If you’re into ketchup or tinkering with homemade condiments, try this umami-laden ketchup. I came up with the recipe several years ago and my husband reminded me about it last week, when we were eating the Filipino spicy banana ketchup. “Ketchup originated in Asia so what’s the big deal about making it from bananas? You made that one with fish sauce,” he said.
Oh, right. Western ketchup borrows its name from the Amoy Chinese (Hokkien/Fujian) term ketsiap, which means fermented fish sauce and is related to the Malay term kechap (now written as kecap, i.e., delectable kecap manis sweet soy sauce). The word and sauce was transported to Europe by Dutch traders, and over time, the original Asian condiment became transformed into many kinds of ketchup. I’ve read about mushroom and walnut-based ketchups but it’s the tomato version that reigns supreme on our modern tables.
So here’s a terrific tomato-based ketchup that’s loaded with umami from different directions – fish sauce, soy sauce, and shrimp sauce (mam tom/mam ruoc). The shrimp sauce lends an extra edge and depth. Yes it’s stinky and weird looking being purple and toothpaste-like but it’s a fabulous Vietnamese stealth seasoning to master. Shallot adds depth too.
For the canned tomato, use a brand that actually tastes like ripe tomatoes. My current favorite brand is Muir Glen organic. If you use peeled canned tomatoes, puree it first in a blender and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to thicken. Ripe fresh tomato can be used too with the paste but it may not have the same thickness.
Compared to store bought, this homemade ketchup is lighter in color (think brick red instead of deep red), mainly because the sautéed shallot lightens the results. This is a fun recipe to play with and add to your summer menus.
Spicy Umami Ketchup
Yield: about 2 2/3 cups
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/3 pound (150 g) shallots, chopped
- 2 large moderately hot chiles, such as Fresno
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon light (regular) soy sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
- 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons fine shrimp sauce (use lesser amount if you're new to this condiment)
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- A 28-ounce (840 g) can ground peeled tomatoes (about 3 cups)
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) unseasoned rice vinegar
- 3 1/2 ounces (115 g) palm sugar, chopped, or light brown sugar
- Heat the oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 6 minutes. Add the chiles and cook for another minute, until slightly soft and aromatic. Add the fish sauce, both kinds of soy sauce, shrimp sauce, and salt. Let things bubble for 1 to 2 minutes to concentrate the flavor.
- Add the tomato, vinegar, and sugar. Simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and has reduced by nearly half. Remove from the heat and cool for 20 minutes.
- Puree in a blender until smooth. Taste and adjust the flavor as needed. Transfer to a jar and set aside, uncovered, to cool to room temperature. Cap and chill before using. You can probably store for up 2 months in the refrigerator.