Thursday, April 21, 2011

My New Favorite Condiment

I am most definitely a condiment person: I love strong-flavored sauces, dips and spreads of all kinds. I will put barbecue sauce on anything, I have been known to choose Indian dishes based on what kind of chutney comes with them, and in my opinion bread is mostly a vehicle for jam, peanut butter and/or Nutella. Likewise vegetables for Ranch dip and chips for salsa and guacamole. As a child a frequent snack was ketchup sandwiches on potato bread, and I hate to admit, but I would probably still eat that if pickings were slim. And now, thanks to the wealth of goodies left behind in the kitchen cabinets of our apartment here in Maastricht, I discovered a brand new condiment, which I will be experimenting with heavily in future:

Introducing kecap (or ketjap) manis.

According to Wikipedia (are you sensing a theme in my food research method?) kecap manis is a type of Indonesian soy sauce made sweet and syrupy with palm sugar (as opposed to salty and thin like the familiar Chinese variety). Indonesia was a Dutch colony for over three hundred years, and as with other colonial relationships, a certain mingling of cultures occurred over that time. Though this mingling was nothing like the cultural cross-over that occurred between Great Britain and India, there are a few Indonesian restaurants around Maastricht, as well as native products like those bottles of sweet and pungent goodness you see above. It's a pretty strong flavor and a little goes a long way (unless you crave strong flavors like me, in which case you may want to eat it by the spoonful. Ahem). I made a pan-Asian dish last night with fresh quick-cook udon noodles, sesame oil, this soy sauce and the "Naughty Spicy Dried Bean Curd" from the previous post, which oddly enough, wasn't spicy at all.

Needless to say, when I leave the Netherlands in June, a bottle of kecap manis will be traveling with me, just in case it's hard to find in the U.S.

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