The Joy of Condiments

Condiments can be your best friend when it comes time to cook dinner.

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The land of condiments is a vast one. From hot sauce to mustard, it’s easy to accumulate a fridge full of them and then wonder why you bought them all in the first place. Of course, there are a few staples that are used often, like ketchup and mayonnaise, but there are so many others that can inspire a great recipe.   

DIY CONDIMENTS

There’s no end of the condiments that line the shelves at grocery stores so it can seem like a waste of time to make your own but we have a case to make for doing so, which basically boils down to three things: homemade condiments taste better, you can control what goes in them, and you’ll save money. Wait, there’s a fourth – bragging rights. 

There is something very empowering about controlling exactly what goes in your food. Often, store bought sauces and spreads are filled with corn syrup, added sugar and other unhealthy fillers. The Heinz brand of ketchup, for example, lists ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and tomato concentrate, which is a more positive way to say that the ‘tomatoes have been processed and stripped of all their nutritional value’. Another culprit of bad nutrition is bottled salad dressing, which typically contains a large amount of fat and sugar. 

There is something very empowering about controlling exactly what goes in your food.

Contrary to popular belief, homemade condiments don’t have to take all day to make. There are several short recipes that will taste just as good. Making your own hot sauce requires only a blender and a few ingredients and, although some recipes for homemade mustard require you to let the ingredients rest for a few days before blending, it is far from time-consuming. 

We understand that time is precious and that sometimes you barely have time to put dinner on the table, let alone make your own mayonnaise, but challenge yourself to set aside a few extra minutes on the weekend to make your favourite condiment (or two) and we promise your efforts will be rewarded!

AROUND THE WORLD

Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used condiments in Thai and Asian cuisine!

A staple in Thai cuisine, sambal oelek is a chili paste, beloved for its flavor. It consists of crushed raw red chilis, vinegar and salt and is used both as a condiment and an ingredient in cooking. Enthusiasts of the paste swear that it tastes as though you are cooking with fresh chilis. In terms of heat, you will want to use very little if you’re not a fan of spice. One tablespoon is about the equivalent of one chopped jalapeño.

Fish sauce is another condiment that is frequently used in Thai cooking. A little goes a long way when it comes to this pungent concoction, made from fermented anchovies or other strong-flavored, oily fish. It makes a great substitute for soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and, when used in small amounts it imparts a rich, savory flavor to sauces and marinades for meat. Some people, however, find it too strong in taste, which makes it a polarizing ingredient. Because ingredients like fish sauce and shrimp paste are used so plentifully in Thai cuisine, it can be very challenging to find pure vegetarian offerings in restaurants and eateries.

Oyster sauce is characterized by its thick, syrupy consistency and its depth of flavor.

It is practically impossible to describe Asian cuisine without mentioning oyster and hoisin sauce. Oyster sauce is characterized by its thick, syrupy consistency and its depth of flavor. It instantly amps up bland tasting vegetables like bok choy, resulting in a rich umami flavor. Hoisin sauce makes an amazing marinade sauce for meat, such as barbecued pork, and adds a sweet flavor to seafood.

THE HARD-TO-PRONOUNCE ONE

Worcestershire sauce is not only hard to spell and pronounce, but it’s also essential to traditional caesar salad dressing, cocktail sauce, steak tartare and plenty more delicious dishes. This fermented condiment was created in Worcestershire, England, and imparts a wonderful umami flavor to foods. It contains a wide range of ingredients, including anchovies and can be used directly as a condiment on meat and in the famous Bloody Mary cocktail as well. It’s worth noting that fish sauce – a pungent concoction made from fermented anchovies – can be used as a substitute for Worcestershire, but in smaller amounts since it’s even more pungent.