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- [Narrator] Ketchup, it's everywhere in the US.
97% of Americans have a bottle in their fridge.
It's the sauce we put on our hamburgers, our hot dogs,
and our french fries.
But the story of ketchup actually begins in Asia.
(bottle shattering and quiet music)
We think of ketchup as a thick red sauce,
but it was something pretty different in the beginning.
It originated as a thin soy sauce made from fermented fish
most likely from a region called Tonkin,
or in what we call Vietnam today.
It was common throughout Southeast Asia in the 17th century.
Ketchup was called kêtsiap, a Chinese word
from the Amoy dialect that translates
to "brine of pickled fish."
- I look at that and say, how is that possible
that this little product that starts in Indonesia
goes to UK, comes to the US, and then, all of a sudden
spread across this world.
The British had a colony in what is today Indonesia,
and it is there that they first ran into the word kêtsiap,
which meant to them soy sauce.
Many other people visited them,
they fell in love with soy sauce,
and they liked to take the idea back to England.
The problem was there were no soybeans
growing in England at the time,
so they began to experiment.
Rather than soybeans, "let's do mushrooms."
So they had mushroom ketchup.
"Let's do fish." And so they had fish ketchup.
And they said, "Let's do beans,
so let's have bean ketchup."
So it became a long series of products
that did not include tomatoes.
So it really was something that was common and did not have
a specific meaning other than it was a main product
that was spiced.
- [Narrator] There are no rules for how the spell
the word "ketchup" or for what defines it,
so cooks experimented with a variety of ingredients
to season meat, fish, bread, whatever needed flavor.
Andrew Smith's book, "Pure Ketchup,"
contains 50 different historical ketchup recipes
including Eliza Smith's 1727 recipe
which was the first one published in English.
Some of the listed ingredients are anchovies, shallots,
white wine vinegar, white wine, mace, ginger, cloves,
peppers, a nutmeg, a lemon peel, and horseradish.
So what happened to all those varieties of ketchup?
Tomatoes.
The 1812 recipe from James Mease is the first appearance
of tomatoes in ketchup.
But wait, what about Heinz, the ketchup we know and love?
- H.J. Heinz was in the right place at the right time
with the right product.
So in one sense, it was just pure luck
that he had a good product at the time that french fries
came in, at the time that hot dogs came in,
at the time that hamburgers came in.
And it very quickly took over the market
and it has dominated the market for the last 100 years.
- [Narrator] While tomato-based ketchup
is the most common now, there are still specialty versions
with spinach, carrots and butternut squash,
cinnamon and cloves, jalapenos, Vindaloo spices,
bacon, and truffles.
So the next time you grab that bottle of ketchup,
remember it wasn't always tomato-based,
and it traveled the world before it go to you.
- Oh, look at that.
It sticks. It doesn't drip off.
Let me have another one here to make sure
the quality is as good as it should be.
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How Ketchup Started As A Fish Sauce From Asia

2219 Folder Collection
Emily published on October 16, 2018
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