There’s a wide world of great sauces to spread on international cuisine, so drop the ketchup and give something else a shot.
Vegemite – Australia
The Australian obsession with Vegemite approaches the level of Philadelphia's relationship with the cheesesteak. It’s become a symbol that shows whoever’s eating it knows exactly where their priorities lie. Vegemite is a concentrated extract made from the yeast left over after brewing beer. The taste is hard to describe and the best words for it might be “salty” and “unique.” We really wouldn’t know where to go after that.
Karashi – Japan
Karashi is a Japanese mustard that dials up the spiciness to an intense degree. Most mustards in the Western world are cut with something that mellows out the seeds' natural heat, which is why you can heap yellow mustard on a hot dog and keep breathing afterward. You probably couldn’t do that with Karashi. It comes in powder or paste form and is mostly used as a dip.
Piri piri – Portugal
You may have encountered piri piri on chicken, especially if you’ve gone to a Portuguese or African restaurant. The sauce itself is Portuguese originally, and can be made from a wide combination of spices and oils depending on someone’s personal taste. The main constant in the sauce is the presence of piri piri chili peppers.
Niter kibbeh – Ethiopia
We’ve noticed a recent uptick in the prevalence of Ethiopian restaurants, which means more and more people are going to be coming into contact with niter kibbeh. It’s a spiced and clarified butter, and would be used the way Italians use olive oil. The ingredients may be slightly difficult to find, but once you have them, the process isn’t much of a challenge. And if you give it a chance, you’ll be well on your way to an appreciation for Ethiopian cuisine.
Pebre – Chile
Pebre is a common type of traditional Chilean salsa, with as many variations on the method as there are families in Chile. Whatever way it’s made, it’s generally not very spicy, with the goal being more of a light freshness with a bit of a hot bite at the end. Put it on anything you want—it doesn’t seem like Chileans are particularly stingy with it.
Currywurst sauce – Germany
Currywurst threw us for a bit of a loop the first time we had it. Then the time after that, and the time after that, because every time we put it on a brat it seems like the taste changes. Germans themselves don’t agree on the recipe. They only agree that it should go on a sausage, which, to be fair, is enough for us too.
Gochujang – Korea
Gochujang is a paste made from red pepper and is one of the bases for Korean cooking. It’s used similarly to how you’d build a dish around soy sauce. It’s also fermented, with the generally accepted age being five years. The process is impressively in-depth and takes a surprising amount of time, for how much it’s used in Korean cooking.
Bagoong – Philippines
Bagoong is a Filipino sauce that helps bind together the flavors of whatever else is in the dish. It’s not used to add its own flavor to the food, but to enhance flavors that are already present. Really, if you ate it on its own, you may not like it. It’s made by salt-fermenting oily fish.
Brown sauce – Ireland and the United Kingdom
If you ever saw an Irishman loading up his bangers and mash with a sauce you couldn’t identify, it was probably brown sauce. It contains a ton of vinegar and salty tang, and you may have even dismissed it as weird ketchup. But if you ever went back for a second bite, you’ll know exactly why this sauce is so popular, especially if you had it with a full fry. Everyone has their favorite brand too, so don’t worry if people start dropping names. You’re all connected by your love of the sauce.