KETCHUP: Nelia’s All-Purpose Sauce

My friend Nelia from Pandacan, Manila, likes to put ketchup on everything.  She’ll slather it on fried eggs. on a piece of steak, on mixed vegetables. It’s her go-to seasoning.

For folks like Nelia, someone in New Orleans had this great T-shirt idea:

Did you know that ketchup didn’t always contain any tomatoes? Look at a list of Philippine condiments and you will see banana ketchup among them.

Ketchup made from bananas? Yes, and that’s because ketchup is a sauce, not necessarily a tomato sauce.  Historically, it has be made from mushrooms, oysters, berries, bananas, walnuts, AND tomatoes.

In Malaysian (as well as Indonesian), the c was pronounced as ch, hence ki-chap.

The term was borrowed from Chinese traders who, many centuries earlier, brought their koe-tsiap to trading partners in Southeast Asia.

English traders during the 17th century found in what is now Malaysia a unique table sauce that went well with many dishes; it was called kicap, and was essentially a fermented fish sauce… what we now know as patis.

The English brought the kicap home to Europe, from where it travelled to the Americas.  People tweaked the recipe – and the name –  in various ways until the world wound up with a tomato-based table sauce, with a name spelled as ketchup.

Indonesia, to this day, uses the word kecap to mean “sauce.”   Thus, they have

kecap asin – salty (soy) sauce
kecap manis – sweet (soy) sauce
kecap ikan – fish sauce

About banana ketchup. It’s a local favorite among Filipinos, who like the tamis-anghang (sweet-spicy) taste of this product, formulated to make use of bananas, which are plentiful in the country.


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