Condiments and sauces – foodie answers to bland plates. A little bit of chimichurri here, a dunk of ketchup there – it’s all about those little touches, the extra flavours that take your dinner or snack into the next dimension. Here are some of our favourites along with their origins:
South America: chimichurri
You’ll find this Argentine herb sauce accompanying meat at a barbecue (or an 'asado' in Argentina). Its typical ingredients include parsley, white vinegar, oregano and garlic; it’s great alongside heartier textures like thick, succulent steaks.
21st century ketchup has a long and checkered past – originally, it was a sauce brought over from Vietnam to China in order to ferment fish and has now been adopted by the United States (and the rest of the world). It gets its name from the Hokkien Chinese word kê-tsiap. Regardless of its baggage, ketchup, with its magical blend of sweet and savoury, has evolved to become one of the biggest condiments around – according to one 2016 survey, over 302 million US citizens said that they use it. American grub – we’re talking burgers, hotdogs, fries and even breakfast eggs – makes for an obvious pairing with this beloved red sauce.
Best known for: its lifelong love affair with fries
Rooted in North African cuisine (Tunisia and Algeria specifically) and a key player in Middle Eastern cooking, harissa is used in everything from egg dishes to stews and curries. Made with dried chillies, caraway, oil, cumin, coriander and garlic, this spicy condiment is great for lacing dips with heat; hummus, mayo and yogurt are all crying out for a bit of the hot stuff.
Best known for: its ability to create a bit of fire
Dating back to the 16th century, pesto was invented in Genoa, northern Italy, and has been completing pasta dishes ever since. Its name comes from the Genoese word ‘pestâ’, meaning to pound or crush. The must-have ingredients to make it at home? Basil (the herb that gives the sauce its green colour), garlic, pine nuts (although crushed pistachios also work), parmesan and olive oil. You can now find many different variations on the classic basil pesto, including chilli, sun-dried tomato and spinach.
Sources attribute this red pepper-based dip to Aleppo, Syria. Walnuts, red bell peppers, breadcrumbs, spice, oil and pomegranate molasses are the main components of a spread that tastes great lathered onto toast and topped off with an egg.
Best known for: its sweet side (but watch out for the hidden heat!)