Condiments are spices, sauces, or some concoction served with dishes to enhance the flavors. They are usually served on the side, and the diner would apply as little or as much of the condiments to enhance the taste. I think what’s interesting to note when visiting places in the world is the variety of condiments used. Various cultures have diverse taste in their cuisine, but very likely each has something they use as condiments, and typically the presence of the condiments is so integral to the dining experience that the diners would always look for those condiments and you would see them everywhere you go within that culture.
The condiments used in Vietnam is very similar to those used in nearby countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and China. The ubiquotous condiments are soy sauce, nước mắm (fish sauce), hoisin sauce, and chili sauce. With nước mắm, there are different grades of quality that some very discerning people could taste and rate the quality just like a sommelier would with wine. The chili sauce is often home made, though there are some widely popular bottled brands that you would find virtually everywhere you go.
When we stopped by at a food stand during our trek to the Cat Cat village near Sapa, Vietnam, we noticed the bottled chili sauce below that was as ubiquotous as Heinz ketchup bottles in the American restaurants. The brand was called Chin-su, and we tried a little bit of it with our grilled skewered meats. It was good, nothing special to me, but I’m sure for the locals who are used to its taste, they couldn’t have a meal without it.