Friday, November 26, 2010

In praise of fry sauce

Spicy fry sauce and conch fritters in the Bahamas.
Fry sauce.

Perhaps no two other words than these stir more epicurean passion in the region we lovingly refer to as the Intermountain West.

There were 2002 Olympics pins featuring fry sauce, for heaven’s sake.

There is much controversy and legend surrounding the invention and evolution of fry sauce, that ubiquitous pink dipping condiment found at many fast-food restaurants in Utah, Idaho and Nevada.

This article not only will not resolve this controversy, but it will further complicate it.

Arctic Circle, the restaurant chain, claims to have invented fry sauce “more than 50 years ago” (you can look it up on the company’s web site) and perfected it since. It sells the stuff by the bottle, as do some other entrepreneurs, like the makers of Some Dude’s Fry Sauce, which has about $1 million in annual sales.

Idaho, says Some Dude’s President Michael Thompson, is the company’s No. 1 market out of the 12 states where the fry sauce is sold.

Many people assume that fry sauce is simply a combination of ketchup (one part) and mayonnaise (two parts). Connoisseurs know this is not true. Good fry sauce needs to have a certain zing that comes from something in neither ketchup nor mayonnaise. (Send your favorite fry sauce recipes to me at rplothow@postregister.com or Roger Plothow, Post Register, 333 Northgate Mile, Idaho Falls, ID 83401.)

But here’s the rub: “Fry sauce” is hardly unique to our little corner of the world.

For example, the conch fritter, the blue-collar finger food of south Florida and the Bahamas, comes with a version of fry sauce that includes Tabasco and black pepper for a great, spicy zip. Some Dude’s makes a jalapeno flavor, but the Tabasco gives a vinegary kick particularly appropriate for seafood.

In Thailand you can get pink dipping sauce for fried pickles. The Japanese make a pink shrimp sauce. There’s a pink peppercorn dipping sauce for artichokes and the Chinese have a pink sauce for fried shrimp. Some recipe web sites have a whole section devoted to pink sauce.

“My relatives who were loggers in the north woods of Wisconsin were mixing mayo and ketchup and putting it on fried diced potatoes and onions around the turn of the century,” says Some Dude’s Thompson. “Mayo and mustard, mayo and ketchup, mayo and pickle relish were used as condiments in France during the second World War, according to my dad, who spent three years as a photojournalist the Army.”

All of this might have local fry sauce aficionados fighting mad, but consider it a good thing. Nearly all culinary habits have their genesis elsewhere, fry sauce being no exception.

Whether the origins of fry sauce come from Asia, the Caribbean or Provo, we can be proud that we share a tradition of plunking fried finger foods into a pink sauce and calling it local cuisine.

What a lovely connection to the rest of the finger-food, pink-sauce-dipping world.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the praise! ACFS - The Original!

    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Salt-Lake-City-UT/Arctic-Circle-Fry-Sauce-THE-Original/362943503619

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