12,165.6058.7
Stock Analysis, IPO, Mutual Funds, Bonds & More

Tomatoes and tamarind give UK's HP sauce, once found in India's gymkhanas, a distinct flavour

Sales of it have been declining but it is still an icon of British identity.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Dec 10, 2019, 12.27 PM IST
0Comments
Agencies
The tangy brown sauce was once found in British-era gymkhanas across India but has been replaced by ketchup.
The tangy brown sauce was once found in British-era gymkhanas across India but has been replaced by ketchup.
Britain’s Houses of Parliament are being overhauled, and not just because of the highly-unpredictable election now taking place. The over 150-years-old structure urgently needs refurbishment, which has finally started happening.

And that also brought a change to HP Sauce, the condiment named after it. Sales of it have been declining but it is still an icon of British identity, not least because of the Houses of Parliament on its label. So, when scaffolding went up around Parliament’s Big Ben clock tower this year, the sauce followed suit, adding scaffolding to its label.

The tangy brown sauce was once found in British-era gymkhanas across India but has been replaced by ketchup. In the UK, it used to be so popular that many people doused HP sauce over almost all their food. One who did so was prime minister Harold Wilson, which is why it was sometimes called ‘Wilson’s gravy’. This could be an indication of how tasteless British food once was.

Over the centuries many people tried to make it palatable, with garum, the fermented fish sauce brought by the Romans, pungent French mustards, piquant German fruit and vinegar sauces, soy sauce from China that came with the tea trade, explosively hot chilli sauces from the Caribbean, and spiced curry sauces from India.

In his book 'Food Fights & Culture Wars', Tom Nealon explains that most of these sauces concentrate ingredients like tomatoes or fermented soy and fish, which are rich in umami, the flavour that makes food taste more savoury. Worcestershire Sauce, the most famous of the Indian origin sauces, combines anchovy essence and soy, along with other spices. HP sauce, which is thicker, uses cooked tomatoes.

In the UK, it used to be so popular that many people doused HP sauce over almost all their food.
In the UK, it used to be so popular that many people doused HP sauce over almost all their food.


Nealon also points to a third key ingredient common to these brown sauces, as they are prosaically called. This is tamarind, the fruity-sour pods from a tree of African origin, but so associated with India that its name derives from the Arabic tamar-hindi, or ‘Indian dates’. Tamarind’s sweet-sour taste is what makes these umami-rich sauces appealing, and also cousins to Indian imli pickles.

These sauces, and several others, all have similar, conveniently unverifiable, stories of how they were first concocted and how secret their recipes still are. The one certain fact is that they were well-marketed. For example, by Lea & Perrins, who put Worcestershire Sauce on ships and paid stewards to serve it to passengers. Over long voyages, they got a taste for it and took it with them. “Worcestershire Sauce was the first global, virally marketed food,” writes Nealon.

Such smart entrepreneurship might seem to make these sauces symbols for a Britain that goes it alone, outside the European Union. But most are now owned by foreign companies, like Heinz, which amid much protest, shifted HP Sauce production to the Netherlands. And given their non-native ingredients, like tamarind, brown sauces might actually suggest the opposite, that Britain benefits best from being open to influences from around the world.

UK's 95-Year-Old Tipton Twins, And Other Prominent Identical Twins In The World

of 5
Next
Prev
Play Slideshow

Fame To Same

12 Sep, 2019
At 95, Britain’s oldest identical twins - Lilian Cox and Doris Hobday - are a Facebook sensation with their hilarious online antics, but they are far from the only set to have found fame.
Next
Comments
Add Your Comments
Commenting feature is disabled in your country/region.

Popular Categories


Other useful Links


Copyright © 2020 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service