No disrespect to ketchup and mustard, but there’s a world of insanely delicious ingredients taking over menus everywhere, and you should add them to your arsenal. Think of them as chef-level shortcuts that can easily be deployed to kick up your culinary game.
Five years ago few could have predicted that Korean fermented cabbage would become a supermarket staple. But try one funky, spicy, crunchy bite of the stuff and you’ll know why it’s a favorite of Asia-obsessed chefs and food-truck entrepreneurs. Try: chopped up and added to instant ramen; on a burger; with steak tacos.
Easily the reigning king of condiments, sriracha has gone from cult status to Lay’s potato chip flavor. Like ketchup, it’s the perfect balance of sweet and tart but with the added kick of chili heat. Try: anytime you’d use Tabasco; on hot wings; on a sandwich; in salad dressing; mixed with mayo as a french fry dip; with soy sauce as a pork rib marinade.
This North African chili-and-garlic paste is deeply flavored with a slow and low burn and typically served with Moroccan food. One small tube will last for months in the fridge and can be used any number of ways. Try: added to Texas red chili; as a dip for lamb chops; slathered on chicken thighs before you grill them; with fried eggs and toasted pita bread.
If there’s such a thing as hipster mayo, this Japanese ingredient is it. The packaging is Tokyo kitschy, and stoner chefs were among its early champions. Compared with Hellmann’s, it’s richer and more deeply flavored (thanks to an unapologetic dose of MSG). Try: in deviled eggs; mixed with sriracha and tossed with shrimp; anywhere you’d use regular mayo.
If everything’s better with bacon, then everything’s better (and healthier) with Spanish smoked paprika. Made from peppers smoked over hardwood, it’s the easiest shortcut to smokehouse flavor without the fire hazard. Try: sprinkled on steak, chicken or pork before you grill it; in paella; in scrambled eggs.