While Heinz and Hunt’s are the two most popular brands of ketchup in the United States, this was not always the case when the condiment was first introduced to English colonists.
National Geographic noted that the British most likely encountered the condiment in the form of a fermented fish sauce in the late 17th and early 18th centuries in Southeast Asia. The recipe for “Ketchup in Paste,” published in 1732 by Richard Bradley, referenced “Bencoulin in the East-Indies” as the origin.
After tasting the condiment, the British then took home what they could remember and tried to replicate the fermented dark sauce from Asia by using mushrooms, walnuts, oysters or anchovies.
Tomato did not become part of the recipe until 1812 when scientist and horticulturalist James Mease added the fruit, which he called “love apples.” On top of the tomato pulp, spices and brandy were added to the key ingredients of the sauce.
The name of the dark fermented sauce is also derived from Asia. The word “ketchup” most likely came from a Chinese dialect called Amoy, according to Andy F. Smith, a professor of food history based in New York City and author/publisher of the book “Pure Ketchup: A History of America’s National Condiment.”
The condiment was first called as Ke-tsiap, which means “brine of pickled fish” that probably originated in a Chinese community in northern Vietnam.
So the next time you add ketchup to your burger or fries, remember that this condiment evolved through the years from fermented fish sauce in Asia.