What do you do when your adult cousin decides to invest in a carnival-style lemonade stand? You wholeheartedly support them, of course. Which is what I—and the rest of my family—was doing a few weeks ago at the Steveston Farmers Market. Included in the mix was my mother, grandmother, two aunts, cousin, boyfriend… even my sister, who was working as a museum guide at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, came over in her traditional 1940s fish-gutting garb (she didn’t stay long though, for fear someone she went to high school with might see her in her adorable little handkerchief).
After I bought a $5.75 lemonade and loudly declared to everyone in earshot how DELICIOUS and REFRESHING it was on this hot summer’s day (Did my cousin ask for this priceless advertisement? No!) I politely looked around the rest of the market, as one does, and came across the Aji Gourmet Product stand.
“Gourmet Product” is a broad term. And at the risk of going in the opposite direction and pigeonholing the company (parrotholing? It’s the mascot, you get it) the gourmet products are all Aji, a South American condiment that is salsa-esque. Sauces and dips made with tomatoes and chili and lemon—we chose the Medium Hot Chunky Chili Condiment ($10). A very vague title for what turned out to be a kickass, well, condiment.
The reason the product has such a general name is because it’s multitalented. You can eat it with chips like salsa, sure, but there’s plenty of other serving suggestions right on the jar: mix it with a fresh avocado to make guacamole, mayo to get tartar sauce, ketchup for cocktail sauce or honey for a sweet chili sauce. I had it straight with chips, as guac and as sweet chili sauce, and the stuff has the versatility of Meryl Streep. It also happens to be vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free and keto (as most veggie-based sauces are, but it’s still worth noting).
You can see every ingredient in the mix— tomatoes, onions, cilantro, crushed chili—it looks and tastes ridiculously fresh. The medium is quite spicy (a little too spicy for my ghost white boyfriend) but not ridiculously so. I even took a bit of creative license and served it with diced mangoes. And chips. We have been eating a lot of chips.
Aji Gourmet Products are made in East Van by the Gonzalez Biagi family. Their story of how the product came to be is, I’ll admit, a lot more heartwarming and funny than my cousin’s lemonade stand venture. But if you’re at the farmer’s market in Steveston, check ‘em both out.