Monday, September 26, 2011

INGREDIENTS - Worcestershire Sauce (molho inglês)

Since at least half of the English-speaking population of the world can't seem to pronounce Worcestershire sauce correctly, can you blame Brazilians for not even trying? I don't. Worcestershire is one of those horrible English words that English-language students around the world love to hate - because there is no visible correspondence between the letters on the page and the pronunciation that comes out of the mouth. And to make matters worse, the correct pronunciation is full of consonant clusters bunched together. There's nary a vowel in sight. So the Brazilians smartly decided to opt out of the whole mess and just call the stuff English sauce (molho inglês). So much simpler, straightforward and easyto pronounce. According to Wikipedia, the Spanish language has done the same thing - Spanish speakers call it salsa inglesa.

Whoever it was who first decided to call it English sauce knew the historical origins of this mixture of vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind, onion, garlic and "secret" spices. England is home to the original Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, even though the inspiration for the recipe most probably came from British India during the days of the Raj. Some claim that Worcestershire sauce's ancestry can be traced back as far as the Roman fermented-anchovy sauce called garum, but that link has not been proven.

Molho inglês is a common-enough ingredient in Brazilian cooking, though it's not as commonly used as Worcestershire sauce is in England or Canada. Brazilian cooks use it to spice up and flavor salad dressings, dipping sauces, marinades, stroganoff (estroganofe), and tomato sauces. If Brazilians knew what a Bloody Mary was, they'd probably use it in making one, but since tomato juice, and hence the Bloody Mary, are almost unheard of in Brazil, they don't.

Unfortunately, however, most brands of Brazilian molho inglês are weak imitations of the English original. They are whimpy and merely sweet, lacking the salty, fishy punch of the real thing. I can understand why Brazilian Worcestershire sauce might be sweeter because of the notorious Brazilian sweet tooth, but normally Brazilians don't shy away from strong flavors, so I'm not sure why it is so weak.

Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce is available in a few exclusive gourmet shops here in Brazil , but the cost for the smallest bottle imaginable is well over $20.00. The stuff is delicious, but let's be realistic, it's not like 30-year-old aged balsamic vinegar. If it weren't for the fear of the bottle breaking in my suitcase, I'd be smuggling Worcestershire sauce in my luggage every time I return to Brazil. But the mere thought of all my clothes reeking of vinegar, molasses, anchovies and tamarind has been enough to dissuade me - so far at least.


  1. My wife and I were having a fancy Friday night cocktail last weekend and Bloody Marys were on the menu! The bar staff asked me to repeat the word "Worcestershire" 3 or 4 times as they were keen to know the English pronunciation!

    I have seen Bloody Marys in a few places here in Rio, though usually they're pretty terrible (and usually listed as "Blood Mary" which instantly makes me doubt they know what they're doing!).

  2. James,

    I remember there were a couple of good brands of Brazilian Worcestershire Sauce. I can't remember now, but I will ask my mother and get back to you. They were as strong and as good as Lea & Perris brand "English Sauce".
    Bloody Mary is indeed very popular in Brazil, perhaps more popular in some parts of the country, but definitely a classic in Brazilian bars.


  3. Tom - Glad to hear that you're instructing Rio's bartenders in the fine art of pronouncing Worcestershire sauce. Once you've accomplished that, you can continue with "thirsty" - a word that every Brazilian I know hates to pronounce. It's so difficult for them.

    Ray - Please do try to find out the brand of Worcestershire that your mother recommends. I would be most grateful. As for your comment about Bloody Mary being popular in Brazil, I'm wondering if that's regional, as it seems to be almost totally unheard of here in Ceara.


  4. James,

    Yes, it is quite popular in Sao Paulo and Rio and in the South of Brazil.
    I will ask about the brand of Worcestershire sauce for you.


  5. James,

    Ok, so, my mother buys in Sao Paulo "McComick" brand, her favorite and also "Etti" and "Jimmy", Jimmy is also known as JIMMI.
    I forgot to confirm the spelling, but this is pretty close. Jimmy is by far the most traditional and all their products have superior quality and not necessarily higher price. Hope you can find these brands in Ceara.
    Pao de Acucar Supermarkets carries all 3 brands, if you have Pao de Acucar in your area they also offer these products on their delivery website.



  6. Thanks Ray - I'm heading for Pao de Acucar this afternoon and will look for McCormick, Etti or Jimmy brands. And please pass a "muito obrigado" on to your mother for me!

  7. I live in São Paulo and I used to drink a mix of tomato juice, lemon, salt and some drops of Wordestershire Sauce. Delicious.
    Its is used in social receptions as a substitute for alcoholic drinks and in the morning after a hard party night as an "energetic".