Ketjap Dipping Sauce

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes Approximately

    ¾ Cups

Appears in

In Indian or Southeast Asian stores you can find a bottled sauce called “ketjap manis.” We have all read about how America’s favorite sauce was originally from Indonesia, or from the Chinese word ketsiap, or from the Malay word kechap or kecap, which Alan Davidson says means “soy sauce.” I find this all endlessly fascinating, and it boggles the mind to think that the first Dutch in Indonesia began the process that ended up in a bottle on every table in every diner in America.

In one of my old books of cooking notes I found I had written “Pepper Catsup—Houston 1883.” The list of ingredients is “red jalapeño chilies, chopped onions, white wine vinegar, salt, allspice, horseradish, cloves.” The notes say to “seed and chop up the chilies, and sweat them in stainless steel, covered, in the oven with the oil and vinegar. Cook until soft. Puree until smooth. Add salt, allspice, cloves and horseradish. Simmer 10 minutes.” In a book called Practical Housekeeping, printed in Ohio in 1876, there is a whole chapter called “Catsups and Sauces,” which includes catsups of cucumber, currant, cherry, gooseberry, and tomato, all of which when cooked down with spices and lots of sugar essentially become fruit “butters” and are precursors to American barbecue and steak sauces.

But going back to the Asian tradition, I think of the delicious one-minute sauce my cook in Manila would prepare for me, regardless of what was on the menu. She made it also with soy sauce, but both she and I preferred the ketjap manis because it is less salty, a bit sweet, and lighter than many nuclear-powered soy sauces.

If you can’t find kalamansi, then use ripe (yellowing) limes or Key limes.

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  • ½ cup ketjap manis
  • ¼ cup fresh kalamansi juice
  • ½ tablespoon light sesame oil


Mix a bit, and dip everything in it.