The supermarket item chefs can’t get enough of

Soft shell crab, kewpie with sriracha sauce at Mocan and Green Grout,  NewActon.
Soft shell crab, kewpie with sriracha sauce at Mocan and Green Grout, NewActon. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

It's the equivalent of instant death for a reality cooking show contestant: whipping out a jar of something pre-made to jazz up a dish. A My Kitchen Rules team were slammed as cheats for using a jar of red curry paste recently, and countless MasterChef contestants have been publicly shamed over failing to emulsify a mayo or pulverise a pesto, let alone opting for pre-made alternatives.

It's not different in a proper kitchen, either, especially in this age of house-cured charcuterie, foraged garnishes and fickle diners who think themselves more cultured than a sourdough starter.

Oh god no, not a pre-made curry paste!

Oh god no, not a pre-made curry paste! Photo: Seven


There's one condiment that most chefs make an exception for: the irresistible Japanese Kewpie mayo.


The appeal of this thick, umami-rich dressing is more robust than its industrialised make-up, surviving our obsessions with all things local and organic (it is neither), and the burgeoning trend to health foods (although it would probably make crispy kale taste good). 

Kewpie was launched in 1925 by Toichiro Nakashima, who used twice the egg yolks of European mayo, and the condiment quickly became a favourite in Japan, before rapidly expanding across the world. 

A range of Kewpie packaging from different countries.

A range of Kewpie packaging from different countries. Photo: www.kewpie.co.jp


The makers of Kewpie claim that "the secret of distinctively rich flavour is egg yolk" but the hit of monosodium glutamate (MSG) can't hurt either. David Chang rates it as the best mayo in the world, and a quick skim of our Kitchen Spy columns quickly reveals that the condiment pops up more than any other.

Recipe contributor Adam Liaw says "I do love Japanese fried chicken with Kewpie mayonnaise and I do make it a lot more often than I should."

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Small Victories chef Alric Hansen praised its seafood-transforming abilities. "I really like Kewpie with any kind of seafood, especially fried fish fingers, soft shell crab – it works so well with fried seafood," Hansen says. 

Perhaps Shane Delia put it best when he wrote "You can put Kewpie on a dog turd and it'll taste good."

Even the French can't resist - Manu Feildel counts it as the closest mayo to making your own, perfect for tuna sandwiches, while Parisian Gontran Cherrier slathers it on the curry bun with pork tonkatsu at his Melbourne patisserie.

Prawn crackers with salmon roe and Kewpie mayo.

Prawn crackers with salmon roe and Kewpie mayo. Photo: Marina Oliphant


Dive into recipes, and Karen Martini layers Kewpie with chilli jam for her fancy prawn crackers with salmon roe, while The Paddington's Ben Greeno uses it to make his ultimate chicken BLT sandwich

Jill Dupliex swirls it with Sriracha chilli sauce for her barbecue prawn tortillas and Frank Camorra tops his baked Japanese trout with shaved bonito, pickled ginger, and a generous squiggle of Kewpie. 

The best part? It only costs a couple of bucks from the nearest supermarket or Asian grocer.