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
- 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.