Some pretentious food types and Chefs will proclaim that condiments are a cop-out, that if the cooks really knew what they were doing, the eater wouldn’t need to add anything more. As an occasionally pretentious food type and former Chef myself, I can attest to this fact. If one is dining at any one of many Michelin-starred restaurant, and asks for a bottle of ketchup for their seared Wagyu with Uni butter; I’d expect nothing less than immediate removal and banishment from said establishment.
However, condiments and the like without a doubt have their place in a vast number of situations. Take the incredibly popular Vietnamese pho: a large bowl of steaming noodles and broth, some onions, and thinly sliced rare beef - just barely cooking in the hot liquid. Delicious on its own, but the rest is left to the diner; a plate of bean sprouts, some limes, Thai basil, cilantro, and some chilis for heat allow one to tweak the dish to their own liking. While not in a bottle or jar, they’re still condiments; and a crucial part to a perfect bowl. Other examples include the chili-vinegar of Thailand, and while sticking with Asia: fish sauce, soy sauce, hoisin and oyster sauce, sambal and kecap mani.
Wasabi with your sushi? Condiment.
Now in the short time we’ve spent thus far in Central Mexico, Kylee and I have discovered yet another great accompaniment to the incredible cuisine of the region, and it’s ridiculously easy to make. And while these pickles are geared towards all foods Mexican, give them a try with other foods as well, or even on their own. The great thing about these being a non-preserved pickle, you can use any veggies you like! Make them at least day before using to let the flavours get friendly.
(makes about 1L)
1 large carrot, sliced
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 jalapeño, sliced (add more, or use any style of hot pepper to your liking)
1/2 head cauliflower, cut unto bite-sized pieces
6 cloves garlic, left whole, but crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano (or regular oregano if you can’t find Mexican)
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp salt
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 cup water
Heat a pot over medium heat, add cumin seeds and lightly toast them until fragrant.
Add oil, vegetables and salt. Saute until they begin to soften and brown slightly.
Toss in bay leaf, peppercorns, and oregano. Continue to cook for another two minutes.
Pour in water and vinegar, and bring to boil.
Remove from heat, let cool. Keep them in a sealed container in the fridge, they should last for a week or two.