For many in India, the earliest memory of a sauce is perhaps none other than the popular tomato sauce. It is a sacrosanct ingredient that almost accompanies every dishes—be it noodles, cutlets, fried rice or sometimes even rotis. Those were the days when people hardly knew about white sauce or barbeque sauce. Later, thanks to the many culinary shows, national and international, that we gradually started learning the ways to distinguish different types of sauces.
Although there are a great variety of sauces available today, in the culinary world, there are ‘five mother sauces’ considered to be the starting point of making other secondary or ‘small sauces’. The credit for creating the first four basic sauces—Tomat, Bechamel, Veloute and Espagnole—is given to French chef Antonin Careme who made those in the 19th century. Later, chef Auguste Escoffier added the fifth and final sauce, Hollandaise, to the existing four. However, according to some historians, Romans were the founders of sauces. Around 200CE, they used sauces to distinguish any doubtful freshness of food.
A sauce, essentially, is a liquid with some thickening agent that adds to its ‘body’ and flavouring agents. Each mother sauce is made with a different liquid and a different thickening agent. Roux (thickening agent cooked by using wheat flour and fat) is used in three of these but as it is cooked for a different amount of time to produce a lighter or darker colour, it adds distinction to each sauce.