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.
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.
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.
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