Chinese sauces

by Tiana Matson

Chinese culinary calls for you to be familiar with the different Chinese sauces. However, the sauces used may differ from one meal to another. This only means that mixing sauces that are not supposed to be used for a particular meal may completely alter the taste of the meal.

This is the reason why you should know which sauce should be used when and where. Although I was born into the Chinese cooking, I still find the Chinese sauces confusing sometimes.

If you are new to Chinese cooking you may find this task daunting especially whenever you walk into the supermarket intending to buy one or two bottles of sauces and yet come across rows and rows of sauces.

Remember whenever you are making Chinese dishes, there is one thing that determines the tastes of the dish and that is the right kind of sauce. The article focuses on basically the different kinds of sauces you should know of.

OYSTER SAUCE

It’s a savory sauce made when you boil oysters, add seasonings like soy sauce and a thickening agent called cornstarch. I know some people are already thinking of the way this must be so disgusting. But relax, I assure you that will love it when you try it because it tastes nothing like the oysters.

I would say that this is the king of cooking in China especially whenever you are looking to boost your flavors. If you are a vegetarian, we got you covered in this cluster because the sauce you are given will contain mushroom instead of oyster. Below are the types of oyster sauce for you to buy.

 

This is a perfect item for seasoning and flavoring your vegetables and meats. It’s a staple sauce for Chinese cooking. You will find it necessary when cooking the noodles, stir-fries like Chow Mein, beef and vegetable stir-fries. It can also work as a topping to your meals.

The packaging makes it easy to squeeze and the brand claims that the product is a premium oyster sauce.

 

You can use this oyster sauce for stir-fries since it’s a common sauce for various stir frying dishes. It is a premium Thailand native sauce that has produced the best stir-fries in Thailand and other Asian countries.

This is the best item to add flavor to your food and while it’s from Thailand you can find it in most Asian markets.

 

It’s essential for all household cooking. The sauce is made from the finest oysters and soybeans. I specifically love the sauce because it instantly improves the flavor of your chicken, fish shrimp meat, soups gravies and all other cooking purposes.

You can use it for seasoning, marinating, flavoring your stir-fries among others. It’s used by most Asian countries like Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysia and Thailand. Furthermore, the product is quite cheap compared to other sauces and the value it gives.

 

This is sauce is a loved by most chefs in China. They say that it’s the secret behind their artistic cooking for ages. It’s made using the unique oyster extracts. You may use it for all purpose seasoning in order to lift the umami taste of meat and vegetables.

You may also use it as a marinade, seasoning for stir-fries and as a condiment. If you know the broccoli beef, this is the sauce that is used when making it. But you may use it for your stir fry noodles and many other Chinese dishes.

SOY SAUCES

The use of soy sauce in Chinese cuisine is infinite. We may attribute this to the fact that it was first discovered in China. Soy sauce is used for marination, when making sauces, for dips and other uses. There are different types of soy sauces, therefore, it’s always advisable to use the right kind of sauce.

For example, whenever you are preparing ,Chinese meals never use the Japanese sauce in it and vice versa.

  • Light Sauces

The sauce gets its name from the color being lighter than the dark one. It is also the beloved soy sauce of China. It fits most of the dishes here especially those that require stir-frying. It has a high quality as well as rich taste.

Don’t be fooled when you see the soy sauce being called light/lite soy sauce into thinking that it is a light soy sauce. The good brands don’t necessarily use the ‘light’ tag.

Pearl River Bridge Superior Light Soy Sauce

 

This is a brand that you will find in every shop you go to in China. Talk of a naturally healthy, delicious and number one sauce in China. You have this one.

  • Dark Sauces

This one is darker in color and has a thicker texture because of the additional cornstarch as well as the long time it takes to mature. It has less salt compared to the light soy sauce. To darken the Chinese dishes, the dark soy sauce is used although it does enhance the flavor as well.

From noodles to meats that require marination, this sauce is the one you go for. Most people pair it with light soy sauce as well. If you are looking to quickly give your dish the distinctive character, this might be you’re on the go sauce.

Lee Kum Kee Premium Dark Soy Sauce 

 

When you are looking for quality products, go for this brand which is accessible all over the world. In addition, it comes along with anise and peppercorn.

  • Thick Soy Sauce

This one is thicker than the dark soy sauce and even sweeter. It is also called soy paste or say jam. During its fermentation, some more sugar and wheat is added to the mixture. Sometimes people add cornstarch to act as a thickening agent.

It is a perfect flavoring agent that you can make on your own in case you can’t find it in the market. It is sweet and is preferred for stir-fry dishes, braised meat and pork.

Maruso Soy Sauce

 

  • Japanese Tamari

The tamari is thicker than the normal Japanese soy sauces. It has a rich color and flavor as well. For those of you who are affected by gluten, this is your best sauce since it is made using little to no wheat. It, therefore, uses only soybeans in the manufacturing process.

It is however believed to lack its distinct flavor by some few people. This you can confirm yourself.

San-J Tamari Gluten Free Soy Sauce

 

This soy sauce has been reformulated for it to be completely gluten free yet it’s known for its robust taste of goodness. The natural fermentation enhances its flavor which you can use in soups, sauces, marinades and casseroles.

  • Mushroom Flavored Soy Sauce

In simple terms, this is a dark soy sauce that is infused with dried Chinese mushroom/dried straw mushroom. Whenever you want to add an earthy flavor to your dishes, replace the dark soy sauce with mushroom soy sauce.

We particularly advise people to use this in place of dark soy sauce especially for those who don’t mind the mushrooms.

Healthy Boy Brand Mushroom Soy Sauce

 

Are you a vegetarian? This naturally fermented sauce will be your best bet.

  • Black Bean Soy Sauce

This is the type that is made using black beans. It is mostly found in Taiwan and is usually mild and with a strong flavor which results from fermenting it under the sun. Although it is said to be a delicate sauce, when cooked it produces intense flavors. The concoction further has a strong and subtle flavor.

Black Bean Sauce 

 

This is the key to unique, flavorful, and delicious Asian meals. The black beans soy sauce is known to have the earthy taste as well.

  • Kikkoman Soy Sauce

It is the most common soy sauce amongst the consumers of the West. You will find it in most of the supermarkets in the world. It’s naturally brewed and perfect for cooking or table seasoning. While it suits all kinds of Asian cooking it works well with other Non-Asian meals too.

It’s made using soybeans, wheat, water and salt. It possesses the transparent, reddish brown color with a unique aroma. This happens because they take time to age.

Kikkoman Soy sauce

 

This sauce has a delicate aroma, complex flavor, reddish brown color that best suits not only the Asian meats but also other dishes.

HOISIN SAUCE

Do you ever yearn for pork spare ribs that have hoisin smeared in them? I do all the time.

The molasses thick unique sauce is known to be spicy and sweet. The sauce is popular in Southern China. The word hoisin refers to ‘sea freshness’ in Chinese but the sauce is made without seafood. It’s also popularly used for poultry and pork dishes.

Some people call it barbecue sauce although it doesn’t taste anything like the barbecue sauce. Maybe people call it so because it is best preferred for roast and grilled meats. You can use hoisin for the marination.

Note that, the sauce is the reason for the tangy and sweet flavor that you feel when you eat the roast ducks. In addition, the dark red color makes you want to take more meat. It is made using soybeans, vinegar, sugar, chili peppers, garlic, starch and various other spices.

 

 

This distinctive tasting sauce from lee kum kee is a Chinese favorite, mostly because the ingredients used in its production makes it highly concentrated but has no additives in form of flavor enhancers, preservatives and coloring.

This works best for your dressings, stir-fries, marinade and for dipping.

 

This is the best dipping sauce that you will ever find. It is known for the thickness and a mixture of sweet, pungent, salty and spicy flavor that is well balanced.

If you love dips then this sauce will surely satisfy your taste buds. It works well as a dip for spring rolls or dim sum. You could also try it with barbecued pork, stir-fries and soups.

 

This is a sauce made using 100% natural ingredients which means it has no sodium benzoate or modified cornstarch to influence its flavor. It prides itself on being the rich and authentic Chinese flavor of hoisin.

I am one person who loves Mu-Shu pork. Actually, I never get enough of it. Then recently a friend chef of mine told me the secret behind this delicious pork dish that he makes. In his words ‘I use sufficient amount of Wok Mei hoisin sauce because I know it makes the difference to the taste and texture’

Furthermore, for all those who are allergic to gluten, this is authentically your product.

 

This is the best product for your stir-fries.

CURRY SAUCES

This another base to the complex dishes in the globe today. It’s said to be one of the most flavorful sauce in the world. If you like cooking, you must have come across a few curries. Most of them are made using the curry sauces.

India is specifically known for its curries that contain hot spices and robust flavors. Actually, countries in Southeast Asia have the unique sauces. While you can make these sauces at home using the curry paste and available spices, you can also buy a ready-made curry sauce to enhance your flavor.

 

 

This is a sauce that is suitable for the vegetarians specifically because the processing takes place in a meat and nut free zone. It does contain traces of soya and celery. Once you open the lid, you may notice the oil or yellow salt crystals on top of this product, don’t be shaken because this is perfectly natural.

You may use it by stir frying your veggies or meat then adding the ready-made sauce and mixing it in the meal and serve. Other instances you may use it is when you have a potato chip dip. Or use it over boiled rice and boiled potatoes.

Mayflower 2 X Chinese Curry Sauce Extra Hot 255G

 

This is an easy to use sauce because you only need to mix this sauce with boiling water and constantly stir. Let it simmer for 2 minutes and serve. This hot Chinese sauce is simple and easy to make. It has the choice of making it as thick as you wish to.

Most people would underrate it but it’s a type of sauce that is not only full of flavor but also tasty. The one thing that I love about this sauce it’s an authentic product.

 Blue/Dr Chinese Curry Cooking Sauce

 

This is an exquisite Chinese cooking sauce. The sauce apart from being a curry sauce, it contains rice vinegar too. This sauce helps you use simple tactics to make delicious and oriental dishes. It is not spicy and best suits vegetarians and vegans.

It is a multi-pack which will save you money and aside from that it’s a fantastic quality product that is from a widely known brand.

 

THE SESAME OIL

This is a vegetable oil that is edible and is derived from toasted sesame seeds. This oil is often mixed with vinegar and soy sauce to make a dipping sauce. The dark colored oil adds flavor to the marinades, dips as well as cooked dishes for a perfect finish.

This oil isn’t used for cooking maybe because it has a very strong flavor and it also has a low smoke point while others have a high smoke point.

La Tourangelle Toasted Sesame Oil

 

This is one of the unique sesame oils available in the market. This delicious yet versatile oil brings the difference to your kitchen. The sesame seeds used in the production process are of high quality which makes the item stand out as a high-quality product.

SESAME PASTE

Talk of one of the most fragrant flavoring paste in the country. If you are familiar with peanut butter then you are familiar with the sesame paste consistency. You can find it in the white and black paste. However, one notable fact is that the paste is rich, nutty, dark and savory.

You can use your paste in hot pot dipping sauce, cold noodles and salads.

Wang Zhihe

 

SCALLION OIL

They say that nothing says Shanghai better than scallion. This is a Shanghai signature flavor. The scallions are used for seasoning. You may take the white and green parts then toasting them in oil so that they become nutty and enticing.

Let them brown and then drain the excess oil and remove the bits that are crispy for your noodles or rice garnishing. Note that the oil should remain clear with only bits of the scallion floating on top. The oil is known to enhance the flavor of your dishes as well as act as a condiment.

 

 

DOUBANJIANG

This is literary a bean paste that you may have seen in the Chinese restaurants. The common types include the Sichuan doubanjiang which are made using fava beans. You can have it further subdivided to either red oil doubanjiang or pixian doubanjiang.

Pixian doubanjiang enjoys a good reputation because of its unique flavor which results from the fact that the sauce ferments under the sun for a very long time. The spicy version contains peppers, rice and soybeans.

We love using it in almost every meal but more specifically in Mapo tofu, twice cooked pork belly, braised fish among others.

Doubanjiang

 

SWEET BEAN SAUCE

The sweet bean sauce is popular in Northern China. It’s dark brown in color and has a thick tomato paste kind of consistency. Its fermentation process includes glucose which enhances its taste. It is best used for Beijing roast duck, jianbing and shredded pork.

You can make it at home as long as you have the recipe to use. It has a strong pungent, a hint of sweet and salty flavor that makes all the difference in the Chinese meals. It further has a strong umami flavor and the beans used are usually fermented black soybeans.

Sweet Bean Sauce

 

BLACK VINEGAR

There are many kinds of vinegar but the common one in China is black vinegar. It actually a must-have in your pantry because we love using it as a condiment for many dishes. It usually has an inky black color with malty flavor but it has a watery consistency.

It’s more similar to western kinds of vinegar than other vinegar in China and is best used as an additive to sweet and sour pork, hot and sour soup, shredded potatoes, for dipping and dumplings.

Koon Chun Black Vinegar

 

RICE VINEGAR

You do know that rice is a staple food in China, right?

The Chinese even invented ways to make vinegar using rice. For over 3000 years, rice vinegar has been used in Chinese cooking. They are made using orange peels, sugar, ginger and cloves. This enhances the flavor.

There are many types of rice vinegar which include:

Black rice vinegar that is mellower and sweeter than other vinegar

Red rice vinegar that has a combination of tart and sweet taste.

White rice vinegar which has a mild flavor.

Marukan Seasoned Rice Vinegar

 

SHACHA SAUCES

This is another sauce that is made from dried shrimp and acts as a condiment. It’s made using soybean oil, dried shrimp, shallots, chilis and brill. If you don’t mind dried shrimp then you are about to enjoy one of the best sauces in the world.

This sauce is characterized by its umami flavors with a little bit of fish and salt flavors. To me, the sauce is nothing short of a flavor explosion. It works well as a dipping sauce and it’s common in Guangdong and Taiwan.

Some people think it’s the same as peanut satay sauce but it’s not since it is very spicy and savory. Apart from being your day to day seasoning sauce it also is good for marination, being a base for your soups and seasoning the stir-fries.

Sacha sauce

 

 

XO SAUCE

This is a gourmet Cantonese sauce that you can make at home. It’s made from dried scallops and rehydrated prawns. The Xo sauce is supposed to be flavorful and not necessarily so hot. Therefore, the chilis used are to create a unique flavor and aroma.

The sauce should have chilly which shouldn’t make it too spicy but make it rather smoky and zing while elevating the other ingredients and not overpower them. If you want a touch of luxury for your dinner this is your sauce.

Lee Kum Kee XO Sauce

 

FISH SAUCE

This sauce is more popular in Vietnam and Thailand although it also used in Chinese cooking. You make it using fermented fish and salt. The sauce is watery with a pack of flavors. Fish sauces add umami flavors to the meal and you may use it as an ingredient in salad dressing, stir-fry dishes, soups and dipping sauces.

If you need a rich flavored fish, you will need to ferment the fish for anything between 6 months to a few years. Remember, fermentation makes the difference to the flavor and taste.

 

LYCHEE SAUCE

If you love kung pao chicken you must have eaten the lychee flavor sauce. It’s originally from Sichuan and is made using the type of protein you intend to cook. Prawns, shrimps, pork, squid and chicken are first lightly browned. Then you toss it in a sauce.

You can also use the numbing Sichuan peppercorn and crunchy roasted peanuts. This will blast it into a mixture of aroma and textures.

 

HOT AND SOUR SAUCES

This source varies depending on who is making it. However, the common ingredients to use include soy sauce, chilis, vinegar, sugar and garlic. It’s thicker than soy sauce but also lighter than hoisin sauce.

While the sauce is known to be spicy, it has a tangy flavor that neutralizes it thereby making the clear-cut difference from other normal hot sauces. The sauce is used for soup bases because of its flavor-enhancing character. You may use it for your stir-fry dishes too.

CHAR SIU SAUCE

This is another staple Cantonese dish that is often referred to as a Chinese barbecue. Like the American barbecue sauce, the sauce has varying ingredients. However, it includes the hoisin sauce, honey or sweetener as well as the Chinese five spice powder.

Whenever you are making the Chinese pork barbecue, you will find this sauce being used for marination. You then place the meat on the skewers and begin the roasting process. I love the red hue signature that is created on my meat.

Lee Kum Kee Char Siu Chinese Barbecue Sauce

 

CHILI SAUCES

This is often served as a condiment and you will find it in most Asian restaurants. The sauce is also called red oil in China. This is a puree of red chilis, Sichuan peppercorn, mixed spices, ginger and toasted sesame seeds.

You should subject the red chilis to a high temperature which will then increase the aroma and flavor of the chili sauce. For better results, in the ancient days, Sichuan people toasted the red chilis then powdered them by hand.

Chinese Chili Sauce

 

PEANUT SAUCE-CHINESE STYLE

This is your other best way to add flavor to your appetizers, salads, noodles, fried tofu and satay. While the Chinese sauce doesn’t have a strong taste of the Thai peanut sauce, it is equally flavorful.

Jade All

 

SHAOXING COOKING WINE

It is the best cooking wine in the world. The wine is a Chinese cooking and drinking wine. It is made using brown glutinous rice and has an alcohol content of about 17-18%. It takes 10 years to age and result in a flavor that is close to dry sherry.

Whenever you are looking to make that sumptuous dish that you haven’t made in a while, go for Shaoxing wine to enhance the flavor. It has an excellent flavor of bouquet which brings out the full flavors of your stir fry meals.

 

FUJIAN COOKING WINE

This kind of wine is prepared by fermenting the glutinous rice with the red rice yeast and white yeast. The wine is sweeter than Shaoxing wine, richer in flavor and brown in color. It takes it about 3 years to age.

After Shaoxing wine, this is the second popular wine that is used for cooking. It has a 15% alcohol content. It is commonly used in North and South China. You may use this wine when making barbecues, stir-fries and stews.

 

MIRIN

This is a sauce that is similar to the Japanese sake although it has a low alcohol content. While the mirin is not commonly used for Chinese cooking, it is the best flavoring agent for your teriyaki chicken. The mirin is dark in color although there is also a lighter version of mirin.

Kikkoman Manjo Aji Mirin

 

 

SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE

You are all familiar with this sauce, right?

The sauce is characterized by its unique flavors that include some sweet yet tangy tastes. The common ingredients used here include garlic, ginger, fruit vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and starch. The sauce works well with your veggies and meats because of the enhanced flavors but you can also use it as a dip.

I specifically love it for my pork spare ribs.

Ying’s Sweet & Sour Sauce

 

PLUM SAUCE

Here is your other sweet and sour sauce for most of your Chinese style cooking. The sauce is used mainly as a dip by my most countries in the world but in China, it makes another major sauce for your chicken balls and roast ducks.

The plums are the major ingredients that are used to make the sauce however, you can also use peach, pineapple, apricot along with sugar, vinegar, salt and chili peppers.

Sharwood’s Glazing & Dipping Plum Sauce

 

As you can see from the list of sauces in China can be regarded as infinite. There are vast choices for each kind of meal you intend to cook. I love buying sauces from famous brands because that way I’m sure to buy the best product.

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