What is Worcestershire Sauce?

Oysters Kilpatrick. Source:  Renee Suen

Oysters Kilpatrick. Source: Renee Suen

I'm writing this random post about Worcestershire sauce because I tried it in Hong Kong at a steakhouse called Wooloomooloo. It made our tomahawk steak taste like Bruce Lee.. because it kicked ass. Sound Effect. So, I wanted to write a post about it. I also just watched Lorde's robotic spazz attack at the Grammy's so I'm in a pretty good mood to write about sauce.

Worcestershire is basically a fermented anchovy sauce. It has ancestors (garum) that date back to the Roman Empire. Similar sauces can be found in Europe close to the 17th century. The first legit Worcestershire sauce was commercialized in 1837 by Lea & Perrins and is probably still the best on the market. Their legend goes something like this. Rich noblebro, Lord Sandys, had this old recipe from India. He missed all that India flavor love so he asked chemists John Lea and William Perrins to recreate the old recipe. They tried and they tried but their sauce sucked. Instead of making Worcestershire sauce, they made sad sauce that made everyone sad because it tasted so bad :( So they left the sauce in some jars in a cellar for a few years while they recovered from the sadness. And for some strange reason, they decided to taste their old, gross sauce for old times sake. Somehow, the aging process turned that sad sauce into a happy, savory, new sauce.

Lea & Perrins. Source:  Mark Norman Francis

Lea & Perrins. Source: Mark Norman Francis

Worcestershire sauce is made by aging a number of ingredients in vinegar within a wooden cask for 18 months. Ingredients can include: Vinegar, sugar, water, onions, anchovies, salt, garlic, tamarind, chili peppers, corn syrup, molasses, and cloves. Link to more details about ingredients here. Fermented anchovies creates the base to the sauce's savory flavor. The acidity from the vinegar will break down the anchovies and give the sauce a slightly sour taste.

Salt is used to help in the fermenting process but Worcestershire is still a lot less salty than soy sauce. Onions, garlic, cloves, and tamarind all used to enhance flavor and build character. These ingredients are vital to the Worcestershire's aroma and complex taste. Molasses and sugar are used to give the sauce a soft, sweet taste. Finally, the chili peppers are added for that small "kick", just enough to get your heat receptors excited. All in all, Worcestershire sauce will bless you with that salted, savory taste along with hints of sweet and tangy spices.

This sexy sauce is pretty much good with anything. It's definitely delicious with steak (I've tasted this splendiferousness). I'm so excited I got to use that word for no reason. Splendiferousness. Worcestershire sauce also seems to be popular in the egg, cheese, soup, oyster, and salad departments. I wouldn't be surprised if it were used for other seafood or maybe some xiao long baos. Some people seem to put it on their toast with eggs and/or cheese. I have also heard of people using it with vegetables (mushrooms) and chicken. It's also used in marinades, dressings, gravies, stir fries, and cocktails. One of the most popular cocktails to use this sauce is the Bloody Mary.

Bloody Mary. Source:  Jill G

Bloody Mary. Source: Jill G

Different versions of Worcestershire sauce are now found all over the world. For example, the sauce can be found in both Cantonese and Shanghai cuisine for dim sum dishes or small, pan-fried pork buns. The link here goes into all the different countries that may be using their own version of the sauce. It's kind of interesting, even a quick glance will be rewarding.

If you're interested in playing with some Worcestershire sauce, I'd use it to accompany steak, eggs, or cheese. Here are some links to recipes where they really put the sauce to work:

  1. Salade Landaise with Romaine Lettuce and Bleu d'Auvergne

  2. Salt Beef with Fried Egg, Gooseberry Ketchup, and Pickled Onion Rings

  3. Bloody Mary

  4. Purple Sprouting Broccoli Gratin with Cheese Sauce and Toasted Brioche

  5. Confit Duck Hash with a Fried Duck Egg and Celeriac, Radish, Pomegranate, and Truffle Salad

  6. Oysters Kilpatrick

Turns out, in my head, I've been saying "Worcestershire" wrong this whole time. It's actually pronounced a few different ways but WORE-CHEST-TER-SHIRE is not the right way to do it. You can pronounce it like WUST-ter-shire or WOOS-ter-sheer. It's kind of fun to say. I think it's my new favorite word for the day. If you're looking for other fun words to say, my beautiful girlfriend likes to use the word "Guam". It's funny too. Anyways, I hope this taught you one or two new things about sauce. And hopefully, you go out and maybe have a wild night with this Worcestershire hottie.