Latest Trends

Latest Trends


Hot stuff is a favourite on the South African menu

Date: 4/13/2023 12:00:00 AM
Author: Hillary Ward
FLAMING HOT Mexican foods like Elote, embody the spicy flavours of the region. Photo Capsicum Culinary Studio

ONE OF THE HOTTEST TRENDS in food right now is the South African consumer’s growing appetite for food and flavours that are spicy, fiery and flaming hot.


Whether it’s noodles, snacks, bunny-chow, chakalaka, tacos or chilli on pizza, research shows that South African consumers have always had a deep love for hot and spicy flavours, which awaken their taste buds and take them on an exciting flavour experience. 


But the trend has really taken off as local and global culinary influences encourage consumers to seek out newer, hotter and more exciting culinary experiences. Hot and spicy has moved beyond just chilli, to incorporate a huge range of spices, sauces and ingredients that add depth of flavour too.


Locally, inspiration for hot and spicy flavours is rooted in cultural influences from South Africa, including African, Indian and Cape Malay cuisine, from hot chakalaka, to fiery masala and peri-peri sauce that spans the spectrum from mild to bioweapon.


But our neighbours to the north in the rest of Africa, in countries like Ethiopia and Senegal, are also building a reputation for some of the hottest, spiciest cuisines in the world. Global flavour house Givaudan is one of the food companies harnessing these flavours from its consumer insights laboratory in Johannesburg, recently launched to invest in African flavour.


Globally, Korean cuisine is trending, with flavours like sweet, spicy gochujang paste setting the culinary world … on fire. This sweet, spicy, hot and pungent red chilli paste is the backbone of Korean cooking, but South African chefs are using it as an element to add a carefully-curated kick of heat and flavour to their most novel dishes.


Even beverages are turning up the heat on this flaming hot trend, with a dash of cayenne pepper, chilli powder or chipotle finding itself in ginger-based drinks, as well as cocktails like spicy margaritas, and even as a sprinkle of spice on a chai latte.


Asian and Mexican culinary influences continue to top the charts when it comes to hot and spicy inspiration. Both offer a very different flavour experience, but expand our palates, and give us a greater understanding of how hot foods can embody a myriad flavours, from sweet, salty and spicy to sour, bitter and umami. Mexican food also plays a big part in turning down the heat, with sides like guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, sour cream and margaritas to cool things down. The combination of creamy dairy products, cool vegetables and sugars helps stop the chilli from overwhelming the palate.


Three hot trends:


    Everyone is mad about ginger shots, not just because of the delicious, gasp-worthy fiery taste experience (much like the overwhelming initial hit of wasabi), but also because of the cleansing, nutritious health benefits that are said to cure all tummy ailments and protect against coughs, colds and flu. Ginger shots can be served a beverage, but also poured over yoghurt and granola, fruit salad or even ice-cream



    Gochujang is made from Korean chilli powder (gochugaru), fermented soybean powder (mejugaru), glutinous rice powder (salgaru) and salt. Traditionally, gochujang is fermented for up to three months in a clay pot in full sun. It is a staple in Korean cooking, with dishes like bibimbap and bulgogi, but can be used to add a spicy, umami kick to almost anything. Slather it on braai chicken or pork belly, add to dips and sauces, add flavour to vegan vegetarian dishes like tofu and roast potatoes …



Ready-made chilli oil is freely available, but Asian-trained chefs swear by the method of making their own chilli oil by infusing a neutral oil with aromatic spices, including star anise, cinnamon, bay leaves and Sichuan peppercorns, and then pouring the hot oil over the chilli flakes (preferably Sichuan chilli flakes.) The salted hot chilli oil is poured over dishes just before serving. There are many variations that may include garlic, black cardamom, spring onion, Chinese black vinegar, toasted sesame oil, etc. Hot chilli oil is the easiest and most delicious way to add a kick of heat and flavour to almost any savoury dish.


First published in Hotel & Restaurant Business magazine.

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