If you haven’t had Mumbo or Mambo sauce, that zesty, tangy sweet condiment served on the side of entrees at several Asian-owned carryout restaurants in Washington, D.C. you’re missing out. In fact, its got such an interesting taste I would recommend this urban sauce to the 15 million tourists that venture to the city (imagine that… throngs of tourists on the green line metro heading over to historic Anacostia in search of Mumbo sauce and fried chicken wings at the local takeout or is it carryout?)
Yesterday a foodist with a finely tuned palate asked me to describe Mumbo. I called it Urban Sriracha, only sometimes its hot, sometimes its not. Sriracha is Thai hotsauce which is also sweet, its red but you can call it liquid gold, because of its increasing popularity.
Some folks think Mumbo has its roots in Asia, but after an unofficial poll of restaurant owners who sell Mumbo, we can safely say that rumor about Mumbo being an import from China, or Korea is false.
“I think Mumbo sauce is such a big draw at Asian restaurants because of its taste.” said Li Lee, a University of Maryland graduate who works at her family’s Capital Szechuan restaurant, on East Capitol Street in Southeast.
“Mumbo is in high demand and very popular in the community. But contrary to what some people think, it is actually not made in Asian countries.”
According to Lee, there are many different recipes for Mumbo.
“My family got several recipes from other families who owned carryout restaurants and we experimented until we came up with one that worked.”
Lee says the sauce is a combination of duck sauce, ketchup, barbecue sauce, vinegar and sugar. She estimates a lion-share of the restaurant’s customers request Mumbo sauce with their meal.
“I would say at least 90 percent of the customers who order food use Mumbo sauce, specifically on fried foods like chicken, French fries… and sometimes even on their rice.”
Certainly by now your interest is piqued, so if you’d like to try it there are lots of carryout restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area which would be perfectly happy to cover whatever you order with Mumbo. Sidenote: the flavors work really well with anything fried.
If you’re interested in heading over to Li Lee’s Capital Szechuan, the address is
5305 East Capitol St. S.E. Washington, DC 20011