As much as we focus here on new and innovative products in the spicy foods industry, occasionally I get curious to check out what the mainstream consumer gets exposed to, and will take a random trip through my local grocery store in the international, salsa and hot sauce areas, just to see what’s out there in front of their face every day. Every few trips, I’ll find a few items that intrigue me and bring them back to get a proper EatMoreHeat tasting. On one of these trips, I came across this Spicy Ketchup. Now, the idea of a spicy ketchup isn’t all that unique in itself, but usually it’s done through just some black pepper addition or a touch of a typical Louisiana style sauce. What was a bit different here was that this was in the Indian grocery area, and though ketchup is considered quite American in its origins, this bottle talks about ketchup’s origins in Asia, and how this was based on an old style from Asia. While it will take me a bit of time to authenticate this origin story, it was enough to pique my interest in seeing what a ketchup that markets itself as “A little sweet. A little spicy. A little Indian.” actually tastes like. The idea of an Indian influenced ketchup intrigues me, so take this trip with me down the international aisle, and we’ll see what we get.
One of the unexpected reads on this products mix list is that onion proceeds tomato paste in the listing. The chile variety is stated as serrano chiles, and though not listed the origins story hints that the characteristically vague “spices” entry on the bottle does contain toasted cumin. The full list is: Water, onion, tomato paste, light brown sugar, cider vinegar, vegetable oil, salt, serrano pepper, spices, and paprika. While not being wildly unique, the list so far sounds like a few interesting twists.
The overall color of this is a much deeper red than the typical mass market ketchup that everyone knows, almost looking more like a lightly colored BBQ sauce than ketchup. There are sparse specks of dark throughout from the variety of spices. The mixture pours relatively easily with a bit of cling to the neck of the bottle. You shouldn’t have any issue with getting this stuff out of the bottle, and you’ll notice some chunks of tomato in the mix. The hint of cumin indicated in the description comes through a fair bit, and I think I pick up a light bit of turmeric in this, but not confirmed. This still has that sweetened tomato with a touch of tart aroma that you get from usual ketchup, but there is plenty of evidence to support that this isn’t going to taste like regular ketchup.
What is a bit of a surprise is that the slight chunks that I mentioned early are the clear indicator of why onion is higher on the list of ingredients, because they aren’t tomato, they are small strips of cooked onion. They are a bit surprising to start with, because I was expecting tomato, but nonetheless, they are actually a nice addition once you have it in your head to expect bites of onion. The overall description they give is pretty accurate, it’s a touch of spicy, sweet, and Indian. Typically use of cider vinegar makes things quite acidic, but it balances out well in this. While the spicy aspect of this is in the very Mild range, it is noticeable enough. I’d like to see the crew from Maya Kaimal pay homage to the Assam region of India and do a version of this with the same proportions, but with a Ghost Pepper. I think it would turn out pretty nice. The interesting thing about this ketchup is that it walks the fine line between BBQ sauce and ketchup, using its brown sugar, savory onion bits and spice blend to appeal to the BBQ side of my brain, and the traditional tastes of ketchup to keep the idea around of using it as an everyday condiment. In the grand scheme of ketchup out there, I find this to be actually pretty interesting, especially in that near-BBQ like use area, where you might use this on the burger you just grilled and at the same time on the fries to the side. The heat on this won’t knock out anyone, but I’d still consider it Nominal enough to keep around the house as a good replacement to the average boring ketchup you would normally find at the market.