Six Condiments That Will Change The Way You Cook

Want to improve your cooking skills? From Kewpie mayonnaise to zesty za’atar, here are six of the best condiments to keep stocked in your kitchen cupboard.
These 6 condiments must be in your kitchen arsenal.
These 6 condiments must be in your kitchen arsenal.

Like man discovering fire, the first uni student to ever add a dollop of pesto to their penne must have known almost instantaneously that they were onto something big. Something that was going to change the game forever. The correct application of a condiment – be it a shower of salt and vinegar on your chips or a slick of mustard on a charred frankfurter – is something that can turn your cooking from mediocre to magical in a moment’s notice.

Salt is obviously essential to enhancing the flavours of practically any dish. We’re not arguing against that. But salt and its good pal pepper can only go so far, and we think it’s high time you updated your condiment rotation to add some excitement back into meal prep. Because honestly, mate, putting Sriracha on your scrambled eggs? That’s so 2017.

Here’s a few of the affordable condiments you should add to your kitchen cupboard.

Lao Gan Ma Crispy Chilli Oil

This crispy chilli oil adds the perfect heat to any dish.
This crispy chilli oil adds the perfect heat to any dish.

Don’t be fooled by the sweet portrait of Lao Gan Ma owner, Tao Huabi, that you’ll find emblazoned on the label of this life-altering Chinese condiment: this crispy chilli oil packs a hell of a punch. Hot, addictive, and excellent spooned onto everything from steamed rice to a slice of Chorleywood bread, Lao Gan Ma’s crispy chilli oil will improve pretty much anything you can think of. It will not, however, improve a white t-shirt.

Kewpie Mayonnaise

Richer, creamier, eggier, and more, well, mayonnaise-ier than Hellmann’s or Heinz, Kewpie mayo isn’t as acidic as its British counterparts and makes a much better partner for salty, fried food as a result. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for chicken dippers and Kewpie. A little goes a long way with this stuff though. Use it wisely.

Valentina Hot Sauce

This spicy citrus kicker is the Corvette of hot sauces.
This spicy citrus kicker is the Corvette of hot sauces.

Valentina is the Corvette of hot sauces. I think. I don’t actually know all that much about cars but if being the Corvette of hot sauces means that Valentina is one of the best hot sauces on the market, then it is exactly that. Buy it, bung it into everything you want to liven up with a hot and spicy citrus kick, and buy it again.


Earthy and aromatic, za’atar is an Arabic spice mixture made up of a slew of ingredients including – but not limited to – sesame seeds, salt, marjoram, thyme and sumac. The best thing about za’atar is its versatility; different za’atars from different producers can taste poles apart. Those with a higher proportion of sumac will deliver more of a citrus smack whereas marjoram-forward za’atar mixes will have a woodier note. Take some time to explore the aisles of your local and find your fave.


MSG is a naturally occurring substance. It adds an amazing umami flavour to your food and is not dangerous!
MSG is a naturally occurring substance. It adds an amazing umami flavour to your food and is not dangerous!

MSG has long been unfairly maligned as a “dangerous” and “unhealthy” additive. Which is bullshit. Monosodium glutamate is a naturally occurring substance – bountiful in foodstuffs such as tomatoes and Parmesan cheese – capable of umami-fying anything you add it to. It’s a superb, savoury addition to your store cupboard.

Tonkotsu Eat The Bits Chilli Oil

If you’re even vaguely fond of Japanese cuisine, you’d be nuts not to buy a jar of this potent chilli oil made by the folks at the Tonkotsu ramen chain. Rapeseed oil, chilli flakes and shichi-mi tōgarashi (a chilli-laden spice mix) are zhuzzed up with the likes of red miso, garlic, onion, sesame seeds and sesame oil to create one of the best condiments around. Don’t forget to do what the label says and eat the bits. They’re delicious.

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