Much has already been written today about Kevin Pang’s article in the Tribune, “Don’t let anyone tell you ketchup can’t go on hot dogs.” Citing “foodie fascism,” he claims that hating ketchup is a “matter of taste,” and shouldn’t be Chicago’s “collective identity.” He also explains that main gripe against ketchup — that its “sweetness overpowers meat” — doesn’t hold up, especially considering that numerous cuisines use the same “sweet-savoriness” to spruce up their cuisines. He’s right about that, but he’s wrong about ketchup. There is a reason Chicagoans don’t be ketchup on their hot dog: it’s called sweet relish.
The neon green condiment contains about two grams of sugar in every tablespoon. While that’s only half as much as ketchup, it’s still a fair amount of sweetness in each bite. Considering that, there is a reason why you wouldn’t want to to put both sweet relish and ketchup on at the same time: the sugar overload probably would mask anything going on underneath.
You could ditch the relish and just go for ketchup, especially if mustard were allowed to go along for the ride. That’s totally fine. Those who love Chicago-style dogs could eat theirs in peace right next to those who just want ketchup. This is already the case at most stands around town. Still, the ketchup fans would miss out on a little secret about all those toppings on a Chicago dog.
When perfectly portioned, the seven toppings on a traditional Chicago-style hot dog — mustard, sweet pickle relish, chopped onion, sliced tomato, dill pickle spear, sport peppers, and celery salt — combine to create something like a less-sweet ketchup. Hear us out. There’s tomato, obviously, but the sweetness of the relish is balanced off by the mustard. The onion, pickle, and sport peppers add savoriness, tang, and a little heat. We have no idea where the celery salt comes in, but it somehow enhances each bite.
Consider it deconstructed ketchup. What could be a better hot dog for a city with such forward thinking cuisine? Of course, this does require one to eat all of these ingredients at the same time, which can always be a little tricky. Still, we’d rather deal with the elusive perfect bite than give up a true treasure of Chicago’s cultural identity.
Don’t let anyone tell you ketchup can’t go on hot dogs [Chicago Tribune]