Just as accessories help fashionable women spice up an outfit, condiments have grabbed the spotlight to help cooks make dishes shine. Grocery and specialty store shelves sag under an arsenal of bold flavor-boosters ranging from ethnic sauces to gourmet mayonnaise and fancy ketchups to tangy mustards. And the demand keeps growing.
Once merely a staple to gussy up a sandwich or for serving with cooked food, condiments now command home refrigerators for use in everyday meal preparation. They have become sources of intense, distinctive flavor and key ingredients to upgrade a stale dinner game.
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Kansas City’s artisan food producers keep pace with the evolving condiments craze by contributing creative products marked by substance and style.
Angela Hong and Nick Crofoot, founders of Born With Seoul gochujang sauces, researched the market and saw an opportunity to overhaul and modernize the Korean sauce she grew up with on her family’s dinner table.
Hong, whose immigrant parents were farmers in Korea, watched the industrious couple make everything from scratch — wine, soy sauce, traditional Korean sauces. Hong’s Born With Seoul label emerged in 2015, following decades of participating in the family home kitchen. She settled on gochujang, a traditional Korean hot sauce, as her debut product. Hong uses her mother’s recipe with a few twists.
“The Sweet & Tangy and Original Sesame Born With Seoul sauces are gluten-free, definitely not the typical gochujang available in stores,” Hong says. “But to answer a gluten intolerance our daughter has, we decided to make the gochujang a healthier version.”
One of Hong’s challenges is to help people understand how gochujang sauce applies to everyday cooking.
“It’s like any other condiment — add to a recipe, use as a marinade or a barbecue sauce,” she says. “We top fried eggs with it and use in stir-fry. Hot sauce rules at our house.”
Hong and Crofoot are in development stages with Shannon Kimball at Flavor Trade, a KC small-batch food manufacturer, on two additional Born With Seoul products: bulgogi sauce, a traditional Korean marinade that translated means “fire beef,” and gochujang beef jerky. Currently Born With Seoul is carried at Better Cheddar locations, Green Acres Market, select Hen House Markets, Olive Tree, Urban Provisions and The Sundry, among others.
Zim’s Mild Bufsas Sauce from Todd Zimmer entered the market just as it was beginning to explode with trendy choices. The Buffalo, N.Y., native moved to Kansas City in 1997 and launched Zim’s Sauces with his wife, Janet, in 2010.
Zimmer’s resume includes cooking at one of the Buffalo restaurants noted for iconic buffalo chicken wings, Sorrentino’s Spaghetti House, where he developed a passion for big flavors. In Kansas City, where he works as a graphic designer, he shared with friends and colleagues batches of wings with his original sauce, made from 20-plus ingredients and emboldened with spices and flavors he discovered here.
“In 2008, Janet and I gave our sauce as holiday gifts and decided to take people’s encouragement and bottle it,” Zimmer says.
Although his intention was to peddle Zim’s Sauce to restaurants only (RecordBar and The Brick’s kitchens were two early adopters), the couple decided to add retail to the mix. Zim’s, bottled by Original Juan’s, is now available in Kansas City at Werner’s Fine Sausages, McGonigle’s Market and Nature’s Own. Bread and Butter Concepts’ new Country Club Plaza eatery, The Oliver, incorporates Zim’s in recipes.
The Zim’s line includes the best-selling medium sauce (and three other heat levels), balsamic vinegar and rubs. Zimmer, who credits his grandfather Milton with the inspiration to pursue cooking and creativity, likes the collaborative vibe in Kansas City’s food community.
“People are helpful, even competitors,” he says. “It’s like, ‘Let’s all do this.’ It’s not a ‘me’ thing — more people contributing means more success for all of us.”
Kimberly Winter Stern is an Overland Park-based freelance writer. Reach her at email@example.com or @kimdishes.
Noah Belcher’s Asian Grilled Chicken Wings
Makes 2 servings
4-6 whole, bone-in chicken wings
For the marinade:
3 tablespoons Born with Seoul Korean Original Sesame Gochujang Sauce
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons hot sauce or Tabasco
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
For the glaze:
1/4 cup Born with Seoul Sweet & Tangy Gochujang Sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons hot sauce or Tabasco
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
To prepare the marinade: Combine all marinade ingredients, add chicken and toss until well covered in a gallon-sized zip-top plastic bag. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours.
To prepare the glaze: Combine all ingredients. Set aside.
To prepare the chicken wings: Prepare grill. Grill wings at 375 degrees, turning every 2-3 minutes until reaching an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Cover grilled wings in foil for 5 minutes and let wings sit. Toss in the glaze and serve.
Per serving: 462 calories (64 percent from fat), 33 grams total fat (15 grams saturated), 122 milligrams cholesterol, 22 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 2,062 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.
Tom’s Mentzer’s Pork Marinade
Perfect for pork chops or pork tenderloin on the grill.
Hot Helga Nordic Mustard
To prepare the pork: Mix equal parts Hot Helga Nordic Mustard, orange marmalade and fig preserves until smooth. Place pork chops or pork tenderloin on hot grill. About 2 minutes before the pork is done, slather the mustard-marmalade-preserves mixture over the chops or on the tenderloin. Shut the grill top and let the heat melt it into a delicious spicy and sweet glaze.