Ode to condiments

We salute the sauces that make our cheap eats sing.

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  • Plum sauce at Eton

  • Soup dumpling sauce at Grand Sichuan

  • Garlic sauce at El Malecon

  • Nuoc mam at Bao Noodles

  • Tsatsiki sauce at Dafni Greek Taverna

  • Tamarind chutney at Haandi

  • Aji at Pio Pio

  • Crack sauce at Calexico Carne Asada

  • Tahini sauce at Mamoun's

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).

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