In cooking, a sauce is a liquid, cream, or semi-solid food, served on or used in preparing other foods.
The word “sauce” is a French word taken from the Latin salsa, meaning salted.
Sauces are an essential element in cuisines all over the world.
They may be used for savoury dishes or for desserts. They can be prepared and served cold, like mayonnaise, prepared cold but served lukewarm like pesto, or can be cooked like bechamel and served warm or again cooked and served cold like apple sauce.
Sauces may also be divided into two broad categories. First, they can be essentially nutritious partners to a staple, such as the sauces eaten with pasta, corn chips, rice, and so on. A second category primarily imparts flavor and is often served separately on, or in addition to, meat and vegetables rather than the staple cereal or tuber.
Oil and vinegar sauces, such as vinaigrette dressing, are most often used with salads and cold dishes. English mint sauce for lamb has a vinegar base, as do green sauces such as the Italian salsa verde and Argentine chimichurri, both served with plain-cooked meats.
Sauces thickened with egg yolks include mayonnaise and its variations.
Tomato sauces are purees of that vegetable with herbs, spices, other vegetables, and sometimes ham or bacon. Bolognese sauce is the classic Italian meat sauce for pasta, a tomato sauce with minced beef.
Each culture developed its own style, using favored ingredients and techniques.
Sauces in French cuisine date back to the Middle Ages. In French cuisine they are classified into 5 families:
• Sauce Béchamel, milk based sauce, thickened with a white roux.
• Sauce Velouté, white stock based sauce, thickened with a roux or a liaison.
• Sauce Tomate, tomato based sauce, thickened with a roux.
• Sauce Espagnole, roasted veal stock based sauce, thickened with a brown roux.
• Sauce Hollandaise, an emulsion of egg yolk, butter and lemon juice or vinegar.
Italian sauces reflect the rich variety of the Italian cuisine and can be divided in three category:
• Savory sauces used for dressing meats, fish and vegetables
• Savory sauces used to dress pasta dishes
• Dessert sauces
In traditional British cuisine, gravy is a sauce used on roast dinner. The sole survivor of the medieval bread-thickened sauces, bread sauce is one of the oldest sauces in British cooking.
Sauces used in traditional Japanese cuisine are usually based on shōyu (soy sauce), miso or dashi.
Some sauces in Chinese cuisine are soy sauce, doubanjiang, hoisin sauce, sweet bean sauce, chili sauces, oyster sauce, and sweet and sour sauce.
Salsa is the Spanish word for “sauce”. In English, especially in the United States, when the word “salsa” is used in an unqualified manner, it refers to the spicy tomato-and-chili-based preparation known as salsa roja, salsa picante or salsa cruda, as adopted from Mexican cuisine.
Hummus is a traditional middle eastern sauce or dip. It originated in Egypt, but is considered as a traditional food of many Arab countries such as Syria and Palestine. It’s made of chickpeas and Tahina ( sesame paste) and garlic with olive oil, salt and lemon juice.
Possibly the oldest sauce recorded is garum, the fish sauce used by the Romans.
Some sauces are commercial products like Worcestershire sauce, HP sauce, soy sauce or ketchup.
Ketchup is the most popular sauce in the world, followed by mayo.
A chef who specializes in making sauces is called a saucier.