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Feb 1, 2011 09:13 AM

Condiment crazy

Ladies and gentlemen, here's the request, which as the pedigreed chowhounds that I know you are, you will honor.

What are different common condiments that are widely used in various parts of the country or world.

For example, there is currently a thread about catsup on mac and cheese in the US. There's a significant part of the population that does this, though it seems weird to others.

Now if you personally love soy sauce on chocolate ice cream ... that doesn't count .. that is just you. Or even the current thread of black pepper on grapefruit .... great tasting, to most, but not really common.

In Guatemala there is the condiment holy trinity ... mayo, catsup and green chilitepe sauce. All three get squiggled on a lot of stuff ... Fries, corn ... pizza. I'm not in love with this trio.

Some people put catsup on chow mein ... ok, but for me, like catsup on mac and cheese, not my thing.

However, that green chilitepe sauce on Chinese food ... sheer greatness ... wonderful on wontons or added to any dish. Chilitepes just have an affinity for Chinese food. That sauce can be bought at most Latino markets in the US. It is called Picamas.

So what in the world are other countries and different parts of the US commonly doing with condiments?

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  1. In Brazil ketchup and mayo can be used together on any kind of snack food: pizza, hot dog/burger, grilled cheese. Basically you squeeze both on, take a bite, then squeeze more on for maximum use. The mayo is so prevalent that there are ads by the health board saying "homemade mayo kills" and I think even a number you can call to rat on restaurants using homemade mayo. (I love homemade mayo made fresh and haven't ratted on any restaurants, but some of them don't do a good job and make it just to save money.) "Molho Rose" or salad dressing with ketchup, cream, maybe a bit of mustard and Worcestershire. There are other things which are used in a sense like condiments, in particular potato sticks which are put on hot dogs and hamburgers, to garnish salads. When you buy kebabs on the street, you have the option of rolling them in farofa (manioc meal) which is also used over eggs, beans and they may gets sprayed with a garlic sauce. With hot peppers, Brazil differs from Mexico and Peru in not making pastes. As such although a basic tabasco style sauce is everywhere, pepper sauces are also less common, so what is more common are conserves either in oil, vinegar, or alcohol of peppers. A restaurant which offers a homemade one, will generally give you the jar and a straw to drop how ever many drops you feel like.

    Although I prefer malt vinegar for fries, a good mayo is quite good, and also like variations on dynamite sauce which I occasionally make in Brazil to eat with fried food. Keep in mind that an aioli is often served with paella dishes. (I am also always up for gravy fries.) Sandwiches are also good with Heinz Salad cream or with butter in place of the mayo (particularly with a nice butter and a sharp cheese.

    I have to say, I am a fan of some versions of Columbian Arroz con Pollo which use ketchup instead of their tomato base and use hot dogs. I guess the ketchup is an ingredient,but the hot dog is more of a condiment. I could almost eat it with some potato sticks on the top and a bit of aioli on the side. :-) Ketchup and mustard are also used as ingredients in Brazilian "strogonoff ."

    I am also not certain that its a condiment, but depending where you are in Brazil bananas maybe be put on the table and some people mash them into their food -- rice, beans, stew. I think its more because for some people mashed food is preferred: mashed spagetti with ground beans, a paste of beans rice and farinha (flour), etc.

    6 Replies
    1. re: itaunas

      Great list. I haven't been to Brazil, but I've eaten a lot of Brazilian food in the US. It's funny but it is sort of like Guatemalan food in that by itself it can be really bland. It is the adding of peppers and condiments that brigns it to life.

      I was eating a lot of Brazilian snack food and totally underwhelmed and then I discovered the magic of catsup and mayo. Otherwise, some of it is like eating a hot dog without mustard ... or whatever your condiment of choice is for a frank. Few eat a naked hot dog on a bun.

      1. re: rworange

        rworange the seasoning of salgadinhos can vary a lot and some are frankly a lot more bland than they should be. Others are overseasoned in not a good way: too much annato or paprika, heavy on the salt. And there is the overcooked chicken breast which is common.

        But you can get ones where homemade chicken broth is used in the dough (many at least use boullion), where better ground pepper is available, even where whole chickens are shredded and "tempero verde" is used (cilantro, parsley, green onion). So there definitely are ones which aren't improved by mayo and ketchup. Also in the Bay Area you should chase after what Goais is known for since I think there are lot of immigrants from there, which is not salgadinhos. I am partially joking, but there are great differences in taste and seasonings across Brazil. People think Brazilian's like hot food, but outside of Bahia food is not hot and only those who prefer add peppers (although in Goias they do use a pepper I like pimenta do bode). And outside chicken hearts offal isn't so common, but is really big in the Northeast (caldo de mocoto, sarapatel, buchada do bode). I think more so than the US there is a lot of regional variation, which alone can be interesting.

        1. re: itaunas

          Thanks a lot. I had not considered what part of Brazil the local population would originate from in the Bay Area. I know with Portuguese, there are mainly Azorians.

        2. re: rworange

          rworange because we were talking about snack foods, I forgot to mention a most ubiquitous condiment in Brazil which is 'vinagrete' which its commonly called or 'molho de vinagrete.' You simply can't have a Brazilian churrasco without this (and in my opinion farofa). Some people eat it over rice, others with meat. Although its similar to a pico de gallo/salsa cruda, green peppers are a big part, its not as acidic as most salsas (vinegar is used more than lime and often watered down more) and a bit soupy, also both parsley and cilantro can be used. Oil is also added, mostly commonly soy but also olive oil. I'd say the order of the 3 big is ketchup/mayo, farofa, and vinagrete but all are important.

        3. re: itaunas

          Itaunas, I am very curious about Brazil. Has the health board outlawed the preparation of homemade mayo by chefs in Brazil? If they prepare it and use it on food in their restaurants, is this substance "bootleg mayonnaise," just as we had "bootleg liquor" during the United States' prohibition? And are a lot of people actually being killed by homemade mayo? I am not being sarcastic. I'm honestly curious. Thanks!

          1. re: gfr1111

            I can provide a few more details. I know there were some well publicized cases of sickess related to mayonnaise "caseira": in particular one case in São Paulo where 106 people became sick with salmonella. So several states and many municipal governments have errected statutes against the use. The advertising campaign I saw was “a maionese caseira é a delícia que mata” which refers that salmonella (or e. coli or staph which they are also concerned about) could kill. I am not certain whether anyone has died and its been associated, although I know a someone who works in public health tracking epidemics for the federal government and will ask.

            Whether its homemade mayo or commercial, some snack providers add different seasonings -- whether its fresh garlic and parsley or dried marjoram, and oregano. But there are not good sources for sterile versions of those like the US, so that is another way bacteria can enter. In some cases the laws prohibit repackaging commercial mayo too. I have first hand knowlege of a health inspector telling a local restaurant that they can only use ketchup-style sachets of mayo for their pizza customers, while at the meantime almost all local lunch counters have squeeze bottles, rarely kept in the fridge (expondential growth is as much a concern as the incident bacteria) and I know of several which do serve homemade mayo.

            I have seen text out there that mayo is the largest cause to intestinal infection, so certainly the official line is strong like prohibition, but I would tend to doubt that. There are dairies which do not have quick chilling and pasturization equipment (in the better cases what they don't sell raw by 9am is turned into cheese). Livestock is field killed, then driven long distances to a butcher and some meats are sold in the open air at farmers markets. Salting and drying ingredients is common (and in general a "homemade" industry, plus a true "delicia"), but not all producers properly protect their product from flies and other concerns, but in the worst cases use diseased animals. Hot peppers are conserved in oil with fresh garlic without addition of acid (sometimes cachaca is added to help macerate and may help with sanitization, but not certain) -- I very much enjoy peppers picked in oil. Plus there are cases of lapses in basic food handling such as cross-contaimination -- using the same knife for raw and cooked meats, not separating cutting boards. And most kitchens do not have running hot water, nor do they take the time to heat water for cleaning or use chemical sanitizers.

            So I am not certain its the biggest concern, but its one that has gotten a lot of attention. Where restaurants show common sense, the health inspectors do appear to be fairly flexible. So its not like the US where restaurants can't advertise that they use sous-vide or have to use zip-loc bags so its not officially "under vacuum." Brazil is also a different culture, if an official accuses you of a violation you are expected to argue and at length. Imagine a restaurant owner in the US arguing for 3 hours with a health inspector on the street in front of his restaurant, perhaps even calling the inspector's mother's names and so on. Here it would be the comedy of the moment and shortly forgotten as people would go back to eating his homemade mayo. :-)

        4. When we travel we try to see a movie at a local movie house. Of course we get popcorn:
          In Mexico it is common to put ketchup on popcorn.
          When I ordered my popcorn in Lisbon I was asked "Salt or sugar?"
          Great memories!

          3 Replies
          1. re: Motosport

            Is it either or ... or sometimes both. Is that buttered or unbuttered popcorn? The sugar sounds like it might be good. I've just had a chip and popcorn craving in the last few weeks and might give the sugar a try.

            1. re: rworange

              I worked for the popcorn board here in the US and traveled to Mexico for snackfood shows, etc. and Popcorn is commonly served as street food with a squeeze of lime and tabasco also! Plain unbuttered popcorn.

            2. re: Motosport

              They had the salty/sweet popcorn choice when I lived in London. I would order half and half and mix it up. They thought that incredibly odd.

            3. This could get very long-winded. One of the few bones of contention between my roommates and I is that I have colonized the refrigerator door with an army of Asian condiments. Sadly they're right, but I just can't bear to part with all these items that have such idiosyncratic uses and cannot be substituted.

              Sweet chili sauce (Thailand) - dip for fried foods, particularly seafood and spring rolls
              Green/Desi/Bhel Puri/Tomato chutnies (India) - everything
              Sriracha (Thailand) - everything
              Shrimp paste (Philippines) - salad dressing, saute base or to eat with oxtails
              Maggi Hot n Sweet Chilli Sauce (India) - burgers, chicken nuggets
              Ajvar (Turkey) - as a dip or with grilled meat
              Tonkatsu sauce (Japan) - fried foods
              Miso (Japan) - soup base, marinades or mixed with sesame oil for a dip for grilled meat
              Banana ketchup (Philippines) - hot dogs, fried chicken or spaghetti
              All Purpose Sauce (Philippines) - roasted meat or as a stew base
              Peanut Sauce (Thailand) - satay or mixed with onions and mayo for fries

              There are certainly plenty more, but a lot of them serve a bases for cooking sauces and are common enough that I'm sure someone else will cover them.

              2 Replies
              1. re: JungMann

                I was thinking more of a condiment, like the banana ketchup in the Philippines, rather than a base for cooking sauces which really could get long. Ingredient-wise. Mahler powdered chicken consume gets added to a huge number of dishes here, but it is an ingredient and not used as a condiment.

                1. re: rworange

                  A lot of times there is overlap. Piri Piri sauce in Portugal is a well used condiment, but its also part of the base for galinha a africana/frango de churrasco (and is also excellent in a sauce for shrimp) and its not that far removed from massa de pimentao (sweet pepper paste) which is exclusively used to season things.... and I would say both are linked to harissa. A lot of the ones above have dual functions.

              2. Some of mine have been mentioned already but I will add ajvar to Croatia and Bosnia (a few oher countries) as well. They eat it as we eat ketchup. We always bring some back with us.

                LOVE the mustards in Germany and England. Prince of Wales Ketchup is lovely with elderberries, anchovies, etc. Pistou in Provence is amazing. Amongst others, Italian favourites are bagna cauda and caponata and pesto.

                We all know about Marmite - aside from a spread can be used as a condiment. And of course there is the infamous Worcestershire. Brown sauce is prevalent in the UK, too, as is mint sauce. Tartar sauce with fish and chips is another, of course.

                Although I have not been to Ethiopia according to Marcus Samuelsson papaya ketchup is big there (and I make it at home). Of course there is berbere in northern Africa, too, sometimes used as a rub or as a condiment. Dukkah is another that can be used both ways.

                Then there are the obvious salsas, masalas and so on.

                1. In my corner of the US, I noticed Sriracha seemed to be appearing everywhere. Once it showed up on the condiment counter of my workplace cafeteria a year or so ago, I realized it had officially become part of the standard condiment canon.