What Is Washington DC's Famous Mumbo Sauce?

mumbo sauce on chicken
mumbo sauce on chicken - Natasha Breen/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C.'s food culture is having a moment in the spotlight with its local favorite: mumbo sauce. Mumbo sauce is a sweet, spicy, and tangy sauce often served over fried chicken and fries, but its popularity stems from its versatility. Mumbo sauce is served with Chinese takeout, used as a marinade for grilled meats, or treated as a dipping sauce for barbecued meat.

Mumbo sauce is going to be a little different depending on who's making it. You can always find it at various carry-out restaurants in the DMV, and the sauce can be different from one neighborhood to the next. But a typical recipe for mumbo sauce includes ingredients like white vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, pineapple juice, and hot sauce. If that sounds like nothing you've ever had before, you'd be right. Mumbo sauce is definitely unique -- something Washingtonians are very proud of.

Read more: Styles Of Regional BBQ In The US

Mumbo Or Mambo Sauce?

capital city mambo sauce
capital city mambo sauce - Ben's Chili product page

Locals will tell you that it originated in Washington, D.C., but there's no small amount of controversy coming out of Chicago around who has bragging rights and it doesn't help that the true history is shrouded in mystery. Chicagoans will tell you that it started in 1957 with Argia B Collins at her restaurant Argia B's Bar-B-Q in Chicago. Washingtonians claim mumbo sauce started at a local chain called Wings' N Things in the 1960s. In 2013, D.C.-based Capital City Mumbo Sauce sued Chicago-based Select Brands (who started producing Argia B's version in 1958) over their use of the term "mumbo sauce" and, ironically, lost in court. They're now known as Capital City Mambo Sauce.

The consensus seems to be that it started in Chicago, though you may want to think twice before trying to convince a Washingtonian. What we do know is that, regardless of its origin, mumbo sauce is undeniably a D.C. cultural phenomenon. These days, Chicago's version of mumbo sauce is known as mild sauce and, although it has a similar tang and likely shares a common history, it's a different sauce that uses barbecue sauce as its base as well as ketchup. We'll let you decide which one is better.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.