Sometimes you’ve done your best – you’ve used the best-quality produce, you’ve followed the recipe to a tee, you’ve seasoned well – and the meal still ends up a little lacklustre. Enter the condiment. That saucy, oily, salty saviour that can turn a dull (or decent) meal into something great. Broadsheet’s editors know this. And so do chefs. We asked some of Adelaide’s best to share the one condiment – be it an oil, sauce, spread or otherwise – they always have in their home pantry.
Daniella Guevara Munoz, La Popular Taqueria
One condiment I always have in the pantry is Worcestershire sauce. If you think Worcestershire isn’t very Mexican, you’re right, but it is very popular in Mexico, probably more popular than it is in Australia. We call it “English sauce” because “Worcestershire” is unpronounceable. I generally put it on pizza slices with chilli flakes, the best! It is also commonly used to marinate steak or chicken. At La Popular Taqueria, we use it to make our Micheladas: lime juice, English sauce, Maggi sauce, Tabasco, and tomato juice in a salt-rimmed glass with a bit of ice and served with a crisp lager.
Nina Hadinata, 99 Gang Social, Thirsty Tiger and Gang Gang
I’m big on hot sauce and have two staple items in my pantry. Sambal ABC because every Indonesian kid can’t live without this. We put it on everything from your morning eggs to your Sunday roast. The other is a jalapeno hot sauce by El Yucateco, which I only recently found on the shelves here. It’s not super hot but the flavour is unmatched, gives you a little spice and a little sweet, which is the perfect combination for any meal.
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Peter Orr, Leigh Street Wine Room
Good-quality fish sauce. Look for Three Crabs (Vietnamese) or Megachef (Thai). These two brands are definitely my favourites and offer a more rounded salty flavour rather than a fishy one. Absolutely essential in Southeast Asian recipes but also great as an umami hit for most things. I even add it to most slow-cooked European recipes, like ragu or beef cheeks. I also like to marinate steaks in fish sauce and sugar before grilling them. Delicious.
Justin James, Restaurant Botanic
“Cholula Original Hot Sauce. Forget sriracha! This Mexican hot sauce is the real deal and reminds me of North America. This is a flavour enhancer, and it is nearly good on everything – pizza, burgers, pasta, rice, soups, dressings, marinates, and so on! I always have two or three bottles on hand. Just the right balance of chilli but not too spicy.” James also shouts out Murray River Pink Salt: “Salt is one of the most important ingredients in the kitchen. Don’t overlook it and don’t go cheap on it. To me this is the best salt in the world. This is the foundation to delicious food.” He also lauds fresh citric acid: “I love it. It will heighten any dish whether you are making pasta to roast chicken to raw oyster. The best part of having lemons and limes on hand is cocktails as well!”
Savannah Sexton, House of George
A jar of salted black beans from Homes Supermarket, Gouger Street. This Chinese magic condiment takes a bowl of rice, roasted chicken or steamed broccoli from zero to hero.
Jake Kellie, Arkhe
I love having Le Phare Du Cap Bon Harissa in the pantry. It goes well with all proteins that I cook at home on the barbeque. Great for marinades, tossed through a pasta, or even folded through scrambled eggs. It adds this hot, aromatic, spicy and fragrant number, which I love to incorporate into anything that I cook. I tend to make a marinade from it, let it out with some oil, lemon juice, smoked honey from Arkhe, chopped parsley and freshly grated garlic. Smother this on a whole chicken and let it marinate overnight, grilled over an open flame and you get all these amazing crispy bits from the marinade – it’s so bloody delicious served with a nice fresh salad.
Terry Intrakhameng, Soi 38
My go-to pantry item is salted soybeans, or “tao jiao”, which can be easily found at your local Asian grocer (I recommend the Healthy Boy brand). The sauce/paste is made from cooked yellow soybeans with water and a generous amount of salt that is stored in large jars that ferments over time, providing a savoury umami flavour to dishes (the “MSG equivalent” in Thai cuisine). Unlike miso paste, which is also made from soybeans, salted soybeans are slightly less sweet as they don’t use koji and have a milder umami taste. I love using it alone or with other ingredients in stir-fries, especially in vegetable stir-fries, to enhance the dish’s flavour. It is often used as a vegan/vegetarian substitute for shrimp paste in curries.
Clare Falzon, Hentley Farm Restaurant
Though pungent and intense, fish sauce also has this amazing umami, briny, slightly sweet aspect to it. It obviously makes an appearance in most Asian dishes I cook, particularly Southeast Asian, like noodles, soups, meat marinades and curry, but I also use it pretty frequently in more Western-style cooking, using it to season as I would with salt. Salad dressings, mince and meatballs, sauces, and definitely seafood. You don’t need much and it adds a bit more complexity and depth to the dish.
Ben Liew, Paper Tiger
As an Asian chef I believe soy sauce and fish sauce are both sauces that I can’t live without. Megachef soy sauce and Three Crabs fish sauce will be my first choice.
Laura Sharrad, Nido and Fugazzi
Chilli oil. Hands down. My husband Max created a version of my favourite ever Calabrian-style chilli oil, which is used at both our restaurants. That, by far, is the number one pantry item I can’t live or cook without. I add a tablespoon, because we like it spicy, to every base of any sauce, on top of pasta, drizzled over fresh mozzarella-style cheeses, in toasties, marinades, or just used to dip bread into. It’s the perfect amount of spice, and the oil itself is so flavoursome. Whether it’s store-bought or home-made, it should live in everyone’s kitchen.
Lauren Southwell, Africola
I have a new obsession and am using it in and on basically everything. Green Tabasco. I was originally using green Sriracha, but I feel like I have levelled up. I purchased it because I thought my girlfriend would love the bottle and she loves to collect. I love the zestiness and mild chilli flavour. It’s family-friendly. It balances most dishes without them becoming too spicy. I use it to finish dishes that need a little bit of acid like soups, sauces and stews. I also melt it with a little bit of butter to season steamed veggies. Chucking it on a fried egg is actually my favourite though.
Scott Huggins, Magill Estate Restaurant
A good-quality soy sauce from Japan! I love it because I think it’s a lot more interesting than salt when seasoning food, it gives a better depth of flavour than just salt. At the restaurant we are always looking for different ways to season our dishes, and we consistently turn to items like high-quality soy sauce, high-quality fish sauce, miso etc. It offers a greater depth of flavour to the dish. We use it with anything from bolognaise, sauteed mushrooms with butter, poached eggs on rice or Wagyu on the barbeque.