Ode to condiments
We salute the sauces that make our cheap eats sing.
Mon Jun 28 2010
Plum sauce at Eton
Plum sauce at Eton (359 Sackett St between Hoyt and Smith Sts, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; 718-222-2999).
The house-made version here trumps the mass-market stuff: Plums, ginger and chili give this Chinese elixir a complex sweet-hot flavor.
Essential with: chicken-and-shiitake dumplings (five for $3.75).
Soup dumpling sauce at Grand Sichuan (229 Ninth Ave at 24th St, 212-620-5200).
Is it soy sauce or is it vinegar? Does it really matter? The tough-to-peg savory, acidic concoction with fresh ginger floating atop is one we greedily funnel into our soup dumplings.
Essential with: crab-and-pork soup dumplings (eight for $6.95).
Garlic sauce at El Malecon (764 Amsterdam Ave between 97th and 98th Sts, 212-864-5648).
We order fried green plantains just so we can slather them with this zesty Puerto Rican slurry of mashed garlic, fresh lime juice, white vinegar, olive oil and a splash of water.
Essential with: tostones (small $2, large $3.25).
Nuoc mam at Bao Noodles (391 Second Ave between 22nd and 23rd Sts, 212-725-7770).
Without this heady dilution of pungent fish sauce in sugar, white vinegar, chili and garlic, Vietnamese vermicelli noodles would be as plain as paper.
Essential with: bn cha gi (pork spring rolls on rice vermicelli $8.95).
Tsatsiki sauce at Dafni Greek Taverna(325 W 42nd St between Eighth and Ninth Aves, 212-315-1010).
We'd happily eat this sauce that verges on a meal—made with Greek yogurt, cucumber, fresh garlic, dill and olive oil—all on its own.
Essential with: Souvlaki pita (lunchtime $7.95).
Tamarind chutney at Haandi (113 Lexington Ave at 28th St, 212-685-5200).
Not a chunky chutney as the name might suggest, this sweet-tart Indian sauce combines syrupy tamarind juice with fiery chili powder and sugar.
Essential with: vegetable samosa ($1).
Aji at Pio Pio (604 Tenth Ave between 43rd and 44th Sts, 212-459-2929).
Mum's the word when it comes to the recipe for this Peruvian green sauce, but garlic, cream and huacatay, an herb, are a few of the ingredients that make it so addictive.
Essential with: rotisserie chicken (whole bird $14).
Crack sauce at Calexico Carne Asada (122 Union St at Columbia St, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; 718-488-8226).
Smooth and smoky, this compulsively dippable cream sauce makes Calexico's Cal-Mex street food sublime.
Essential with: burritos, tacos or quesadillas ($3--$8).
Tahini sauce at Mamoun's Falafel (119 MacDougal St between Bleecker and W 3rd Sts, 212-674-8685).
This sauce—brightened with lemon juice and salt, then thinned with water—uses sesame seeds that have been roasted and stone-ground in Lebanon.
Essential with: falafel pita sandwich ($2.50).