Great chefs source hot sauce and mayo as carefully as they do pork chops and fresh herbs. So we asked nine of the best to show us their favorite under-the-radar, dish-elevating pantry staples.
Paul Qui - East Side King, Austin
"It's umami in a bottle—anchovies are fermented in barrels and sea salt, then pressed. Add it to brines to dial up the deliciousness of fried chicken and brisket."
Available at markethallfoods.com
(See more: Asian Hot Sauce Taste Test: Beyond Sriracha)
2. Boat Street Pickles pickled figs or pickled raisins
Tom Colicchio - Colicchio & Sons, N.Y.C.
"These work well on a cheese plate. But because they're not too sweet, they're also good with meat. Use to baste pan-roasted pork chops in a skillet, or add 'em to pan juices to make a sauce for steak, fish, poultry."
For more information, visit boatstreetpickles.com
3. Fennel pollen
Casey Lane - The Tasting Kitchen, L.A.
"This is the Italians' magic dust—potent and aromatic. Sprinkle it in olive oil for a bread dip that'll have your dinner guests fiending."
Available at dailygrommet.com
4. Kewpie mayonnaise
Chris Santos - Beauty & Essex, N.Y.C.
"Unlike some gloppy American mayonnaises, Japan's Kewpie is silky smooth like an aioli. And it's a damn tasty way to dress fresh veggies and tomatoes."
Available at asiangrocerystop.com
Justin Smillie Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, N.Y.C.
"A nuttier alternative to sea salt that punches up pastas, sautéed greens, and marinades. Brush it on grilled flatbread or pizza at a summer barbecue, or whip it with olive oil for the best Caesar-salad dressing ever."
Available at salumeriaitaliana.com
6. Shark brand sriracha
Todd Mitgang - Crave Fishbar, N.Y.C.
"It's better than the 'rooster' sriracha everyone uses; it starts out sweet before seducing you with heat. Use it as your favorite hot sauce, which means pour it on everything."
Available at amazon.com
7. Taggiasche olives
Alain Ducasse - Adour, Washington, D.C.
"The Rolls-Royce of olives. Grown on the Italian Riviera, they're sweeter, more subtle, and more delicate than others but still add a powerful savoriness to fish and tapenades."
Available at ilbucovineria.com
Sean BrockHusk, Charleston, South Carolina
"It's like honey or molasses but more mellow and with a vegetal hit, and it tastes so good on biscuits or in vegetable vinaigrettes."
Available at kaufmann-mercantile.com
Eddie Huang - Baohaus, N.Y.C.
"Swap in Peppadews for banana or red peppers—they're tangier and fruitier. Inside a grilled cheese is another great call."
Available at supermarketitaly.com
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