Tartar sauce, or more correctly tartare sauce is commonly served with fried fish and other seafood these days, but that wasn’t always the case. While its creamy acidity does provide a perfect foil for greasy fried fish and seafood, it was actually developed as a sauce for chopped raw meat, known as tartare, in the 19th century.
While capers and a creamy sauce are still a good accompaniment for tartare, today’s tartar sauce is ideal when eating fried seafood of any kind. Plus it’s simple and easy to make, taking less than 5 minutes and teasting far better than the tartar sauces that come from jars or squeeze bottles. And if you live in Thailand, making your own tartar sauce might be your only option.
We have fried shrimp, squid, oysters or fish once a week on average, and it is always accompanied by this creamy, slightly acid and salty condiment. I also make a killer cocktail sauce (another condiment that is unavailable in Thailand), but that will have to wait until another day when I have the energy to actually measure what I put into the wonderful concoction.
Fried seafood is something of a comfort food for me, and since Thais don’t really do breaded or batter fried fish, the only way to get it is to cook it at home. And as I mentioned, both tartar sauce and cocktail sauce are totally unknown in Thai restaurants. In fact, they don’t even do drawn butter for steamed seafood, and requests for such are met with confusion and disbelief on the part of the server and a total refusal on the part of the kitchen. I know because I’ve tried. Several times. To NO avail.
To be fair though, seafood here is typically served with a slightly sweet, sour, and spicy lime/chili sauce that is heavenly. On broiled, baked and fried fish it is simply sublime and helps to highlight the sweetness of the fish being served. The few fried and breaded or battered seafood dishes are served with a spicy sweet chili sauce that is equally delicious.
That said, I sometimes crave the creamy, acid and salty tartar sauce from back home. If you want a tartar sauce that really makes your seafood shine, this recipe will do quite well. It hits all the right notes, with enough capers and gherkins to provide salt, lemon for acidity, and fresh parsley to give a brightness to the sauce.
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp capers, drained and chopped
- 3 tbsp gherkins, drained and chopped
- 1 tsp caper juice
- ½ tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Mix all of the ingredients together and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to combine and develop.
Yeah I cheated and used prepared mayonnaise (Kraft), but I’ll be honest with you…I haven’t been able to make mayonnaise on my own (sad cat). For some reason it always breaks for me. I don’t have an immersion blender and so I haven’t tried that method, but you can be sure I will at some point in the future. And if I can get it to work you’ll see it here first.