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Stir Fry Sauce: The All-purpose Asian Sauce

All-purpose Asian Stir Fry Sauce

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

oyster sauce

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

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

fish sauce

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

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

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 used 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 a 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 sauce

Plum 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 sauce 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 oil

Sesame Oil is a 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 of 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 ketchup

Ketchup 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 powder

Five 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 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 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.

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