A shake of this a squeeze of that.
Why reinvent the wheel? Somebody out there has done it and continues to do it better than you could ever hope to, so why not use prepared condiments and sauces? The exception is when the called for condiment or sauce either isn’t available or can be made better at home. The following are a selection of simple condiments and sauces that live in my kitchen. Some are crucial to my cooking and others less so, but they all have their time and place.
Note: that most condiments listed are gluten free (GF), but always check the label to be sure–you would be surprised where gluten sneaks in to some ingredients. I’ve put an * next to those that are usually not GF to help identify them.
Balsamic Vinegar – Buy the good stuff, but be prepared for sticker shock. Store bought.
Black Bean Sauce* – Salted fermented black beans used in Chinese and South-east Asian dishes. Store bought.
Dashi – A Japanese broth made from dried kelp (konbo) shaved bonito flakes and/or dried anchovies. Available in instant little packets from Asian grocers, this is the route most people opt for. That said it’s best made on your own if the ingredients are at hand, and once made keeps easily covered in the refrigerator for a week or so.
Dijon Mustard – A must for cold meat on rye. Store bought.
Fish Sauce – A very salty strong flavoured thin fish based sauce used extensively in South-east Asian cooking.
Furikake* – A dry mixture of katsuobushi, nori, sesame seed, sugar soy and other flavourings used to shake over rice. Comes in many varieties. Unless home-made most are NOT GF due to the use of soya sauce. Either make or purchase. GF recipe available here.
Ketchup – Generic, store bought.
Mayonnaise – Real mayo, not the fake stuff. Store bought.
Mirin – Sweetened Japanese cooking wine. Store bought.
Miso Paste, white and/or red – The red is stronger flavoured than the white, but either will do for most recipes. The white is called for more often. Store bought.
Oyster Sauce* – Used in Chinese stir-fries and other dishes. Most are NOT GF. Store bought.
Ponzu Sauce* – A sour Japanese vinaigrette made with katsuobushi (shaved bonito), konbu (dried kelp), lemon/lime juice and soya. Great on wilted bok choy and other vegetables, this is a quick easy to use dressing. Either make or purchase ready-made (the latter is NOT GF).
Rice Wine Vinegar, unsweetened – Be sure to purchase unsweetened rice wine vinegar and not “Sushi vinegar”. Store bought.
Sambal Oelek – I’ve included this over on the spices page as well, but I use it as a condiment too so I’m adding it here. Crushed red chilies in a little vinegar (I recommend the Huy Fong brand). Store bought.
Tamari – Essentially brewed Japanese style soya sauce. I buy San-J GF tamari. Store bought.
Tonkastu Sauce – A salty sweet Japanese sauce traditionally served with Tonkatsu (breaded and deep fried pork cutlet). It’s often referred to as a “thick Worcestershire sauce”. It can be purchased ready-made, but I’m not too fond of the ingredient list, so I make and serve my own simplified GF version: 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 Tbs Tamari, 1 Tbs Mirin, 1 Tbs ketchup, 1/2 tsp sambal oelek and enough dashi to thin if required. Heat over a moderate element until sugar is dissolved. Store in a squeeze bottle.
Worcestershire Sauce* – Used sparingly, I still keep it on hand for classic dishes. NOT GF. Store bought.
Red wine – Basic table wine is good enough for most dishes calling for red wine. It’s always on hand in my kitchen, so there’s no issues with it going off.
Sake – Goes off shortly after opening. Refrigerate after opening.
White wine, sauvignon blanc or unoaked blend – Sauvignon blanc is among the cheapest varieties out there, and as long it has a low acid blance, is unoaked and a little fruity you are good to go. I like cooking with the cheap South African Blouberg – Stellenbosch available locally. Refrigerate after opening and always keep a little on hand.