1. Harissa sauce, Morocco
Where this chilli paste – a favourite of the North African region – hails from is hotly contested. Tunisia claims it as their culinary brainchild, but neighbouring country Morocco also has stakes in this fiery sauce. But what every Middle Eastern country can unanimously agree upon is how delectable and eye-watering this sauce is.
Made from roasted red chillis, caraway seeds, cumin, garlic and olive oil, the baklouti peppers (a variant of chillis found in the Maghreb region) are the stars of the blend bringing in the firepower.
Add it to tagines for some extra zing like Moroccans or walk down the Tunisian path and slather it generously on meat and poultry dishes, add dollops of it into soups and stews (the Tunisian lablabi is a prime example). Or if you’re brave enough, use it as a dip for freshly baked breads, both pita and otherwise. We suggest garlic bread. It’s a great addition as a dipping sauce for appetisers.
Find it at: Stall No.1 in the Moroccan Pavilion for Dh15.
2. Soybean paste, Thailand
So long, Sriracha and ahoy soybean paste. This new Thai condiment on the block is perfect if you’re seeking a sauce that ranks low on the spice levels without cutting corners on flavour.
Internationally, the soybean paste sauce is perhaps lesser known than its fellow Thai sauces but in the land of a thousand smiles, this condiment is a household staple. Ground from yellow soybean that’s been fermented, the sauce has an earthy taste with a tinge of sweet and just the right amount of salty. Which makes its sodium content a lot lower than soy sauce. Add it to stir-fries, fried-rice, noodles and curries. A lick of it on dim sums and spring rolls works wonders as well. And if the saleswoman at the Global Village’s Siam supermarket is to be believed, “you can eat it with anything you want to.” Roast chicken sandwiches, maybe? You’ll have to try and let us know!
Find it at: Siam Supermarket opposite the Chinese Pavilion for Dh15.
3. Manong’s sauce, Philippines
Called the fishball sauce, this tangy sweet-and-spicy sauce is a Filipino street-food favourite.
But don’t let the dish-specific name trick you into thinking that seafood meatballs are all this sauce pairs well it. It can be drizzled liberally over any fried food – so kwek kwek (deep-fried quail eggs), grilled chicken, etc. are all fair game, and it’s a one-stop dipping sauce for every deep-fried item dreamt up by Filipino street food hawkers. The moreish concoction is made with constarch, flour, brown sugar, Filipino soy sauce, red onions and chillis, all ground to a silky smooth dark brown mixture that coats crunchy deep-fried bites and spicy skewered meats with added texture and flavour.
Find it at: The Mister Salakot stall on the Floating Market in Global Village sells batches of this homemade sauce on a made-to-order basis. Dh10 for a 680ml (24oz) bottle.
4. Gochujang sauce, South Korea
We’re going to chalk up the global obsession with this sweet and spicy Korean chilli paste to K-Dramas. If you’ve spent many a Netflix binge-watch session like us drooling over scenes of banchan, bibimbap and tteokbokki being immersed in piquant gochujang, rejoice! It’s readily available at the South Korean pavilion, so you can stock up and mirror you favourite characters’ dinner habits.
Made from a coarsely ground mix of chili peppers, fermented soy bean powder (mejukaru), rice, malt barley syrup or powder and salt, this dark-red, textured sauce is left to ferment (often years) in giant earthenware jars in the backyards of Korean households. It's what lends it a layer of umami flavour. Such is its prominence to Korean cuisine and culture that there’s an annual festival dedicated to the condiment, called the Sunchang Gochujang Festival. It’s also got a 5-level spice metre called the Gochujang Hot Taste Unit that indicates the level of hotness, so customers are forewarned before they push the envelope with their spice threshold.
The question to ask is, what can’t you use gochujang for. This versatile chilli paste can be used to season fried meats, marinade for bulgogi, to spike broths and stews with the kick of chilli and even as a sauce to eat with plain steamed rice as comfort food.
Find it at: South Korean Pavilion supermarket for Dh45 per jar.
5. Shatta sauce, Lebanon
A fixture at Levantine and Gulf countries' dinner tables, this hot sauce has the ability to turn every dish explosive – from shawarmas, to tabboulehs or the rice dish Kabsa when you go to Saudi Arabia. Or stir in a dollop with hummus or moutabel to give the chickpea dip an edge.
Popular across Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, this sauce comes in red and green chilli variants, but it’s the red chilli sauce that paints the palates. Both versions include a blend of chillis, olive oil and a dash of garlic and a splash of vinegar (or lemon juice) if you want some sour undertones. The green shatta is a herbier sauce with parsley ground in and even a nutty kick from walnuts in certain recipes. However, with the red sauce, tomato puree forms the main base and also helps cut the chillis’ heat.
Find it at: Cheese and Zaatar stall at the Lebanese Pavilion, for Dh60 per jar.
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