Happy New Sandwich Condiment Day!
Mustard and mayo take a back seat to ethnic spreads
It occurred to me while researching the fun facts you never knew about mustard, that while necessary for certain sandwiches (Reubens), it's not actually my favorite sandwich condiment. It's my second favorite. My real favorite is weirder, which I've gauged by the fact that nobody else seems to want this stuff near their sliced turkey. I maintain, however, that Indian lime pickle is where it's at.
Walk into any Indian grocery store and you'll see shelves upon shelves of pickle, or achar, India's signature condiment. Very spicy, pungent and sour, pickle is a componant of nearly every meal. Chunks of raw mango, sliced carrot, or, in the case of my sandwich, diced whole lime (skin and all) are coated in a mix of mustard oil and traditional Indian spices like red chili powder, asefoetida, turmeric and fenugreek, packed into glass jars and left to cure in the sun for several months. The result is a complex, spicy-sour pickle that will bring out the extra flavor in cardboard if that's what you desire. If it's not tender enough after the cure, I give it a rough chop to encourage spreadability.
I can't emphasize enough how delicious this stuff is on a turkey sandwich, or tossed with chicken salad. Like its distant cousin, kimchi, a little goes a long way and it's very much an acquired taste, but once you've acquired it there's no going back. If you'd rather ease your way into the new sandwich condiment world than dive in head-first, I recommend ajvar.
If you're a fan of roasted red peppers, eggplant caponata, chili sauce or tons of garlic, welcome to your new favorite thing to put on everything. Ajvar is a Serbian spread adapted by a large chunk of the Middle East consisting of the above ingredients blended with vinegar into a rough paste of varying levels of heat. Like Indian pickle, any Middle Eastern grocery store will stock several brands and variations. Ajvar is derived from the Turkish word for caviar — it originally stood in for expensive fish roe in middle and lower-class families — and once you taste it you'll know why the two share a name.
Hm...maybe I should buy a jar of cheap-o caviar and see what that does to a sandwich. Oh hey, Jess from the future here. It really sucked. Stick with pickle and ajvar.
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