This month we are getting saucy! No seriously, we’re talking about sauce 😉
Can we agree at the outset that not all sauces are created equal? While we are on that topic, can we also agree that there is no One Sauce to Rule Them All? I’m always getting into trouble with my husband for buying a bottle of whatever has just launched on the market. Our fridge door literally has three shelves full of bottles in various stages of completion. What can I say, I am a natural born taste tester.
So what are the essentials? The last missing piece that your taste buds are craving to complete that perfect meal? There’s the classic Tomato that goes with pretty much every fast food and tastes like childhood. Then there’s the garlicky, spicy kick of Sriracha that can blow the top of your head off but have you coming back for more.
I spent a lot of time this week cruising the aisles of my local grocery stores,
sresearching the huge range of sauces available and here are my top budget friendly recommendations.
The Must Haves
At first, I didn’t understand the hype around this sauce. Priced at over R80 a bottle I felt it was too expensive, especially with so many other variations of chilli sauce available. Well, I was wrong. Now I budget for a new bottle every one and a half months because Sriracha is EVERYTHING! I have tried the Hot, Sour and Mayo and am indifferent to the Hot or Sour. They are both deliciously addictive. I wouldn’t buy the Mayo one again purely because you could just mix some of the Hot Sriracha in normal mayo and save R80. I use this as a dip, in wraps, on eggs, as a stir fry sauce….so pretty much everywhere.
This is a staple in our home. I don’t use mine very often but for some reason I need to always have a bottle in the fridge. A throwback to my childhood I guess. My kids are not big fans of sauces or saucy food in general but they love tomato sauce. I use it to marinade chicken or lamb chops more than as a dip these days.
Recipe : Braai marinade
If you love East Asian food as much as we do then this is a no brainer. Soy and ginger are a match made in stir fry heaven. You can also use this as a salt substitute as it adds a depth of flavour to any dish but specifically meat dishes.
Sweet Indonesian Soy
If you’re thinking “Now Nadia, you just mentioned soy, why are you repeating yourself?” let me tell you, THIS is not your everyday soy. It is a very thick and sweet soy sauce that goes on anything from steak to milk tart. Yes, it can even be used drizzled on dessert. There is a sweet saltiness to this that is mildly addictive. The only downside is this horrible bottle top that always gets annoyingly messy. Do yourself a favour and keep a folded sheet of roller towel under the bottle in the fridge, it is very sticky.
These are my must haves. Something spicy, mild, salty and sweet. You can use each of these in a number of different dishes.
The Nice to Haves
Hot English Mustard
I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know any other variation of mustard except that bright yellow one that you get at boerie roll stands (you know the one) until a few years ago. I always hated that tangy mustard. Hot English Mustard however, is AMAZING!!! It has a horse-radishy heat to it much like wasabi but without as severe a sinus clearing effect. A slice of toast with a slather of mustard and a sunny side up egg is absolute decadence for breakfast.
Hickory Liquid Smoke Extract
This liquid is potent. You just need a few drops to add a deep smokiness to your meal (great in creamy pastas). Make sure you use a teaspoon when decanting as opposed to just pouring from the bottle into your dish because a little goes a long way. Chances are you will get tired of the taste if you use it too often so I suggest saving it for the occasional meal as opposed to this being a regular addition to your meals.
There is no nice way to say this, this sauce STINKS! It has such a pungent smell that you will probably curse me out when you open the bottle but it is worth it. I promise the smell will leave your kitchen curtains in a few days. Just kidding! (not really). A dash of fish sauce will elevate any Thai curry or soup to the next level and is heavenly in egg fried rice. Your meal will actually taste better the next day if you manage to have any leftovers. One bottle lasts FOREVER so it is definitely worth the investment.
Recipe: Thai Red Curry
This makes a lovely satay sauce but you need to use up the bottle as soon as you can as I’ve noticed that it goes a little funny if kept for more than three weeks after being opened. I know a lot of bottles say ‘Use within 3-4 weeks’ but you can keep them for months, this is not one of those. My cheaper version of this sauce is to mix smooth peanut butter, grated garlic and boiling water together to form a paste. Season with salt and pepper then lightly fry before adding to your meal.
Sweet Chilli Sauce
Do you remember when this first came out? It used to be my absolute favourite sauce until Sriracha came along. Tempura prawns or crispy spring rolls dipped in sweet chilli sauce is just pure happiness. I’m actually going to add this to my shopping list right now.
If you enjoy sushi then it is very possible that you have tasted this before. There’s a sweet, citrusy flavour to this dark sauce that’s quite delicate but still distinctive. I feel that it is best used as a dipping sauce or salad dressing because the taste can get lost in hot meals. I love the flavour but my husband and kids aren’t the biggest fans.
I know this is actually more of a spread but I am adding it on because you can literally add mayo to ANY sauce and create something new. If you only have 3 sauces in your fridge but you have a bottle of mayo, well, now you have 6 sauces. Wasabi paste mixed with mayo is one of my favourite things to add to any wrap.
Piri Piri Picante Sauce
Lastly, if you enjoy spicy food and appreciate the after burn of a fiery sauce then you HAVE to try this. I have only ever seen it in the Portuguese section of Food Lovers Market and I only buy it when I’m feeling particularly brave. Make sure you shake the bottle well because that oil at the top is a killer!
That’s it! My comprehensive sauce guide that will give you new flavours to experiment with while still being relatively gentle on your budget. Have I missed any good ones? I’m always willing to try something new so let me know what you recommend.