You won’t find Ajvar at your local Kroger, and Safeway probably isn’t going to stock Monkey Gland Sauce anytime soon. All the more reason for adventurous eaters to seek out these odd and wonderful sauces. Because who doesn’t get tired of ketchup every once in a while?
1. MONKEY GLAND SAUCE
Thankfully, there are no monkey parts in this tangy South African sauce. Instead, you’re getting a free-for-all of savory ingredients, including chutney, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, wine, ginger and garlic. It may sound weird, but South Africans know a thing or two about grilling, and this sauce is a classic in their country. Use it as a lively companion to steak, or as a burger topper.
2. KEWPIE MAYO
While this condiment may be obscure to American diners, it is wildly popular in its home country of Japan. It’s a creamier, richer mayonnaise that’s made with egg yolks (as opposed to whole eggs) and rice vinegar (instead of distilled vinegar). Chefs love to use it, so there’s a good chance you’ve had it already and just didn’t know.
3. MUMBO SAUCE
Washington D.C. residents are familiar with this sweet and tangy sauce, which accompanies Chinese takeout orders in the region and goes well with all sorts of fried food. It’s available by the bottle, or you can try making your own using ketchup, sugar, hot sauce and some Hungarian paprika. There’s also a Chicago variety mumbo sauce that’s made for barbecuing.
4. COMEBACK SAUCE
This rich, creamy concoction originated in Mississippi and is commonly used as a salad dressing and as a dip for fried food. A close relative of French remoulade, it calls for plenty of mayonnaise, plus some horseradish and cayenne pepper to give it a spicy kick.
5. BANANA KETCHUP
A resourceful food scientist came up with this stand-in condiment during World War II, when the Philippines experienced a tomato shortage. Since then, it’s remained a traditional topping in the region, and has its own surprisingly lively flavor. Made with sugar, vinegar, various spices and, of course, crushed bananas, Filipinos use it on everything from French fries to spaghetti.
6. HP SAUCE
This savory brown sauce is a hit in England (the name stands for “House of Parliament”), while in America it’s been mostly relegated to ethnic and specialty grocers. And that’s a shame, because it’s a spicy, complex combination of tomatoes, malt vinegar, dates, tamarind and rye flour. Try it over a burger or as a dipping sauce for fries. Or, do as the Brits do and serve it with a full English breakfast.
This Brazilian sauce is one you probably shouldn’t make on your own. That’s because it uses the roots of the cassava plant, which contain cyanide and are poisonous unless properly strained and boiled. The finished yellow sauce is often seasoned with basil, garlic, and chicory and poured over roast duck to create the classic dish Pato No Tucupi.
This Italian sauce is made using anchovies that have been fermented in oak barrels for at least five months. The taste doesn’t suit all palates, but those who prize the briny, oily fish will revel in a recipe that dates back to Roman times. Toss it with your favorite pasta along with some olive oil, garlic and lemon, and dig in.
9. SA CHA SAUCE
Often referred to as a Chinese barbecue sauce or Chinese satay (and sometimes sha cha sauce), sa cha combines ground-up shrimp, brill fish and various spices. If the prospect of making that sounds daunting, you can always opt for a bottled variety, available online and at specialty retailers. Its pungency makes it an ideal base for a hot pot, or as a dipping sauce. It’s also great as a grilling sauce for beef.
This red pepper and eggplant sauce hails from Serbia, where diners enjoy it as a dip or as a sandwich spread. It makes a great alternative to ketchup, but preparation can be daunting since it entails roasting, peeling and seeding the red pepper and eggplant. You might opt for a jar of the “Serbian Salsa” from a specialty retailer, or online through Amazon.
11. SALSA GOLF
The story goes that Nobel prize-winning chemist Luis Federico Leloir came up with this chilled sauce at a golf club in Argentina (he wasn’t happy with their shrimp cocktail, apparently). Though it sounds fancy, salsa golf is essentially ketchup, mayonnaise and lemon juice, making it similar to other dipping sauces around the world. Argentines like to turn up the flavor with spices like oregano and cumin, and serve it in fancy glasses.
If you’re bored with ketchup, or just looking for something different to dip your fries in, look no further than this tangy Georgian plum sauce. It’s available by the bottle via specialty retailers. Or, if you’re feeling confident around the kitchen, you can try this recipe courtesy of The New York Times that adds dill, coriander and cilantro. It also works well as a glaze for chicken.
The phrase “concentrated yeast extract” doesn’t really excite American diners. And even in its home country of England, Marmite is polarizing, with a slogan that reads “Love It Or Hate It” (seriously). So the salty, savory spread isn’t for everyone. But as with Vegemite, its Australian competitor, those who love it, love it.
14. HULI HULI SAUCE
Next time you grill chicken or ribs, try slathering on this traditional Hawaiian sauce. Made with pineapple, soy sauce, brown sugar and ginger, it’s got a sweet taste that makes it a great alternative to barbecue sauce. The name alone, which translates to “turn, turn,” tells you it’s made for the grill.
15. MOJO SAUCE
To celebrate the U.S. and Cuba’s newly amicable relationship, why not try this tart sauce that’s a favorite in the island country? Making it yourself means tracking down sour oranges, but shelling out a little more for a bottle might be easier. Use it as a marinade for chicken, or enjoy it as a dipping sauce with fried plantains.