18 Condiments Our Food Staff Would Lick Off a Spoon

In 2018, the singer-songwriter John Prine told The Times that he would steal syrup, ketchup and mustard from the hotels he stayed at and keep them in his suitcase — “just in case of emergencies.” Here at the Food desk, we focus much of our time, energy and resources on recipes and the meals that grace our plates. But what about the condiments that bolster them? What would we steal from a hotel?

When asked, our editors and reporters shared not just their favorite condiments — in our opinion, anything that enhances the flavor of food — but also the leading roles these sauces, spices, and pastes play in their daily lives. The question was simple, but the answers were full of nuggets of cooking inspiration: What’s in your fridge door?

Ata Din Din

My go-to condiment has always been ata din din. It is a cooked relish of coarsely puréed red bell peppers, onions and Scotch bonnet chiles sautéed in neutral oil and enlivened with dried crayfish and fermented locust beans. The crayfish and locust beans add an intense savoriness you can’t help but inhale as you taste, a true multisensory experience. This is the sauce that I always have in my fridge, and use lavishly over everything, including morning eggs, cooked proteins or a bowl of rice and veggies. YEWANDE KOMOLAFE

Marmite

I’m going through a Marmite phase. The inky, yeasty paste gives just the right amount of salty funk to buttered toast, whether plain or beneath fat slices of avocado, juicy sliced radish or soft-scrambled eggs. And a dab on peanut butter-filled celery sticks deepens and sharpens the flavors. My family won’t touch it, so one tiny jar lasts forever, meaning it’s always there, just for me. MELISSA CLARK

Yuzu Kosho

As of late, I’ve fallen hard for yuzu kosho, which I will lick off a very tiny spoon as it’s so potent. It gives a jolt to anything you combine it with, be it butter to slather on crusty bread or crème fraîche for a tart. And a little mixed with chopped cucumber goes a long way. SARA BONISTEEL

Better Than Bouillon, Salsa Macha, Chile Oil

At the start of the pandemic, I panicked when I realized that my fridge was so packed with condiments that I had nearly run out of storage space. But hoarding condiments essentially means hoarding flavor; it’s the best way I know to enrich dishes with little effort: Salsa macha imparts smokiness and texture; a splash of chile oil awakens the palate. But in truth, I use Better Than Bouillon’s vegetarian chicken stock concentrate more than any other condiment. A small spoonful subtly bolsters soups, stews, roasted vegetables and pastas of all kinds. ALEXA WEIBEL

Chutney Podi

My favorite condiment is chutney podi (also known as gunpowder). Commonly found in Southern Indian cuisines, it’s a type of dry, coarse chutney, typically containing dal, seeds, chiles and other spices, though there are countless variations. Growing up, we were lucky to have a lot of South Indian family friends who gave us batches of their homemade versions. My uncle Guru, whose family we used to travel with a lot, would bring a small bottle of podi to every country we visited because he couldn’t go long without craving Indian flavors. He once joked that it could make anything taste like Indian food — he once added it to ribollita. (Let it be known that I do not condone bringing outside seasonings to restaurants!) Sadly, I don’t have too many people nearby anymore making homemade podi, so I buy MTR’s version, which does the trick for me — it’s nutty, tart and spicy, with a grainy texture that I just love. I toss roasted vegetables with it, or mix it with ghee and drizzle it on top of yogurt as a snack. PRIYA KRISHNA

White Miso Paste

I always have a tub of white miso paste in the fridge, and I use it almost every day for its mellow, salty and lightly fermented flavor. It’s great whisked with tahini for a quick sauce on roasted vegetables, or with sesame oil and honey to glaze a piece of fish. It also makes the complex base for two of my holy grail pasta recipes: this vegan cacio e pepe and this creamy miso pasta, both from Alexa Weibel. And, like everyone else in the world, I use it in this all-star cookie recipe from Krysten Chambrot. BECKY HUGHES

Mayonnaise

My love of mayonnaise is a constant, and I’ll lick any that clings to the spatula after putting together a sandwich or mixing a salad. I make my own for dipping fries or dolloping onto paella. I use multiple store-bought mayos as well, preferring Kewpie for potato salad and okonomiyaki, Duke’s for BLTs and Hellmann’s for coating salmon or chicken before cooking and whisking into salad dressing. GENEVIEVE KO

Five Weeknight Dishes

Emily Weinstein has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

    • This coconut fish and tomato bake from Yewande Komolafe yields a gorgeous, silky ginger-coconut sauce.
    • This tasty recipe for sheet-pan chicken and potatoes by Lidey Heuck is really nice without being fussy.
    • This vegetarian baked Alfredo pasta with broccoli rabe is inspired by pasta Alfredo, but with green vegetables added.
    • Kay Chun adds asparagus and snap peas to this spring vegetable japchae in this vegan take on the classic dish.
    • You could substitute chicken or another type of fish in this summery grilled salmon salad from Melissa Clark.

    Doenjang

    Everyone seems to be gochujang-happy these days (for good reason), but don’t sleep on doenjang. A fermented soybean paste, it packs incredible savory punch, full of complex, salty redolence. Balanced and thinned out by maple syrup or maesil cheong (green plum syrup), doenjang makes for an incredible glaze on roasted fish or vegetables, slicking anything in its path with funky wonder. ERIC KIM

    Hot Sauce, Ketchup

    I recently found El Yucateco’s Black Label Reserve Chile Habanero hot sauce at a Mexican grocery store in our neighborhood. We’ve always liked their classic red and green sauces, but this charcoal-black version is milder and smoky-sweet, so it lends complex flavor with a gentle heat. We eat it on pretty much everything, but especially in soups and chilies, and on eggs. Also, I’m the mother of two little kids, so ketchup is at the top of my most-used condiments list. I feel like I order it almost every week. We eat it on all the stuff everyone else eats it on, but I also find it’s a decent substitute for one to two tablespoons of tomato paste when I’ve run out. MARGAUX LASKEY

    Chimichurri

    When I’m on a break from Shaquanda’s Spicier Smoke or a homegrown Carolina Reaper hot sauce, I spring for a flavorful chimichurri. Put it on just about anything for a bright, herbaceous kick — but it’s even better when mixed with mayonnaise as a marinade for chicken or as a dip for French fries. VAUGHN VREELAND

    Tsuyu

    I try to keep a bottle of savory-sweet tsuyu soup base in my fridge for quick lunches. I combine it with chilled, cooked soba noodles, a five-minute boiled egg and ideally a crunchy vegetable. (Sliced radish, sliced cucumber or watercress is my favorite combination.) Then I sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on top for a light-yet-filling lunch that I could eat almost every day. EMILY FLEISCHAKER

    Furikake

    I’m so grateful to the friend who introduced me to furikake several years ago because it has been the sleeper hit of my condiment collection ever since, bringing a lovely salty-sweet boost of flavor to many a meal. For the uninitiated, furikake is a dry Japanese condiment that’s made up of seaweed, dried fish and sesame seeds along with some sugar and salt. When it comes to rice bowls, one of my favorite meals, sprinkling furikake on top is the savory equivalent of putting icing on a cake. KASIA PILAT

    Chipotles in Adobo, Sriracha Mayo

    My fridge door is a shrine to condiments, adorned with more variations of mustard than any one person should legally be allowed to own. While all my sauces and dips are rotated heavily, nothing gets as much love as my decanted cans of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I chop or blitz the peppers for marinades — an easy way to incorporate heat and smokiness in any pork, chicken or shrimp dish. And residual adobo sauce is my secret weapon whenever I make a breakfast sandwich. Mixed with a little mayonnaise, it completes a stack of egg, Colby Jack cheese, smashed avocado and pickled red onions between halves of a toasted English muffin. I always have Sriracha mayo within reach as well. When I’m nearing the end of a Sriracha bottle, I like to squeeze a bit of Kewpie right into it and shake the whole thing up. It is truly an incredible condiment, ideal for slathering onto BLTs, mixing with chopped shrimp for quick hand rolls or whisking into tuna salad. TANYA SICHYNSKY

    Dijon Mustard

    I would rather go hungry than eat anything with yellow mustard on it, but I would marry Dijon mustard. Straight from the jar, a spoonful elevates sausage, pastrami and even French fries. But Dijon doesn’t mind hanging back and playing a key supporting role in salad dressing and sauces. It can make bread crumbs adhere to fish and punch up a stew. Really, is there anything Dijon can’t do? KIM SEVERSON

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