“Tacos every day” is an ideal we can all support, but in Austin, Texas, tacos are a legitimate lifestyle. Austin Taco Project, a recent addition to the city’s bustling taco scene, calls its executive chef, Kevin Spencer, a “tacologist,” and even staff are trained to give expert advice on taco and hot sauce pairings to maximize the flavor profile of each dish. A hot sauce caddy sits on every table, containing options from around the world. Think Sriracha from Thailand, Crystal Hot Sauce from Louisiana and Valentina from Mexico, which Spencer proclaims is “the duct tape of food” because it can go on anything. You’ll also find the local Texas staple, Bravado Spice Co.
You don’t need to eat at the restaurant to apply the staff’s pairing tips to your own Taco Tuesday gathering. “A sauce can completely change the taste of any dish, and pairing two flavors together can be magic,” Spencer says—and this is especially true of tacos and their condiments. Here, the chef offers expert tips for creating magical taco and hot sauce combinations with stuff you’ve got in the fridge.
The taco al pastor, with its spit-grilled meat and juicy pineapple, is the unofficial king of the taco universe. Spencer’s Pineapple Express, which uses pork belly instead of the traditional shoulder or loin, pairs beautifully with Bravado Spice Co.’s Pineapple & Habanero hot sauce. “The pineapple flavors in the taco lend itself to a great pairing with pineapple and habanero—the fruit in the sauce tones down the heat for an enjoyable match,” he says.
At home, “venture into your local grocery store and pick up a pineapple hot sauce—there are a lot out there,” he says. If pineapple isn’t your thing, Spencer suggests Valentina Salsa Picante or any Cholula flavor.
Copyright 2017 South Florida Reporter