The best condiments according to our chefs

Salt, spice and everything nice: we quiz our chefs on their must-have condiments.

No matter how good a meal is, there is always room for improvement. Namely, through the universally beloved flavour bombs we call condiments. Whether you’re a die-hard sriracha fan, a pickle appreciator or a tomato sauce traditionalist, it’s hard to imagine going through life without having developed a fanatical loyalty to a particular sauce or relish. Particularly now, when many of us are cooking more than ever, there’s nothing better than a good condiment to spice up our kitchen lives.

In the spirit of maintaining culinary inspiration, we spoke to the chefs at The Star about the condiments they swear by – some of which they’re willing to start a petition for.

Uday Huja, Executive Chef at Nineteen at The Star, The Star Gold Coast

What’s the one condiment you can’t do without?

“Pepper vinegar. It is a classic South American condiment made from fresh and dried chillis and apple cider vinegar, usually sprinkled over black-eyed peas. The hot acidity brightens the flavours of rich dishes.”

What condiment do you hate and why?

“I don’t hate any food, but I do hate the way some people use salt and pepper. They put salt and pepper on dishes before even tasting the food. We as chefs season the food correctly before it comes to you. Give us a chance before you add seasoning please.”

What are your favourite condiment pairings?

“Steak and wasabi is a favourite of mine. Grate some wasabi on your raw steak with some olive oil and then grill. It gets a charred horseradish thing going on, which is greater than the sum of its parts. [Also] homemade tartare sauce with tons of fresh herbs, capers and shallots. You can put it on pretty much anything and make it better.”

What’s an underappreciated condiment you’d like to see more of?

“Vietnamese fish sauce is magical when added to marinades, dressings or just to a bowl of noodles. It is high in umami flavour profiles and makes everything a bit more savoury.” 

Dayan Hartill-Law, Chef de Cuisine at Cucina Vivo, The Star Gold Coast

What’s the one condiment you can’t do without?

“I actually cannot dial that down to one. I would have to have truffle mustard for sandwich applications or for lathering on steak. I would need sriracha for, well, mostly everything – from a toasted mortadella and jack cheddar sandwich for breakfast with lashings of sriracha, or for adding to noodles or dumplings. Then I have to have kewpie because what can’t you put kewpie on? I also have a great love for a Japanese condiment called wadakan [soy sauce]. It’s super savoury – I add it to soups, or blend it with port to make a ketchup that’s excellent with duck pie.”

What condiment do you hate and why?

“I don’t hate any condiments ­– everything has a place. [For example] I loathe the smell of vegemite and would never put it on toast, but during my time with Heston [Blumenthal] I learnt that it is actually a great hack for making a super savoury sauce to go with steak.”

What are your favourite condiment pairings?

“Mustard and ham (but it has to be truffle or cognac mustard and the ham should be smoky); duck pie and wadakan; bacon, egg, boudin noir (blood sausage) and sriracha.”

What’s an underappreciated condiment you’d like to see more of?

“I love 333 sweet mustard pickles. They are so delicious and versatile. Use a little in your tartare or lather it thick on a sandwich. At Cucina Vivo we are in the process of developing some little hacks like this, [such as] a pickle that is actually Chef Dustin [Osuch]’s favourite giardiniera. Hopefully in the coming weeks it will be available for purchase along with our cook-at-home products, so you can use chef hacks at home to jack up your meals.”

Chris Mcleay, chef de cuisine, Garden Kitchen & Bar, The Star Gold Coast

What’s the one condiment you can’t do without?

“It would have to be a good-quality French mustard.

It’s a condiment I always have in my fridge at home. It will generally be a mild Dijon, which I find is an enjoyable accompaniment to most proteins. The key is to find a mustard that suits your personal palate. Some mustards can be quite hot spice-wise, or a little too sweet. My choice is the Moutarde du Lion Pommery brand. Not cheap but it is worth the money.”

What condiment do you hate and why?

“I am not a big fan of chilli-based sauces, such as Tabasco or hot sauce. I find it just overpowers everything for me and takes away from the meal I’m eating. I know this might not be a popular choice, but it is a personal preference as I can’t handle chilli heat. It makes my eyes water. On the other hand, I love the heat that comes from wasabi, which is short-lived before the flavour comes through. I do cop a bit of flack for my low chilli tolerance!”

What are your favourite condiment pairings?

“Pickled ginger with sushi. I love it. Whenever we go to Sushi Train, my partner gives me grief as I will literally grab eight packets of his ginger before we have even started. I find it adds a great flavour and gives a nice textural component. Aside from Dijon mustard, I really enjoy a home-made chimichurri with steak. I make mine with home-grown parsley, coriander, garlic, olive oil, salt, lemon and a little apple cider vinegar. Blend into a paste and consume at will! If [you’re having] chicken wings, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce is excellent.”

What’s an underappreciated condiment you’d like to see more of?

“That’s a tough one. In Australia I would say ranch dressing. When I was in Canada, it would go on everything. Its nice buttermilk flavour is really good with corn chips for a simple snack. I haven’t really seen much on the shelves of Australian supermarkets. I might have to start a petition!”