Britain is splashing out on condiments like never before. To alleviate the grind of lockdown cooking, we are raiding the global larder way beyond ketchup and brown sauce, to unlock a world of hot, concentrated, punchy flavours with the ability to transform a meal in seconds.
Specialist retailers report booming sales, with the importer MexGrocer shifting double its usual amount of Valentina hot sauce last year. At one stage, sales of Lao Gan Ma chilli oils were up a staggering 1,900% at the online shop Sous Chef, a repository of revelatory sauces. But what should you try next?
We asked leading chefs and food obsessives for their homemade sauce hacks and store cupboard secrets, most of which are readily available online if you cannot get to an Asian or African supermarket or a continental deli. Please note: no one suggested serving roast chicken with mint sauce.
Lao Gan Ma preserved black beans in chilli oil. Photograph: Simon Leigh/The Guardian
Lao Gan Ma preserved black beans in chilli oil Huge in China, Lao Gan Man’s crispy chilli oils also have a passionate following among western food geeks. The original fried onion and Guizhou chilli oil is the cult classic (warm heat, incredible savoury depth), but the black bean version (“God tier!” says Sam Grainger, the executive chef at Belzan in Liverpool) is now the connoisseur’s choice…