Condiments are a ubiquitous presence on dinner tables all over the world. Condiments, also known as spices, are sauces and table preparations that enhance flavor or produce a specific taste for different cultures to complement a dish. Initially, the term condiment referred to pickled or preserved foods. However, the definition has changed over time. The word came from the Latin “condimentum,” which means “spice, seasoning sauce,” and another Latin term, “condere,” which means “preserve, pickle, and season.”
The definition of condiment varies from different sources. The most common reference for condiments is spices and herbs, including salt and pepper. The earliest condiment was salt. Salt has always been used as a preservative and additive to dish flavor. In some European countries, cheese is considered a condiment.
Many of us use different condiments daily when we prepare meals, from simple seasonings (salt, vinegar, onion) to complex combinations (chili sauce, chutney, meat sauce, prepared mustard, etc.). Preparing a condiment adds a pop-up color to any menu. This article will be your ultimate guide if you want to learn more about different sauces than the commonly prepared ones.
History of Condiments
Notably recorded, in ancient times, people had used condiments to enhance their food, perhaps to add longevity or for more palatable flavor. Condiments were already common in Ancient Rome, China, India, and Greece. Other myths accounted that before food preparation techniques became well-known, sauces and spices were already famous.
The Romans were associated as one of the earliest people to create different sauces. One of the most common was a fish sauce called liquamen and garum. These sauces were made by crushing the innards of various fish and fermenting them in salt, resulting in a liquid with glutamic acid, which improves the flavor. Further, Romans also grew mustard and introduced it to some European parts.
In the Middle Ages, mustard became popular. At first, English mustard was made of coarse powder. However, it wasn’t appealing as expected. In 1720, Mrs. Clements of Durham created a much smother mustard. It was hot when mixed with water to make a paste. Since then, Durham has become the center of industry for mustard.
New condiments were invented in the 16th century; pesto sauce became popular in Italy. Unique sauces, such as bechamel and chasseur, were developed in the 17th century. India also created chutney which was imported to England in the same century. Soy sauce came from China and became widespread in Europe during the mid-17th and 18th centuries. Ketchup came to the spotlight as a Chinese fish sauce called ke-tsiap. The name gradually changed to Ketchup, and British people eventually added other ingredients to Ketchup instead of fish.
Categories of Condiments
1. Salt and Salt Substitutes
As mentioned, salt is the earliest type of condiment used in cooking. This condiment includes table salt, iodized salt, and dendritic salt. Salt substitutes include seasoning with lesser sodium content intended to be used on food to replace salt.
2. Herbs, Spices and Seasonings
This category of condiment primarily focuses on improving the aroma of food preparations. Herbs are usually derived from botanical sources. Basil, oregano, thyme, cumin, and caraway seeds are common herbs that serve as condiments. Spices are typically blended in powder or paste-like chili paste, seasoning, and curry paste. Seasonings include meat tenderizers, sesame seeds, onion salt, garlic, and others.
Vinegar is a liquid form of ethanol fermentation from a suitable source like wine or cider. Vinegar adds an acidic property to food both in aroma and taste. There are different types of vinegar, such as cider, wine, fruit, grain, and spirit vinegar.
Mustard is a condiment sauce prepared from the ground and mixed into a slurry with water, salt, oil, vinegar, and other spices. Mustard is sold in three market forms: seeds, dry powder, and a prepared paste mixed with different spices and herbs. Examples of mustard are hot mustard, Dijon mustard, honey mustard, and spicy brown mustard.
5. Sauces and Like Products
This type of condiment includes ready-to-eat sauces, dressings, and gravies. It is a liquid, cream, or semi-solid preparation served with the main dishes, which include mayonnaise, salad dressing, onion dips, sandwich spreads, Ketchup, cheese sauce, and barbeque sauce.
6. Yeast and Like Products
Yeast is prepared in a mixture of yellow flakes, granules, or powder often added as an ingredient or condiment. As a type of condiment, yeast includes baker’s yeast and leavening agents that are used in making baked products and alcoholic beverages.
7. Soybean-Based Condiments
This category includes products that are derived from soybeans and other ingredients. The fermentation of soybeans obtains them. Soy sauce is one of the most versatile and popular soybean-based condiments added to dishes for extra flavor.
Relish falls into the category of condiments. It includes those cooked and pickled products, which are usually made of chopped vegetables, fruits, herbs, or sometimes a combination of fruits and vegetables in vinegar. Relishes are typically used to enhance a staple. Examples are chutneys and pickled cucumber jam.
9. Food Additives
This type of condiment refers to any substance intentionally added to food for additional flavor in manufacturing. Food additives are used mainly to preserve the nutritional quality of food.
Popular Condiments All Over the World
Condiments in the North and South America
- Mayonnaise: “mayo” refers to thick, creamy, and eggy sauce commonly used for sandwiches, hamburgers, salads, or dip.
- Ketchup: This is a table condiment commonly referred to as tomato sauce. Ketchup is popularly added to hotdogs, fries, sandwiches, and many more. with its sweet and tangy flavor
- Soy: One of the most common condiments in the United States, soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans, wheat, salt, and water. Soy sauce is famous for its strong umami taste and can be directly or indirectly added to a dish.
- Salsa: Salsa can be chunky, bold, or pureed. Also, some salsas start with a tomato paste. Others consist of parsley, tomato, onion, and jalapenos.
- Mustard: Ketchup and mustard coexist in American food culture. Mustard is commonly used as a topping for backyard menus.
- Hot Sauces: The hottest sauce combines chili pepper, vinegar, and salt. Some have a sweeter aftertaste, while others have a spicy, tasteful effect. Other types of spices are Sriracha, Tabasco, and other brands.
- Maple Syrup: This syrup is popularly used in Canada as a condiment for pancakes. It is made from the sap of xylem, sugar maple, red maple, and black maple trees.
- Aji: It is a spicy sauce that usually contains cilantro, tomatoes, aji pepper, onions, and water. Aji sauce can be as hot as serrano pepper, and Chilean uses this condiment in different menu preparations.
- Pebre: This Chilean condiment is made of chopped onion, olive oil, garlic, and ground spicy aji pepper.
Condiments in Australia
- Vegemite: It is a black Australian spread made of leftover brewer’s yeast from concentrated onion, malt, and celery extracts. Often used as a spread on sandwiches, toast, crumpets, and cracker biscuits, vegemite is a distinct Australian condiment.
Condiments in Asia
- Achaar can be spicy or sweet, depending on the region and intended use. Achaar is a picked food native to the Indian subcontinent. It is often made from different fruits and vegetables preserved in vinegar, brine, and edible oil.
- Chutney: This is a sauce used with the cuisines in the Indian subcontinent. Its form preparation varies, such as a spicy coconut dip, tomato relish, cucumber, or mint dip.
- Kasundi: Kasundi, with its aromatic paste, is a mixture of fermented mustard seeds and spices, including dried mangoes, olives, and dried Indian plums, famous as a dipping sauce in Bengali cuisine. Kasundi is the Asian or Bengali version of mustard sauce.
- Raita: This condiment is made with raw or cooked vegetables with fried droplets of batter from besan.
- Hoisin Sauce: This is a thick, fragrant sauce famous in China. It is commonly used as a coat for meat, an addition to stir-fries, and as a dipping sauce.
- Shacha Paste: This savory and slightly spicy Chinese condiment is used in Fujian, Teochew, and Taiwanese cuisines. It is made from dried shrimp, soybean oil, garlic, and shallots.
- Tauco: This condiment has a distinct aroma from fermented yellow soybeans in Chinese and Malaysian cuisines.
- Chammanthi Podi: This is a classical south Indian condiment and chutney. It is made of shredded coconut and dry-roasted spices. It is ground up and stored to be used later.
- Indian Relish: This is an ordinary relish used as a condiment or side dish made of different vegetables, fruits, and spices.
- Miso: This is a traditional Japanese paste produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, which is used for sauces and spreads, as well as for meats or mixing with dashi soup stock to serve as miso soup.
- Shichimi: This is a typical Japanese spice mixture that contains seven ingredients (including chili, sesame, orange peel, nori, and more). It is a kind of pepper added to soups, noodles, and sometimes on rice products like rice cakes and roasted rice crackers for seasoning.
- Wasabi: This is a hot paste used as a condiment for sushi and other Japanese foods that adds a distinct taste.
- Cheong: This is a kind of syrup in Korea that is used as a tea base. It can also be used as a honey or sugar condiment substitute.
- Kimchi: This condiment is a staple in Korean cuisine. It is a side dish of salted and fermented vegetables with different seasonings like garlic, ginger, and scallions.
- Atchara: This is a pickle made from grated unripe papaya popularly known in the Philippines. With its balance of sourness and sweetness, Achara is usually served as a side dish for fried or grilled foods like pork barbecue.
- Bagoong: This condiment in the Philippines is made from fermented fish, krill, or shrimp paste.
- Fish Sauce: This liquid condiment is made from fish or krill coated in salt and fermented for up to two years. It is used as a seasoning in East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine.
- Nam Chim: This is a Thai dipping sauce that is usually a combination of salty, sweet, spicy, and sour. It is a condiment used for grilled or steamed foods.
- Nam Phrik: This type of chili sauce in Thailand is usually served in a small bowl or saucer as a dip. It is used as a condiment or a dip for bland foods such as vegetables, fish, poultry, and meats.
Condiments in Europe
- Albert Sauce: This popular British condiment is primarily used to enhance braised beef flavor. It is made of horseradish in a clear bouillon, thickened with egg yolks and cream, and spiced with mustard diluted in vinegar.
- Cheddar Sauce: The sauce is made from cheddar cheese, added white sauce, and then spiced using English mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and other ingredients. It is often considered the counterpart of French Mornay sauce.
- Cumberland Sauce: This fruit sauce is used on non-white meats like ham and lamb.
- Zigeuner Sauce: This is a garnish or sauce consisting of chopped ham, mushrooms, and truffles combined with tomato sauce.
- Curry Ketchup: This is a spiced variant of Ketchup that is commonly used in Germany, Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
- Cenovis: This is a dark brown food paste flavor of soups, sausages, and salads.
- Agliata: This garlic sauce and condiment in Italian cuisine are used to flavor grilled and boiled meats.
- Olive Oil: This oil is obtained from olives, a traditional Mediterranean basin tree. It is used in cooking, whether for frying or as a salad dressing.
- Balsamic Vinegar of Modena: This condiment from Italy is made from different recipes. It is usually added to soups, stews, and sauces to enrich their flavors.
A simple meal can be turned into something extraordinary with the right choice of condiments. Condiments are indeed very helpful in making a dish more delectable and creative. They enhance the taste and aroma of your dishes in a fast and easy way if you know what condiments better complement any food preparation. Additionally, condiments may also offer nutritional content helpful to the body.