Canned Tomato Paste Is The Key To Making Your Own Yum Yum Sauce

Yum yum sauce might sound like something that the parent of a finicky toddler would pour on vegetables in an attempt to trick the kid into eating them — and in fact, that might actually be a good use for it. The name, however, isn't meant to be a cutesy nickname for ranch dressing, but instead designates a condiment that owes its origins to Japanese steakhouses. The sauce doesn't appear to be Japanese at all, though, since its roots are firmly planted in the United States and the first person to market it seems to have been a Taiwanese-born entrepreneur. Still, no matter the origins of the sauce, its fans find it worthy of the name.

As you can tell by the creamy texture, the base of yum yum sauce is mayonnaise, so it does have that in common with ranch dressing. Still, in the opinion of Jake Vigliotti, the Mashed developer who came up with this particular yum yum sauce recipe, "The biggest do not substitute ingredient is tomato paste." As he puts it, "Just flop[ping] in ketchup instead" might result in something more akin to Thousand Island dressing.

It takes more than just tomato paste and mayo, though

In addition to the mayonnaise base and the tomato paste that provides a pinkish hue and totally non-Thousand Island-like taste, yum yum sauce also includes melted butter, something Vigliotti calls "crucial" to the flavor. His recipe also calls for water for thinning, vinegar for "that little extra bite," as he puts it, cayenne to provide a small amount of heat, and paprika (not the smoked kind) for additional red coloring and mild flavor. There are two other ingredients that Vigliotti refers to as "binders," but not in the textural sense, as neither the garlic powder nor sugar is needed to give the sauce consistency. Instead, he sees them as "binding" the different flavors together.

Making the yum yum sauce is as easy as measuring the ingredients and stirring them together, a process that takes mere minutes. The only time-consuming part involves resting the sauce in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours so those "binders" can do their work, serving as officiants as the mayonnaise marries the tomato paste (and other ingredients, as in a Unification Church mass wedding). Once the wedding is over, the sauce can be used for tempura or teriyaki or, as previously suggested, be used to add some much-needed "yum yum" to plain old vegetables.