“Asian Sauce” for Dummies

Disclaimer: If you are of Asian descent and I have shamed your particular country of origin by lumping together your country’s “sauce” with a rival country’s sauce… I apologize.

“Asian Sauce” is about the vaguest term I could possibly come up with. There are almost 50 countries- roughly 60% of the world’s population- that are part of Asia. Leave it to a young, inexperienced American to bundle all those cultures up into 1 sauce!

However, I’d say that the majority of us are either unfamiliar with these flavors, we don’t know how to make Asian-influenced food, or we don’t even know where to start. This sauce I’m showing you is, in my opinion, a basic starter that you can use for just about anything and customize according to what you’re cooking and your taste preferences.

These are the ingredients that I’m using today. There are probably a bajillion more you could add, but this is a good starting place. Feel free to follow my recipe exactly (if you’re one of those people) or experiment with your own flavors.

This recipe will make a LOT of sauce- approximately 3 cups or so. Adjust to your needs.

Start by finely grating or mincing about 2 T of fresh ginger.

Then grate or mince a whole head of garlic. This is one of the more time consuming parts. Hang in there.

I recommend making a paste for this sauce. So put some salt on the chopped garlic…

Then mash it up with your knife until it’s a bit smoother. The more you smash, the smoother it gets. I didn’t do it for that long since I’ll be putting this in a blender later.

Keep sesame oil in your cabinets if you eat Asian food at all. I used to hate it, but I’m SO glad I love it now.

In a medium saucepan, add about 1 T of olive or vegetable oil and about 4 T sesame oil. Keep on low heat.

Go ahead and add your garlic and ginger to the cold oil. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. You’re just trying to sweat this stuff and release some of that deep flavor.

I usually put jalapeno peppers in right here because I like this sauce to be spicy, but the folks I’m making this for don’t really like spicy foods.

Right before you start to see the garlic or ginger brown, add:

  • 1/3 C. soy sauce
  • 5 T. Honey
  • ¼ Teaspoon Liquid smoke
  • ½ C. Hoisin sauce
  • 2 T. Water
  • 3 T. Rice Vinegar
  • 1-2 Teaspoons granulated onion
  • 1-2 T. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 T. Brown Sugar (I know, that’s so American)
  • 2 T. Peanut Butter

Other optional ingredients: Chopped jalapenos, orange zest and juice, lemon zest and juice, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sweet chili sauce, green onion, etc. 

I hardly ever post actual recipes like that, but for something like this that I had to experiment to get the flavors just right, I wanted to show you the general proportions to everything. Customize to your taste. Hate or don’t have one of the ingredients? Don’t use it!

Whisk all of this together and keep on low heat. Taste, taste, taste. If it’s not right, keep tweaking till it’s perfect.

I kept tweaking for probably 30 minutes and mine looked something like this…

Then, if you want a super smooth texture, pulverize it in a food processor. This is also to ensure you don’t get a big honking piece of ginger in your teeth. Taste one more time and make sure it’s perfect.

Now, you may be asking, “What can you use this sauce for?” Well, just about anything. Tweak this to fit what you’re eating. For example, if you’re having lo mein, maybe make the sauce a little runnier so it doesn’t make the noodles stick together. If you’re putting it in vegetable/meat stir fry, I think the viscosity of what I’ve given above is just about right. If you’re dipping in gyoza or other types of dumplings, maybe thinner/saltier or thicker/milder would fit better.

You can use this as a salad dressing as well. Though, if I make an Asian-style salad dressing, I usually leave out the thick, syrupy things and make it really simple and light. I promise, once you start making your own salad dressings, you’ll never buy store-bought again!

I didn’t calculate the total to this recipe because…come on…we all know this is cheaper and better than store-bought. It’s so cheap, it’s ridiculous.

Here are several recipes on Broke and Healthy that you could use with this type of sauce (or something similar):

Any questions? Recommendations? Criticisms? Let’s hear ’em!

About Ande Truman

Ande has made mistakes in the kitchen since she could reach the countertop. From a restaurant head cook, to cooking meals for friends, to her own solo plate, experimenting & learning drives her. She's also a freelance graphic & web designer, photo/videographer, guitar player and wanderlust-er. In her spare time, she works a full-time 8 to 5 cubicle job. She's the creator of Broke & Healthy.

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Categories: Asian, Ginger, Jalapenos, Recipes, Recipes by Ingredient, Sauces, Sweet Chili Sauce

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3 Comments

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  1. I think I need to learn from you – and I’m an Asian who hardly cook anything Asian except for some quick Chinese stir-fries, haha

  2. What is granulated onion? Is it like minced onion, something I could find in the spices section?

    • Hey yes, sorry, it’s just a nice word for Onion powder 🙂 You could also use fresh onions or shallots at the beginning when you’re browning the garlic & ginger!