Claremont cravings: Spicing up the 5Cs

Colorful spices in spoons and bowls are laid out across a table.
Food columnist Isaac Warshaw PO `25 reviews his favorite seasonings for the dining halls. (Courtesy: Flickr)

I like spicy food with bold flavors and I can’t deny it. This guiding truth of my lifelong pursuit of delicious food has made finding satisfying meals at the Claremont Colleges dining halls slightly complicated. I feel so lucky to have so many great dining hall choices, yet deep down, I would prefer if the food was more intensely flavored. To overcome this hurdle, I have started taking matters into my own hands by getting creative with the condiments that I use.

El Yucateco Black Label Reserve Chile Habanero Hot Sauce

Upon recommendation from a local friend who also attends the 5Cs, I bought La Yucateca’s green and black hot sauces in these very cute small glass bottles at the Super King Market, a 30 minute walk from the 5Cs. Despite the diminutive size of the bottles, both sauces packed a big punch of flavor, but the black one is the one that really blew me away.

I’ve had black salsas before and El Yucateco is really good, even compared to the fresh ones I’ve had, with the plus that it does not need to be refrigerated. Black salsas are made by blackening the peppers and other components of the salsa on a grill or stove, giving them the distinctive black color and deep smokey flavor. Compared to the hot sauces available in the dining halls, this salsa does not have a strong vinegary flavor and has more of a chile flavor. When I go to Frank Dining Hall, I like to use La Yucateca’s black salsa on the DIY bowls in the clean eats line. This salsa gives the bowls a deep flavor which really brings them to the next level.

Lee Kum Kee Sriracha Mayo Sauce

Last year I found myself putting Sriracha on almost everything. This year when I returned to campus I was surprised to see that the once plentiful bottles of Sriracha were nowhere to be found in the dining halls and had all been replaced by a similar looking yet different tasting sauce. When I went to the grocery store Tokyo Central with my friend, a 20 minute drive from the 5Cs, I looked for Sriracha, yet I could not find it — this lead me to look it up online, where I found out that there is actually a shortage of Sriracha due to a failed chili harvest in Northern Mexico.

Since I’m a stubborn person, I decided to grab a Sriracha mayo instead, a decision that I would not regret. The Lee Kum Kee Sriracha Mayo Sauce is maybe one of the most versatile condiments that I have now. I love how creamy yet tangy it is. I especially like to put it on sweet potatoes — trust me, it sounds weird, but it tastes delicious. This is my go to sauce now, not to make food spicy, but rather to make food more unctuous and cut through starchy flavors. Another plus of this mayo is that the dining halls often run out of mayo, which makes this little bottle come in handy.

Seto Fumi Furikake

I have loved rice seasoning for a long time. Japanese rice seasonings are salty, coarse powders that are intended to be put on rice after it has been cooked. They are used in poke a lot, and you may have tried it without even knowing so. The rice seasoning that I most like, Seto Fumi Furikake, consists of sesame seeds, bonito flakes, which are made of Skipjack tuna that is dried and then shaved very thinly, seaweed and egg yolk powder. I really like how easy this seasoning is to apply to food and also how it is light and easy to take around unlike some of my other sauces. Beyond rice, I like to put this seasoning on eggs.

Tajín

This article would not be complete without my all time favorite seasoning, Tajín. It is a Mexican seasoning made of chili powder, salt and dehydrated lime juice, giving it a very tangy, salty and surprisingly not spicy taste. Tajín is most commonly used on esquites, elotes — a Mexican corn dish made with mayo, butter and cheese — and fruit. I put it mostly on fresh vegetables and fruit, since regardless of the inherent quality of the produce, it will always taste delicious with Tajín. They actually have Tajín at several of the 5C dining halls, and I would recommend trying it on your pineapple the next time you have some.

Harvey Mudd Spice Bar

I have not gone to the Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons enough to fully explore their great culinary resource: the spice bar. Located on long tables, there are more powdered spices than I can count. I personally like to use the peri peri spice that they have and want to explore the spice bar more — yet when I go, I usually get overwhelmed by the variety of options. One important point to note about the spice bar is that many of the spices are usually in the cooking process rather than for seasoning cooked food, so you should be careful before you put too much on your food.

Isaac Warshaw PO ’25 is a student with a passion for flavor and a hunger to satisfy. He writes about food and cooking in Claremont to help fellow students make more informed culinary decisions so that they can improve their dining experience in college.

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