There’s nothing like opening the fridge and seeing a bottle of ketchup at least half-full. Your fries shall be dipped. Your burger will be okay. Your eggs are safe. That’s right, some people like it on eggs. But if you’ve been to a trendy establishment serving up any posh “housemade” variation on ketchup, you may eventually look at your squeezy bottle as half-empty. We raise our hats to you, food snob.
Ketchup isn’t, but should be, a broad term for any thick, tangy and savory fruit or vegetable-based condiment. At present day it’s pretty much universally planted in tomato territory, unless you’re in the Philippines. Due to a tomato shortage during World War II, Filipinos began making ketchup out of the comparatively abundant banana, yielding a much sweeter brownish yellow sauce (as you might imagine), which was then dyed red. Delicious. And how on earth could you consider eating their very special version of spaghetti and cut-up hot dogs without it? Filipinos liked it so much that banana ketchup has outsold tomato ketchup ever since.
Mushroom ketchup, a British favorite, probably won’t replace your bottle of Heinz any time soon, but this mud-colored and textured uh…delight, packs an umami whollop akin to Worcestershire and soy sauce. It makes an excellent spread for sandwiches and burgers and as it’s nearly impossible to find in the U.S., is worth a whirl in the blender, armed with a reputable recipe. Bittman’s is good.
Another variation making appearances alongside housemade truffle tots and other fancy dippables is blueberry ketchup. It’s tangy and slightly sweet, with subtle fruit notes, and made just like tomato ketchup with a savory blend of garlic, peppers, spices and vinegar. And if you like sweet potato fries, your world just got a lot friendlier.
If after this alternative ketchup meet-and-greet you’re still partial to tomato, consider making a batch yourself — homemade ketchup is sure to be a hit at any barbecue. Once you learn how to roast red peppers, you can make a ketchup that’s still a friendly bright red, but more complex and flavorful. And a final thought: to the French, who recently banned ketchup in many schools to discourage obsessive dipping (it’s tastier on fries than Dijon, there I said it): more for us.