Popular International Condiments
1. Kewpie Mayo
Japan’s beloved mayonnaise is a cult favorite, and for good reason. Chefs will tell you that Kewpie is closer to homemade mayo, and once you’ve had it, it’s hard to use anything else. And don’t get me started on Japanese potato salad— so good!
Like soy sauce, but better, with a smoky, meaty flavor. Maggi is incredibly popular in Vietnam, and you might have had it without knowing on Bahn Mi– it’s frequently mixed with mayo and spread on Vietnam’s famous sandwiches. Try the original German version for even more umami punch.
Sriracha has become a huge phenomenon in the United States, but in my mind, it doesn’t hold a candle to Portugal’s Piri Piri hot sauce. Made from the African Bird’s Eye Pepper, this hot sauce has more depth and complexity, and–depending on the formulation– a hint of sweetness. I first encountered the spicy nectar during my Try the World Review, and it’s since caused me to completely neglect my bottle of sriracha.
It’s not clear who pioneered the practice of aging maple syrup in bourbon barrels, but it’s pretty brilliant. Whiskey barrels are re-used to give the syrup oakey, spicy, and well, bourbon notes. There’s quite a few producers in the United States and Canada. Excellent on pancakes, and in coffee and cocktails.
Both yeast based spreads, from Australia, and the United Kingdom, respectively, Vegemite and Marmite are controversial to say the least. I’m not a fan– but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it! Those who enjoy the taste describe it as deep and umami, like beef bouillon or concentrated mushrooms.
6. Banana Sauce
Banana sauce hails from the Philippines, where was created to stand in for ketchup during a WWII shortage. The concoction stuck around, becoming one of the country’s favorite condiments. Much like ketchup, some people put it on everything, though the banana scent just doesn’t scream “hot dog condiment” to me.
Yeah, you probably know this one. But the Japanese vibrant green Japanese horseradish-like plant is great to have around for more than just doctoring take-out sushi. Mix some wasabi with mayo for your roast beef sandwich, combine it with ketchup for an awesome cocktail sauce, it’ll shine anywhere you’d normally use horseradish.
8. Lao Gan Ma
Lao Gan Ma chili oil is a Chinese cult favorite. It’s made with fermented black beans for a deep, earthy, umami taste, and packs heat, but not too much. Aficionados put it on everything, from grilled cheese, to soup.
9. Fish Sauce
Ever tried to make pad thai at home? It’s never quite the same as at the restaurants, and there’s a good chance that fish sauce (along with tamarind paste), is what you’re missing. Funky and fishy, but you won’t taste that pungency in your dishes, just salty, umami goodness.
10. Ajvar (or Ajver)
Ajvar is a Serbian red pepper spread that’s available (or you can make it) sweet, or spicy. It’s fantastic on bread, vegetables, meats, or as a dipping sauce, and you’ll see it used at pretty much any meal of the day.
Harissa is a North African chili paste enhanced with spices like coriander, caraway and cumin. Use it in soups, marinades, dips anything that needs a punch of flavor.
12. Branston Pickle
Britain’s Branston Pickle is really a pickled vegetable relish, in a sticky brown sauce of dates and tomato. It has a nice sweet and sour taste, is addictive, and fantastic on sandwiches or crackers.
This sour plum sauce is popular in Russia and Georgia. Tkemali is often used in meat, poultry, and potato dishes, but its tart, vinegary, slightly sweet taste lends itself to experimentation.
Boiled cider might sound like the newest hipster foodie trend, but Wood’s Cider Mill has been making it in Vermont since 1882. Amazing on pancakes and in cocktails, and many swear in gives that special something to pies and cakes.
15. Papaya Hot Sauce
Aurba’s favorite hot sauce marries papaya with habanero peppers. Papaya hot sauce is sweet and spicy, excellent with seafood, and anywhere you’d use hot sauce.