Ubiquitous Foods, Spices, and Condiments from Your Country & Region

Salt and pepper are the only thing youre guaranteed to find on most tables in the US and it’s always surprising when you don’t see potatoes in a meal…especially french fried. Ketchup and mustard are also almost universal depending on the dish.

On our little island people put celery salt on anything. They’re also picky about the brand of vinegar served with fish and chips that they also might put on anything else.

Personally I’m not a big fan of old bay but if anyone asks, I didn’t say that.

Ethnically, I LOVE fermented bean curd paste and use gobs of the stuff whereas most other people only go for a dab. Love it.

Also, there are 2 schools of thought for Chinese dumpling dipping sauces in my family. 1) soy sauce + sesame oil + rice wine vinegar and 2) soy sauce + chile bean paste. I don’t take sides. I take whatever there’s extra of.

In Louisiana, it’s very common to see bottles of Tabasco sauce on the tables. Creole seasoning blends are often found alongside the salt and pepper shakers.

As to the food itself–“First, you make a roux.” A roux is the foundation of many dishes, and useful in many others. You could write a recipe book with that line as its preface, then have every recipe start with “, and then…”. It’s so common in the cuisine that there are jokes about it: “How does a Cajun make love? First, he makes a roux.”

Then there’s the Cajun holy trinity: a mix of onions, bell peppers, and celery. (I’m a heretic. I drop the celery and add garlic.)

Finally, whatever you just made with the roux and the trinity probably goes over rice or has rice cooked into it. Rice is much more prominent than in most of the US. Potatoes still abound, especially fried, but rice is essential. You don’t serve gumbo over potatoes. (Well, I suppose you could, but it would be weird.)

If you go to Baltimore you’ll frequently see Old Bay on the tables. It’s used a lot in Cajun cooking, and some the French Canadian emigres settled in the Chesapeake area, but Old Bay was invented by a German guy.

Shadon Beni sauce and garlic sauce have been adopted even by foreign fast food chains here in Trinidad, like Subway.

Out here, sriracha is showing up in more and more restaurant condiment racks. Salt, pepper, Tabasco or Cholula, and now Huy Fong sriracha.

^This. My trinity is also onion, bell pepper & garlic. I use celery in gumbo and smothered turkey necks, but not much else.

We keep cayenne pepper out, too. My daughter moved to TX (Fort Worth area) and couldn’t find cayenne pepper anywhere. She had to stock up when she came home for the holidays. We also use both Tony Chacheres and Zatarains, which don’t taste the same to me.

In San Diego, where I grew up, pretty much any Mexican restaurant you went into would have the same kind of nameless hot sauce on the table. It came in a red squeeze bottle like the ones you normally use for ketchup, was watery and bright red with the occasional pepper seed in it (which became problematic if the seed got stuck in the nozzle and you had to squeeze extra hard until it popped out and blasted a motherload of sauce all over your enchiladas in the process), didn’t taste of vinegar like Tabasco or Frank’s does, and was spicy as all get-out. Ever since I moved away I haven’t been able to find anything quite like it, which is a shame, because it’s the perfect accompaniment for carne asada fries (another San Diego invention which is just starting to pop up on menus around here).

Here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s almost a guarantee that any given mom-and-pop burger joint will sauce its burgers with a mixture of mustard and tartar sauce rather than regular mayo or ketchup. Again, it doesn’t have an official name so far as I know; one small chain specific to Olympia calls it “goop”, another place calls it “fry sauce”, while Dick’s in Seattle just calls it “tartar sauce” and sells it in dipping cups for 5 cents apiece.

In Spain it’s traditional to have no sauces on salads: each person adds their own salt, oil and vinegar; sets of those three plus black ground pepper are found pretty much anywhere.

Any dish called “Rioja-style” (a la riojana) will involve cayenne; sliced garlic optional.

In Portugal, olive oil was everywhere; and not the good stuff, either. They use it as a condiment for many foods. One of those was a dish called cozido, a traditional stew consisting of animal parts I didn’t know were edible and some vegetables. It’s ladled onto a plate and then doused with olive oil; honestly, the worst thing I’ve ever had to fake eating.

Bacalhau (salted cod) is the Portuguese national fish dish and there are dozens of recipes. I never could stomach the stuff. First it has to be soaked for a couple of days to get the salt out and make it into an edible consistency, then it’s prepared in any number of ways, most of which involve large amounts of salt added back in.

Kale has become annoyingly ubiquitous in the US. People are gaga over this stuff and I say enough, already.

Yeah, pretty much the same here in Chicago Mexican restaurants. There’s usually at least two sauces in those plastic condiment bottles: a salsa usually made from dried red peppers and a salsa verde. There might also be a fresh pico de gallo type salse and there might even be a big container of escabeche (pickled hot peppers, carrots, onions, etc.) at the table. And perhaps a bottle of El Yucateco red and/or green for those who like it hotter.

The average diner here will just have your usual salt, pepper, mustard, ketchup, and then Tobasco and possibly Cholula/Valentina/Topatio/similar Mexican hot sauce.

In Hungary, paprika was almost always included along with the salt and pepper on the table. You might also get some dried red cherry peppers or a hot pepper paste, but that often had to be requested.

Well, this is Indiana, and there is a lot of variety here. There are two dishes, though, that we claim were invented here. One is the Sugar Cream Pie, Indiana’s State Pie. The other is the Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich, which is typically served with mayo, lettuce, and pickle slices.

Wisconsin: cheese curds

Boston: clam chowder and Italian sausage

Maryland: soft-shell crabs

New Orleans: po’ boy sandwiches, beignets, okra

Seattle: coffee and Tom Douglas restaurants

Portland: coffee and beer

Anchorage: salmon and halibut