What is Pink Sauce and why is Chef Pii's TikTok product so controversial?

From its bold colour to its questionable ingredients list, the bottled condiment is splitting opinion on social media

TikTok user Chef Pii douses fried chicken with her controversial Pink Sauce. Photo: @DijahSB / Twitter
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“To thrill your taste buds.” That’s the mission cited on the site dedicated to the controversial Pink Sauce.

For those unfamiliar with the TikTok delight-turned-debate, it is not the UAE version of Alfredo meets arrabbiata pasta sauce. Rather, it’s a ketchup-like condiment made by TikTok user Chef Pii, which went viral in June.

Pii, whose real name is not known, ships her home-made product unrefrigerated across the US, despite the heatwave sweeping the nation. It is sent in packaging that’s often damaged, with an ingredients list that’s misspelt (“vingar”, anyone?) and a serving size that initially read 444 portions instead of 444 grams.

For once, it might have paid not to read the label.

Yet, it has fans who reverentially unbox the $20 product and generously drizzle it over everything from fries and chicken wings to burgers and tacos — delighting in its taste, which Pii describes as, well, “indescribable”.

But, what exactly is Pink Sauce and should you be glad or sad it’s not available in the UAE?

What's in Pink Sauce?

The silver lining is Pii is not backing down in the face of her many detractors, who are questioning how safe the sauce is given its erroneous packaging. Instead, she’s sticking by her product and vouching for its safety and authenticity.

She even says her team “follow FDA standards”.

This is a confident and candid claim but one the Food and Drug Administration has not yet confirmed.

Pii has also apologised to those who received damaged goods and has since changed her shipping service. Pink Sauce now comes secure in a pink box, complete with a pink feather in keeping with social media’s current obsession with Barbiecore.

Pink is a hot colour this season, on the fashion and food front. Photo: @DijahSB / Twitter

Ingredients-wise, the base component, pitaya or dragon fruit, is known for its nutritional properties and is rich in vitamin C and iron. The sauce also uses a host of other natural ingredients, including pink Himalayan salt, sunflower seed oil, honey, chilli, garlic, distilled “vingar”, dried spices, lemon juice, citric acid and milk.

Finally, its ranch-like taste is being described by those bold enough to try it as a delectable melding of sweet, spicy and tangy flavour profiles — a perfect dipping sauce, then.

So should you try it?

Unfortunately, what you see is not what you get when it comes to Pink Sauce. Most of its detractors harp on about the liquid ranging in shade from the palest to the hottest of pinks and in texture from watery to chunky, with no semblance of consistency.

This, in turn, begs the question: if it looks different every time, can the weights, measurements and even quality of the ingredients be trusted at all?

No one is yet to report falling sick after consuming Pink Sauce — except the one TikTok user who gagged at the sight of her oozing bottle — but is that a risk you’re willing to take?

The 444 measurement error is another red flag. Sure, mistakes happen, but this is clearly a small-time operation that’s become too big, too fast — and more serious errors might yet emerge.

Until the FDA gives its stamp of approval and lab tests rule its safe to be sold in stores, it's advisable to steer clear of edible items, especially ones that come without an expiry date despite containing milk.

The debate around Pink Sauce

Whether or not the sauce is good or bad for you, the debate around it brings to the fore one of the most dangerous trends of our times: social media bashing.

While Pii is accountable to the FDA, which has not levied any charges against her, she’s not out to deliberately harm her customers. She’s just a small-time entrepreneur who came up with a trial-and-error recipe that became popular overnight and is now paying the price for other people’s buying decisions.

It’s not a crime, and certainly not worth the volume and vehemence with which people are trolling her. “I’m only human and I woke up to about a million insults,” the young chef said in one of her posts.

The verdict

While inexcusable online insults should stop immediately, shopping online for an unknown product from an unknown person is simply not sensible.

This is not the same as tasting a dish whipped up by your trusty next-door neighbour or buying fruit from a ripe-market vendor in person; it’s a pretty-looking yet unregulated product that just so happens to have gone viral.

Updated: July 22, 2022, 12:07 PM