Last year, Uproxx’s Vince Mancini went on a little bit of a tear about how harissa is today’s truffle oil. What he meant is that the North African spice paste is suddenly ubiquitous and in danger of being brutally played out. He was exaggerating a little. While there can and will be no forgiveness for how truffle oil was slathered across every single new American menu in the country circa 2009, harissa hasn’t jumped the shark quite yet. (You’ll know when the chef at your local small plates gastropub, with a tattoo of a butchery diagram on his forearm, puts a harissa mac & cheese on the menu).
Truthfully, harissa versus truffle oil isn’t a fair comparison, because harissa is essentially hot sauce. As such, it’s not quite as prone to being labeled a food fad. Just look at Sriracha’s staying power, or Tabasco’s enduring success. By 2017, hot sauce is expected to be a $1.3 billion industry — destroying ketchup’s $800 million earnings. More than half of American households have a bottle of the stuff in their cupboards (though we all know that Beyoncé keeps hers in her purse).
For more than a decade, Sriracha was the darling of the hot sauce craze. Cool kids loved it. The problem? It had lots of sugar. Trendy salad shop Sweetgreen just pulled Sriracha from their menu for this exact reason. Now, ready-made harissa brands are clamoring to ascend the throne. Is the umami boosting paste about to be the next big thing? To dive deeper, we asked Entube creator Richard Lassalle about bringing the heat and how packaging makes all the difference.