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Kê-tsiap: The surprising Asian origins of ketchup

  • The term “ketchup” stems from the Hokkien Chinese word for a preserved fish sauce: kê-tsiap.
  • European merchants brought the sauce to Britain in the 17th century, where its ingredients were swapped to suit Western palates while retaining its umami flavor.
  • After the sauce was brought to the United States in the 19th century by British settlers, it was altered and mass-produced by manufacturers who incorporated sugar and vinegar to give it a sweet-sour flavor.
  • Today, ketchup is a ubiquitous condiment found all over the world.

The history of ketchup is one that spans several centuries and continents, originating in Asia before becoming one of the most popular condiments in America.  

From complimenting culinary classics such as hamburgers and fries to spawning billion-dollar corporations, ketchup’s bright and sweet-sour tang is firmly embedded in America’s collective taste buds.