Seven magnificent Chinese sauces

Posted on: 25 August 2010 by Mark O'haire

Fancy an easy night’s cooking and too tired to spend time preparing it? Why not spruce up your food with a spoonful or two of these fantastic Chinese sauces.

Cinese saucesGet yourself some sliced or minced meat (chicken, beef, pork, lamb, duck, seafood) and vegetables: cut, chop, slice, stir and fry then add a spoonful or two of your favourite Chinese sauces and be ready to serve.

Below you will find the chosen magnificent seven sauces for cooking and dipping; you can easily source them from Chinese/Oriental and well-stocked supermarkets.

Let’s explore those exotic and irresistible oriental flavours.

DSC007461. Light Soy Sauce

The simplest of all Chinese sauces and good for marinating, cooking and dipping (especially for sushi). An essential for stir-fry vegetable, noodles, fried rice or to just drizzle on any dishes you desire.

2. Dark Soy Sauce

As the name suggests, it has a very dark colour but isn’t as salty as the ‘light’ soy sauce. It can have a slightly sweet taste and is good for marinating, stew, casserole or even curry dishes but only use a few drops as you don’t want to darken your food to much.

3. Hoi Sin Sauce

‘Hoi Sin’ means ‘Seafood’ in Chinese but the sauce itself doesn't taste or resemble any seafood sauce, but it does have it's own unique and rather distinct taste.

Hoi Sin is the basic sauce for marinating ‘Char-Siu or roast pork steak’ but not roast belly pork; roast duck and the must dipping sauce for the ultimate peking duck/ crispy duck with pancake, spring onions and cucumber slices.

4. Oyster Sauce

Oyster Sauce varies in quality as a little bottle can cost from £2 to £6. Similar to whisky, the price depends on the context of the extract of the oysters but it’s a tasty and versatile sauce for all savoury dishes from just marinating to stir-fry, stew and dipping.

My favourite way is to pour it on top of the plain boiled or fried noodles with steamed/boiled vegetables such as broccoli, pak choi or cabbage for simplicity. Use it in moderation as it’s saltier than most Chinese sauces.

5. Black Bean Sauce

Famously used by all the Chinese restaurants and takeaways. Using the ready-made sauce isn’t as good as the original preserved black beans. Using the original beans you’ll have to soak in water for 10 minutes and rinse at least 10 times to wash away the outer skin of the beans and mash it up with crushed garlic.

You can use it for stir-fry meat or vegetables but Chinese also use it for steamed chicken, pork, spare ribs, seafood such as scallops, prawns, squids, fish and the yummy fresh abalone.

6. Sze Chuan Chilli Bean Sauce

It’s a very hot sauce and you should only use one or two spoonfuls unless you’re a brave ‘chilli-eater’.

It’s good for stew and stir-fry meat (diced or minced), vegetables and to-fu (bean curd) as the sauce will be well mixed and fully absorbed. Aubergine or courgette will be ideal to give the sauce ‘a kick’.

7. Sweet & Sour Sauce

Last but not least is that gluey sauce you expected and my personal favourite. I’ve included a simple recipe for making it yourself, to suit any taste, below.

DSC00747Cooking method

  • Chop and dice an onion, pepper, ginger (optional) and fry it in a saucepan with a drop of oil in slow heat.
  • Drain a tin of chopped pineapple and put aside the juice for later use.
  • Mix a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar, a pinch of salt, ground pepper and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce in a cup of warm water and stir well.
  • When the onions are brown then add the pineapple and stir fry them together.
  • Pour the mixture of the sauce and the pineapple juice into the saucepan to boil, cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Taste it and add more tomato sauce, sugar or vinegar according to your own taste.
  • Thicken it with corn flour mixed with cold water. Tip - Pour the corn flour mix gradually into the saucepan and keep on stirring but don’t panic if it’s too gluey as you can reduce the heat and add more hot water then back to the simmer as you do with ‘custard’ or add more corn flour mixture to thicken it.

You can use it straight away for your sweet and sour pork and other dishes or cool it down and put it in a container in the fridge or freezer for later use.

That’s all folks. More to come next time…

The Shopaholic

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