In many regions of the world, sweet with heat is a natural combination.
“A large influence in this pairing comes from Caribbean and Latin America regions,” said Garth Vdoviak, product development manager, Mizkan Americas, Mount Prospect, Ill. “People in these regions eat what is indigenous to the area, and that would be tropical fruits and hot chilies.”
Today the regional specialties have been introduced to Americans via cooking shows and social media.
“Consumers live in a world with no borders,” said Steven Haughie, corporate chef, Gold Key-PHR Hotels & Resorts, Virginia Beach, Va. “They view foods from around the world and then want to experiment with those flavors … which frequently involves opposite flavors that attract.
“You can take something as simple as french fries and add a twist.”
For example, fry sweet potatoes, then sprinkle them with cinnamon, sugar and chipotle or ghost pepper powder.
Sweet fruits may be a carrier for heat as well.
“Ground chilies such as cayenne or paprika are a great platform to layer onto tropical fruit such as pineapple to be included in a stir fry or rice dish,” said Jud McLester, executive chef and ingredient sales manager, McIlhenny Co., Avery Island, La. “Another great combination is prepared curry powder and the inclusion of sweet components.”
Charlie Baggs, executive chef, Charlie Baggs Inc., Chicago, has some favorite heat and sweet combinations.
“Sriracha goes great with honey as a chicken glaze, on wings, on breasts, on a whole rotisserie chicken,” he said. “It’s delicious and craveable and our customers cannot get enough of it. Italian red pepper chili flakes add kick to sweet marinara classic Italian sauce Diablo. The heat and sweet sort of cancel each other to deliver a balanced, bold-flavored sauce.”
Dipping sauces are key accompaniments to many small plates and appetizers, which allow consumers to explore new foods without risking their entire entree. Consumers expect small plates to deliver as much flavor as an entree.
“Sauces can deliver sweetness in different ways.” Mr. Warsow said. “For example, honey has a very sharp onset of sweetness, whereas molasses has delayed sweetness. You can pair the pepper with the sweetener. Something that has a late burn, like ancho or chipotle, goes well with molasses or cane sugar. Peppers with upfront heat, such as habanero or aji rocoto, pair well with a sweetener that has a lot of fructose in it, such as honey.”