Ketchup History: The Amazing Story Behind The Well-Loved Condiment

Know more about the Ketchup History

Ketchup History – This well-loved condiment comes with an amazing story that has become a great companion for many dishes.

The tangy and sweet sauce is known as a great topping, sauce, and ingredient in different cuisines around the globe. In America, based on the article in Reader’s Digest, ketchup is the most popular condiment in this region and it is expected that Americans will spend 5.85 billion on this in 2023.

Although it is a popular condiment in America, its origin is in Asia thousands of years ago. Dan Jurafsky, a professor of linguistics at Stanford University and the author of The Language of Food explained that thousands of years ago, “people living along the coasts and rivers of southeast Asia and what is now southern China began to preserve local fish and shrimp, salting and fermenting it into rich savory pastes.”

ketchup history

For quite a while, this creation was confined to that region but when Emperor Wu of Han started expanding the territory, other regions started to adopt this fish sauce. Through sea travels and explorations the popularity of the fish sauce also expanded.

Fujianese traders and seamen loved the fish sauce, naming it ke-tchup, which means preserved fish sauce in Hokkien, the language of southern Fujian and Taiwan,” Jurafsky shared.

He also mentioned the different spellings of this fish sauce that surfaced. “Ke-tchup, cat-sup and ca-tchup are all attempts by English, Dutch or Portuguese speakers of the time to capture the sounds of the Chinese word,” the food expert explained.  ‘Tch’ still means sauce in Hokkien and Mandarin, and the syllable ‘ke’ means preserved fish in Hokkien. When Fujianese settlers began to travel to places like Indonesia, they started building factories for this Chinese traditional fish sauce. That was where British learned about this condiment.

In the early 1600s, British sailors were introduced to ketchup. Eventually, British sailors started buying large quantities of ketchup, bottling it, and bringing it home. 

Jurafsky said that most likely it was the British who first added tomato to ketchup. In the mid-1800s, tomatoes replaced the mushrooms and the anchovies disappeared from the recipes. The sauce remained brown and thin even though tomatoes were added to it, unlike the present appearance that the sauce has nowadays.

In 1876, it was Heinz that added vinegar to the sauce to prevent decomposition as tomatoes decompose faster than the other ingredients. It was in the 1800s when ketchup production and popularity began to rise in America.

In 1910, ketchup (especially Heinz) began to create ketchup that resembles the ketchup we have nowadays.

If tomato is the main ingredient of ketchup, its look-alike pumpkin gained its popularity mainly because of Halloween. Pumpkin has become a Halloween symbol.

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