Worcestershire sauce is used alot in Britain and Ireland. Apparently the recipe is originally Indian though. It is used alot to make red meat taste more "meaty"- so people use it in marinades, splashed on steak, in any minced beef recipe, and splashed on melted cheese on toast is another very popular one.
Lee and Perrins is the most famous brand over here for the sauce if you are looking for some
Those who crave Worcestershire sauce, it is believed,
stock their pantry by direct shipments from England,
as lovers of this sauce feel that the product in the
US (like English chocolates), just does not taste the
The sauce comprises of Anchovies (possibly those from
around Northern Spain), this is then blended with
shallots, garlic, and onions, and supposedly left to
mature for upto three years.
It is used as a flavouring and enhancer to make the
food and/or ingredients rock, such as for example
it is thought to blow the socks off stocks, other
sauces, or gravies, and if you have ever had a bloody
Mary, it is most likely it would have included this
Some other posters are hinting that this is an anchovie fish-based sauce. It does have anchovies, but they are 5th on the list of ingredients and not (IMO) the most evident flavor.
The original is sort of like a steak sauce (though L&P has one of those, too). It does have an evident "twang" of vinegar, some sweet from molasses and corn syrup, unique bite from tamarind (also sour and tart twang), a depth from cloves, and a little heat from chili peppers, garlic and eschalots.
Who knows why people first make a recipe, but the acidity in the sauce is good as a meat tenderizer as well as a flavor. It is also good in a mushroom gravy, creamy Swedish meatball sauce, and even a honey/balsamic vinegrette.
L&P also offers a White Wine Worcesershire (for chicken, fish and lighter foods>they say) that I think makes a perfect Honey/Dijon French vinegrette.
And as for the anchovies, maybe someone who knows Asian cuisine can answer better, but I heard that fish sauce is a key hidden ingredient in many of their sauces because it adds a depth of flavor, but does not overtake the harmony.
As a side note, Julia Child describes in one of her books how to make an authentic Caesar salad based on her visit as a child (what a terrible almost pun - she would have been a McWilliams at the time) to Caesar Cardini's restaurant in Tijuana. Caesar's original recipe apparently specifies a couple dashes of Worcestershire, and it's the anchovies in the Worcestershire that have morphed into the near-universal, but non-authentic, practice of adding anchovy fillets to a Caesar salad.
It's not as fishy as you might think.
It's tangy with a deep red vinegar + soy sauce kind of flavour, with some fruity citrus flavour from the tamarind.
Along with generous amounts of white pepper, green scallions and sesame oil, Lea & Perrins is the secret ingredient that makes "authentic" Taiwanese-style fried rice vermicelli noodles.