I am a pretty competent cook, but I am also what you could call casually disorganized and not a big fan of cleaning. So when in the kitchen, I look for opportunities to mitigate potential messiness and culinary disasters. Which is why I love tube food. No, I don’t mean whole meals blended into slurries. I mean tomato paste in a tube that looks more like something you’d find at Home Depot than Brooklyn Kitchen. Food in a tube is practical, all function over form, and clean. There are some ingredients I wouldn’t buy in a tube (like pesto, which I wouldn’t buy in a jar, either), but anything that doesn’t need to be fresh to be best is a go. Tube food is nothing new — in fact, Europeans have been taking their condiments in tubes for decades. But now, thanks to Amazon, you can order Swiss mayonnaise and Swedish cod roe online, as well as American-made tubed harissa and chipotle paste.
San Marzano Double Concentrated Tomato Paste
A good “starter” tube: Tomato paste will make a convert out of any and all skeptics. It’s essential for Bolognese and Italian-American tomato sauce, but I squeeze my San Marzano paste into whatever I’m cooking when I’m not using a recipe (which is most of the time). Also, Rachael Ray, who knows a thing or two about not trying too hard in the kitchen, is into it.
Umami, the so-called fifth taste, is the sensation of savoriness. (MSG is concentrated umami.) It’s particularly present in foods with lots of glutamates — like anchovies, soy, tomatoes, and so on — and this paste is made of a blend of them. Essentially, it’s a flavor shortcut that you can add to anything.
Thomy Delikatess Mayonnaise
America lags behind Europe on several fronts. Access to health care. Voter participation. Condiment vehicles. You might be a Hellman’s devotee, but if everyone switches to this tube mayo en masse, maybe the American giant will finally come to its sense. The Swiss company behind it also innovated mustard in a tube.
Olo’s Chipotle Paste
Chipotles you broil yourself and canned chipotle en adobo are both great. But when grilling burgers this summer, it would be much more sympatico to mix your tube mayo with tube chipotle paste.
Entube Harissa Chili Paste
New York has already declared this Los Angeles company’s harissa-in-a-tube an essential ingredient for the modern gourmet. It’s a versatile ingredient that you can use when roasting meats or vegetables, to give dips a bite, and much more. What we didn’t tell you is that Entube is leading the tube-food vanguard, producing spicy and salty umeboshi, a fermented ume-plum paste that’s great in marinades and salad dressings, and Indian curry paste, whenever you want a cheat code for curry-house flavors.
Amore Sun-dried Tomato Paste
If you long for the flavors of the ’90s — tuna tartare! Tartufo! Appletinis! — opt for this tomato paste made with sun-dried tomatoes, the No. 1 ingredient of ’90s salads.
The Korean fermented chili paste is one of those automatic flavor enhancers, a staple ingredient used in everything from stir-fried rice cakes to soups like sundubu and the dipping sauce for bo ssam. Don’t stop there: Use it like you would sriracha, and definitely barbecue with it.
Kalles Creamed Smoked Cod Roe
Smoked caviar that’s mixed with potato flakes and tomato purée, creamed, and packaged in tubes? What a world. The Swedes love it, and it could be your secret weapon in this toast-obsessed era.
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