Ketchup: The Asian American Condiment

While Americans slather on ketchup on their burgers and hotdogs during the July 4th weekend, they might not know that ketchup’s origins are from Asia.  This article talks about ketchup’s origin as a sauce from Indonesia, its eventual use of tomatoes (it didn’t start out using tomatoes), and how it grew to be so popular.  It’s a fascinating story – ketchup reached American via Britain via the Dutch on its path from Asia.  After tomato canning companies began make ketchup from tomato waste products, it became so cheap that most people stopped ketchup at home and from ingredients other than tomatoes.

The article also mentions other ketchups, such as banana ketchup from the Philippines pictured here.  We have a lot of this stuff in my house, and I like the spicy version best.  It’s great with embotido and with scrambled eggs or omelettes.

I find it engaging to look at how food from Asia and other parts of the world influence and are transformed here in the United States.  What other sauces could have a similar popularity as ketchup?  While Americans, on average, are said to eat 32 ounces of ketchup a year, there has been talk that salsa is more popular than ketchup.  This article from the Wall Street Journal claims that while salsa sales revenue are larger than ketchup, ketchup still outsells salsa in terms of units.   Another Asian style sauce with potential is Sriracha, developed as a David Tran’s take on a traditional Asian sauce from Sriracha Thailand.  Sriracha is another popular condiment in my house, and I have been to cooking classes where professional chefs used it to open up flavor.  It makes me wonder what the next “hot” sauce from Asia will be!

Hat tip to John on the pointer to the Sriracha article.

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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