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Ketchup originated in China as a boiled-down brine of pickled fish and spices called ‘ke-chiap’

Nikola Simonovski

Ketchup is one of the most popular condiments that can be found in almost every household on the planet.

Ketchup, as we know it today, is basically a tomato sauce, but in the past, the sauce was made out of oysters, mushrooms, walnuts, mussels, eggs and many other food products. The fast food industry today is unimaginable without ketchup, with the sauce being the best companion to French fries, burgers and hot dogs. Various versions of ketchup can be found on the market, containing different ingredients. You might think that this famous red sauce is a product of our modern times, but its production, in fact, began more than 500 years ago in China.

Blue Label Tomato Ketchup advertisement, Curtice Brothers 1898.

Blue Label Tomato Ketchup advertisement, Curtice Brothers 1898.

The Chinese invented ketchup in the 17th century. The original sauce was made out of fermented anchovies and spices, with an alluring caramel color.

This fish sauce was called ke-chiap in the Amoy dialect. The Chinese sailors brought the sauce with them everywhere they went, so the ke-chiap soon became known in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and other countries in Asia.

Tomatoes and tomato ketchup Photo Credit

Tomatoes and tomato ketchup Photo Credit

The western world had its first contact with the fish sauce when the Dutch and British merchants arrived in Asia, where they purchased silk, spices, tea, and of course, ketchup sauce.

The British brought the sauce home, but also spread it to their colonies around the globe. They soon began the production of their own ketchup, with mushrooms and walnuts as the main ingredients. The first usage of tomatoes in the sauce happened in the 19th century, and the anchovies were dropped out of the recipe somewhere in the 1850’s.

Ketchup Photo Credit

Ketchup Photo Credit

Ketchup became very popular in the United States, so the Americans started to think about how to commercialize the sauce. In the 1890’s, manufacturers like Heinz began with ketchup production as it was then but modified the recipe so as to preserve the sauce for longer. Adding sugar to the sauce brought the sweet taste we are so familiar with today.

Read  another story from us: Actually, Fortune Cookies were not part of the Chinese tradition

The United States are still the biggest consumer of ketchup, with Heinz being the worldwide leader in sales.