrian cuisine, featuring the Sankeshwari chilli that gives Kolhapuri food its spiciness and colour. However, making things even more interesting is their Kantha Bomb Indian Hot Sauce, featuring south Kerala’s birds eye chilli — Kanthari Chillies.

Chef recommends: Chef Eric Sifu, head chef at KOKO & Foo, recommends having the Kantha Bomb Indian Hot Sauce by using it to “make crispy lotus root & water chestnuts, light batter fried, and coated with this sauce, topped with sesame seeds and sesame oil. As lotus root and water chestnut is a light tasting dish, the sourspicy sauce and sesame oil will elevate it,” he explains.

Not Just Hot

Bengaluru-based Saritha Hegde’s Not Just Hot is a gourmet brand that does artisanal hot wok sauces, all inspired by Asia, Europe, and India. From having your dumplings with some Thai-inspired Coriander Root Wok Sauce to enjoying some chilli chicken with the Andhra Chilli sauce, all kinds of meals can be covered. Their Prik Nam Pla, a Thai dipping sauce made with fresh chillies and garlic, is a bestseller.

Chef recommends: Chef Rajesh Malik, executive chef, Out of The Blue, says, “This sauce is a perfect match for Chicken Satay, as the satay has peanut butter, which is sweet, and this sauce is spicy, so there is a balance of flavour.”

Wonder Foods & Farms

Mayuree Rao Thacker started Wonder Foods & Farms during the very first phase of lockdown, and while creating 21 dishes she’s never made before, realised that cooking is much more fun and easy when your sauces come bottled. Recently, Wonder Foods has launched a range of vegan pantry staples with chef Karishma Sakhrani — Smoked Chilli Oil, Garden Pesto, Signature Thai Curry, and Toum. I tried the Toum as a dip for roasted carrots and sweet potatoes, and let’s just say it’s the lightest, healthiest snackable sauce there is.

Chef recommends: Chef Sakhrani gives a quick recipe with the garden pesto. “Pretty much a two-ingredient dish and two minute one, you can make a Pesto Pasta using our Garden Pesto. All you need is lots of pesto, and some perfectly cooked pasta of your choice. If you’re looking to amp it up, however, you can sauté some extra garlic, add lots of grated Parmesan, some olives, and perhaps red chilli flakes.”

Does your favourite restaurant retail its sauce? We list a few that do:

Yazu Mumbai: Yazu Mumbai: Pan-Asian Supper Club has launched two sauces for retail: Sichuan and Burnt Chilli Oil.

O Pedro: O Pedro retails its gluten free Hot Sauce, made from habanero chillies, red jalapeños, onion garlic & vinegar.

YouMee: Asian restaurant YouMee has introduced six signature flavours to retail, namely their Black Bean Jam, Sriracha Chili Oil, and Thai Chilli Jam, among others.

Deli By The Blue: To up your meal game at home, Deli By The Blue is retailing a range of mustard sauces: Honey Mustard, Sun-dried Tomato Mustard, Orange Mustard, and Pesto Mustard.

Sorrentina By Foodhall: Mumbai’s favourite Italian restaurant is retailing some of its best sauces. You can get their Aglio Olio e Peperoncino, or their Blush Pink Sauce, which is an Indian rendition of alla rossa [blush sauce] made with tomato sauce, ricotta cheese and oregano, and some more.

Also Read; Celebrate The Vegetarian Landscape With These Chef Curated Recipes