Worcestershire Sauce: Controversial Secret Past from India with Lea and Perrins History
Worcestershire sauce frequently termed as Worcester sauce, is a fermented fish liquid condiment created in Worcestershire, England. It is Worcester's most famous product that can enhance food such as salads, steaks, oysters, and deviled eggs and drink recipes including cocktails such as Bloody Mary and Caesar. It takes 18 months for the fermented sauce that graces the steaks of so many.
Origin of Worchester's Sauce:
The Worchester’s famous sauce has its roots in India but was accidentally created in the town of Worcester, England in 1835. It first popped out of the brains of inventors, chemists John Wheeley Lea and Henry Perrins in the first half of the 19th century, who later collaborated and formed Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce.
Thus Michael Portillo, the presenter of great British Railways Journeys BBC documentary series mentions that the concept of Worcestershire sauce took shape from Bengal and Britishers just added spice and flavor to it.
According to Lea & Perrins company, the governor of Bengal Lord Marcus Sandys returned home to retire in Ombersley, England after many years of governing Bengal, India. He missed his favorite Indian sauce and so asked the commissioned drug store owners John Lea and William Perrins to copy the same sauce that he has brought from India.
At that time, John Lea and William Perrins were busy making medicines, hair products, and any number of old-time drugstore type items like Dr. Locock’s Lotion for the Growth of the Hair.
Lea and Perrins had a bunch of Asian spices and dried fruits, plus American spices and other ingredients. So, they accepted the request of Lord Sanday’s and thought to keep some of it to sell in the store but the mixture of fish and vegetables had such a strong odor that they decided otherwise and stored it in the cellar.
They completely forgot about it and was rediscovered during clean-up after 2years. The liquid had aged wonderfully flavored sauce which was bottled and sold. In a very small time, it became a hot item with customers.
But there are some historical inaccuracies with this origin that there were no historical records that Lord Sandys was ever in India, much less the governor of Bengal which gave rise to another tale that Elizabeth Grey visited the wife of Lord Sandy.
Lord Sandy’s wife got a craving for curry powder so she replicates a dish she learned from her uncle who had been a former chief justice in India. She then recommended the chemist to recreate the dish. The facts that the exact origin story died with Lea and Perrins. This particular brand was commercialized in 1837 and the first bottles of sauce were published in 1838. They sold 636 bottles in 1842.
Lea and Perrins were a successful salesman who went around with their truck full of medicine, some of their products were in high demand in the surrounding towns like Birmingham, and even abroad. Lea and Perrins convinced the steward on British passenger ships to include in their dining set up. It became British staple as steak sauce and further emigrated worldwide. It commercially arrived in New York in 1839.
They set up a factory in 1845 on Bank Street, in Worcester. By 10years they were selling 30,000 bottles a year. Initially, they promoted the sauce as a health tonic. Worcestershire sauce was originally a trademarked name but soon there were imitators all around.
To show originality, they started putting their signature on the bottles, to ensure customers could recognize. Later, they started using alternative name Worcester Sauce in ads in Australia and New Zealand and elsewhere.
The name was considered as a generic term since 1876 until when the English High Court of Justice ruled that the founders didn’t have the trademark. During the period of the Second World War, the founders switched from the use of Soy sauce to hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
The original recipe for the sauce is still unknown but the original bottle ingredients showed to be barley malt vinegar, spirit vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions, garlic, and unspecified spices and flavorings. Some of the additional ingredients that may include lemons, soy sauce, pickles, and peppers.
Popularity over Continents:
There is specific Lea Perrins variety of sauce sold in the US and the UK. The sauce is continued to be produced in Midland Road where it was made in the early days. The UK and Us version differs in the recipe.
In the US in place of distilled white vinegar, malt vinegar is used and three times more sugar and sodium per one-third ounce. They have also labeled a smaller serving size, a teaspoon is one serving in contrast to the British/Canadian one tablespoon.
This tangy steak sauce could spread it’s taste to all parts of the world. It is variously known by different names like ‘Spicy Shy Sauce’ in and around Shanghai, Worcester sauce in Taiwan, Gip sauce in Hong Kong. It has bred its usage in Cantonese dim sum and Haipai cuisines and the Shanghai-style pork chops. It is known as Engelsk sauce among the Dutches. In Ell Salvador, it is colloquially termed as ‘Salsa Inglesa' or ‘Salsa Perrins’.
It records the highest per capita consumption there, annually. The Japanese call it Worcester in Katakana. ‘Ton katsu sauce’ is a variation of Worcestershire sauce associated with the delicacy Ton katsu. In the US, the sauce was introduced in 1941, Australia knew this recipe from the 1950s. New Zealand’s Holbrook Worcestershire is being produced since 1875.
India gets an avid taste of it through the sauces brought to it by the various MNCs. But we generally say that India is in a way the father of the sauce’s concept since the taste of it traveled from here to England with the help of the Britishers.