Stir Fry Sauce : The All-purpose Asian Sauce

All-purpose Asian Stir Fry Sauce

stir fry sauce

Chinese hawkers selling stir-fried food
photo credit Flickr by Craige Moore

Various combination of ingredients and the right combination contribute to the wonderful flavor of stir-frying dishes. In this article, I will discuss the various types of seasoning ingredient, and offers three of my best recipes to constitute a seasoning mixtures suitable for most of the Chinese cuisine.

I have some difficulties to find a suitable term to describe the seasoning mixture for stir-frying. This is because the Chinese terms it as sauce, but the fact that the composition of these sauces comprises of other sauces too. If you can understand that one of the ingredients for the fried noodles sauce is soy sauce, you should be clear of what I mean.

My Easy Asian Stir Fry Sauce Recipe

Here is the three basic stir fry sauce used by most of the Chinese chefs. These 3 versions of stir fry sauces are constituted predominantly by using the same pool of ingredients with a small variation. The resulting mixture renders different color and flavor. Basically, you can use any of these stir fry sauces for stir-frying, but the common approach is to follow the simple rule of thumb as adopted by most of the restaurateurs:

  • Stir fry sauce (A) - mostly for fried rice as it has stronger sesame oil flavor, and the color is lighter.
  • Stir fry sauce (B) - mostly for fried noodles as most people (especially my customers in the restaurant) prefer a darker color. More dark soy sauce is used in this formula and it has a higher umami flavor (savory taste).
  • Stir fry sauce (C) - mostly for stir-fry vegetables and tofu and the color is the lightest among all (so it will not make the vegetables look dull) and with more oyster sauce in the formula which is suitable for most vegetables.

Get the Chow Mein recipe here. Stir fry sauce (B) is used in the recipe.

The Stir Fry Sauce Recipe

Stir fry sauce (A) - most suitable for fried rice:oyster sauce

Oyster sauce 92g
Chicken powder 92g
Soy sauce 360g
White pepper 8g
Sesame oil 32g
Water 82g

Stir fry sauce (B) - most suitable for fried noodles:

Oyster 140g
Chicken powder 140g
Light soy sauce 500g
White pepper 10g
Sesame oil 20g
Dark soy sauce 100g
Water 150g

Stir fry sauce (C) - most suitable for fried vegetables:fish sauce

Salt 6g
Chicken powder 5g
Sugar 6g
Oyster sauce 18g
White pepper 1.25g
Cornflour 8g
Water 50g

Watch this video to understand how it is done ….

Make A Batch Of Your Own Stir Fry Sauce

However, the choice is yours as it can be interchanged. Try to experiment with all these combinations and settle on the one that you prefer. You can make a bigger batch to keep for your next stir-fry dish.

If you ever visit any Asian restaurant, you may notice some chef never premix any sauces as I mentioned here. Instead, they have all the components of the sauce (soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, salt, sugar, etc.) placed in individual containers right beside the stove. They will pick all the components by using a small spoon and place in a ladle and constitute the sauce whenever they need. Whilst this method has the advantage to let the person to cook to have the full control of what components (and how much) to be included, it also has its intrinsic pitfalls – the possibility of omitting some components of unintentionally includes the wrong quantity. This is commonly happened as the quantity for each component is relatively small (some are perhaps 1/4 of 1/8 teaspoon), and the types of the components can be more than five at times. Therefore, unless you are already proficient with the characteristic of each component, you may want to stick to the three stir fry sauces in this section.

Here is the common ingredients use as seasoning for Asian stir-frying dishes

Soy sauce

There are two types of soy sauce, light soy sauce and dark soy sauce. The flavor of soy sauce varies from one brand with another. Typically, the very best soy sauces are imported from Hong Kong, Japan and China.

The light soy sauce can be served on the table as dipping sauce for spring rolls or dim sum. It can also be part of the seasoning for stir-frying dishes.

Dark soy sauce is normally used to marinate meat, and as part of the seasoning for noodle dishes, fried rice and other stir-frying dishes. Dark soy sauce gives the dish a richer color and thicker texture.

Plum sauce

Plum saucePlum sauce is a viscous, thick, gooey,, light brown sweet and sour condiment. It is used in Chinese cuisine as a dip and also as part of the ingredients of marinade. Some of the sauce mixture that contains plum sauce are for Cheese salad and sweet and sour chicken.

Oyster Sauce

Oyster is the second most popular sauce used in Chinese cooking after soy sauce. It has the ability to enhance the flavor for most of the dishes. It is a sauce that adds a savory flavor to any dishes. This sauce is a staple for most Chinese home-style cooking. It is not fishy, taste universal and is suitable for marinating and stir fried fish, poultry, meat, noodle and rice. It is an essential element for stir-fried vegetables and a major component of the gravy for noodle.( Lo Mien). Oyster sauce is also used as a topping for blanch vegetables.

Oyster sauce is also a major component of Thai and Cambodian cuisine. It imparts a fantastic aroma and flavor to any dishes.

Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is known as the keystone of Vietnamese cooking. This amber red sauce is very salty and a little goes a long way. It is used as a condiment in many Asian cuisines.

It has the ability to add depth of the flavor of any dish. It can be diluted with other ingredients to form a dipping sauce, be part of the ingredient of stir fry sauce and marinating. It is also used to prepare the sauce for Thai steamed fish along with shallot, chili, tamarind and lime. Some Chinese also use fish sauce in their cooking, although soy sauce is still much more popular in the Chinese community.

Sesame oil

sesame oilSesame Oil is flavorful dark and aromatic oil. It has a strong, distinctive and slightly sweet, nutty flavor as a result of toasting the seeds during production. Sesame seed oil is an integral component in Asian food.

It is not for use as a cooking oil as the flavor is too intense and has a low smoking point. It is generally used for Chinese cooking such as marinade, frying. It is also used as a flavoring agent in the final stages of cooking, for example, sprinkled a few drips at the end to a bowl of soup noodle. The flavor is strong, therefore, “a little goes a long way” describes sesame oil perfectly.

Sesame oil is a vegetable oil derived from sesame seeds. It is often used as a flavoring agent in Chinese and Japanese and Korean and other Southeast Asian cuisine.

Tomato ketchup

tomato ketchupKetchup is normally refers to tomato ketchup, with is synonymous to tomato sauce. In fact, it contains not just tomato, but vinegar and other seasonings as well. Tomato ketchup is not only used in fast food dishes such as hot dogs and hamburger, but also in a large variety of Asian food.

Many gravy for Asian dishes contains tomato ketchup. For example, sweet and sour sauce of Chinese origin and ayam masak merah (Malay style tomato curry chicken) use plenty of tomato ketchup in the recipes. It is also used as dip sauce in the Indonesian and Chinese community.

Five spices powder

Five spice powderFive spices powder consists of ground peppercorns, star anise, cloves, fennel and cinnamon and sometimes coriander powder. It is a versatile spice mix that is suitable to season a variety of meat and poultry. The composition of each brand of five spices powder may not be the same. The difference can be either the ratio of the spices and in some cases, different combination apart from the above-mentioned. For instance, some manufacturers include cardamom, Szechuan peppercorn, nutmeg to the spice mix.

Five-spice powder adds a spicy kick to marinades and dry rubs for meat and poultry. It goes particularly well with stew pork – a traditional pork belly dish called “Five Flower Pork”. It is also used in minute amount in the famous barbecue pork bun called Char Siu Bao. Some other common usage of five spices powder is to marinate fried chicken.

Worcestershire sauce

Worcestershire is not the traditional ingredient for Asian cuisine, but has gained popularity as it is compatible to most of other Asian ingredients. Lamb that is marinated with Worcestershire sauce in combination with oyster sauce, soy sauce, and tomato ketchup has a fantastic flavor. You can also use it along with oyster sauce and sugar to coat the prawns in the dish called Cantonese pan-fried prawns.

More about stir fry sauce ……

stir fry sauce

Stir fry vegetables with garlic

China is where the technique of stir-frying is originated from. Therefore, most of the popular stir-fried dishes and the respective stir fry sauces used are originated from China. The basic elements that most Chinese cuisines are light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sesame oil and oyster sauce. I have posted a recipe of Sweet and sour chicken that contains a variety of these ingredients in the sauce.

Thai stir fry sauce usually contain fish sauce in combination with light soy sauce. Thai sauces are different from Chinese sauces as it has the combination flavor of sweetness, saltiness, sourness, and spiciness. Classic Thai sauce also include bird’s eye chili, lime juice, sugar and tamarind.

As for Malaysian Chinese cuisine, it incorporates the local ingredients such as chili and coconut with the excellent stir-fried techniques from China. A good example is Kam Heong stir fry sauce for crabs and other seafood. Local ingredients such as dry shrimps and curry curry leaves are among the local ingredients that are used to cook with the traditional Chinese cooking method.

Teriyaki is the Japanese stir fry sauce contains light soy sauce along with mirin (sweetened rice wine), sugar and honey or sugar. All the ingredients are combined and boiled until it reduced to the desired consistency.

Stir Fry Sauce : The All-purpose Asian Sauce was last modified: October 18th, 2015 by KP Kwan

13 Comments

  • Lori

    Reply Reply May 8, 2015

    great information. I love eating asian food out, but it never tastes as good when I try to make it at home, because I have never had any idea what to use in the sauces and the bottles of pre-made sauces just are not the same.

    I look forward to trying out your information

    lm

  • Lim Kian Hin

    Reply Reply March 20, 2016

    Halo Mr Kwan .

    Thanks for sharing the stir fried premix recipe which I find very helpful and interesting.

    My question is about the amount or strength to use for our stir-fried.
    For example 2 cup of cook rice how many tablespoon or teaspoon to use.

    If there is a guild line for 1 or 2 cup or for noodle half kg. We can add or lower down the strength proportionately.

    Please adude. Much THANKS

    • kwankp

      Reply Reply March 20, 2016

      Dear Lim,
      Thanks for your comment.
      As regards to how much sauce is required, here is the guideline.
      I normally use one tablespoon (about 15ml) of the sauces in this posts for every 100g of rice or noodle. Say for example if you have a plate of cooked rice which is 200g, I will use 2 tablespoons (about 30g) of sauce. The amount of sauce used is 15% of the weight of the rice / noodles / vegetables etc.
      It depends on how big the bowl you use so I rather use weight in this reply. It is worth to get a digital weighing machine for your kitchen. I use it all the time.

      Hope this helps,

      Cheers!

      • Lim Kian Hin

        Reply Reply March 22, 2016

        Dear Mr Kwan.

        Thanks for your quick response. Really Appreciate that you find the time to reply share and to guide.

        I will also use the common sense that is to taste a bit b4 serve and to adjust.

        Once again Much THANKS !!

        • kwankp

          Reply Reply March 22, 2016

          You’re welcome 🙂

  • Lim Kian Hin

    Reply Reply January 14, 2017

    Dear Mr Kwan ,
    Is Lim again. Need your advise on below matters on primix.

    For Fried Rice there was No need to heat up the mixture premix solution.

    However on the Vegetables premix. When I tried to heat up .it became lumpy. What can go wrong. I did use a digital weighing scale to measure, was quite sure that the weight for each component was right.
    Too high heat ?

    Please advise. Mr Kwan.

    THANKS.

    • KP Kwan

      Reply Reply January 14, 2017

      Hi Lim,

      The lumpy problem is mainly due to the cornflour in the recipe.
      You can mix the cornflour with the water until there are no lumps. Then only you add the cornflour/ water mixture ( also called cornflour slurry) to other ingredients. You should get a smooth sauce by taking this step.

      There is a section about cornflour slurry in my article ‘How to stir-fry the authentic Asian way:

      http://tasteasianfood.com/beef-stir-fry/#11

      Thanks,
      KP Kwan

  • Lim Kian Hin

    Reply Reply January 18, 2017

    Thank You. Mr Kwan for your fast reply. Highly appreciate for tour attention rendered. Your direction well Noted.
    Thanks n B Rgds…

  • CJ Savvy

    Reply Reply February 17, 2017

    Dear sir,

    I’m glad I found your site while searching for stir fried dishes. These are the kind of dishes I wanted to impress my wife with. I’m not Chinese but enjoy eating various Chinese dishes. Thank you for sharing these recipes and cooking techniques. I will try to cook them as best as I can.

    • KP Kwan

      Reply Reply February 18, 2017

      Dear CJ,
      Thank you and hope you enjoy your cooking.

      Best regards,

      KP Kwan

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