Chinese food is a vast and varied genre with countless regional variations. It can be daunting to take on the task of learning how to cook Chinese food. Everything from sauces to cooking techniques can be different depending on where you live in China or where you are in the world. The good news is that learning about Chinese cooking isn’t as complex as it may seem. The sauces used in Chinese cooking are quite simple. They are made with a combination of flavoring ingredients. These include soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and chillies. Besides giving Chinese food a rich, savory flavor, these ingredients are also used as a preservative and an agent for binding. Apart from being used in sauces, they are also a common ingredient in Chinese cookery.
What is Chinese Soy Sauce?
Chinese soy sauce is a fermented sauce that is produced from soy beans. Fermentation transforms soy beans into a thick, dark colour and increases the flavour. Fermented soybeans are usually aged by adding a specific mold. The addition of these fermentation organisms converts soybeans into a thick, dark liquid. The taste and aroma of fermented soy sauce are more complex than unflavoured soy sauce. Chinese soy sauce is made from soy beans, wheat, and salt.
Chinese Rice Vinegar in Sauces
Chinese rice vinegar is a type of unaged rice vinegar used for cooking. Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice, which makes it unpalatable to humans. Fermented rice vinegar is dark brown or black in colour. It has a pungent, sour taste and a sharp, vinegar-like smell. Chinese rice vinegar is not aged like western wine vinegar and has a relatively low alcohol content. It is often used as a dipping sauce or in marinades.
What is Hoisin Sauce?
Hoisin sauce is a thick, reddish brown sauce made from soy sauce, sugar, garlic, spices, and sometimes peanuts. The flavour of hoisin sauce is quite similar to the Chinese barbecue sauce (肉汁 “ròusī“) that is found in Chinese restaurants around the globe. There are many different variations of this versatile sauce, but they all have one thing in common: they all have a hoisin-like flavour.
Chinese Mustard Sauce
Chinese mustard is made from red dates and is a popular condiment in China. The Chinese call it ‘chunmee’ or ‘chunmei’ which literally means ‘hundred flavors’ in Chinese. The taste is similar to western yellow mustard, but the colour is yellow. You can find it in jars at all Chinese grocery stores. Chinese mustard, or ‘chunmei’ can be used as a dip for spring rolls or in Chow Mein.
Sweet Sauce or T chilli Sauce
Sweet sauce or ‘t chilli sauce’ is a thick, brown sauce that is made from vinegar, soybeans, sweet corn syrup, and chilli. The sweet corn syrup gives the sauce a sweet flavour and a blackish tinge. T chilli sauce makes good use of the sweet corn syrup, but it is also used as a flavouring agent. Chinese sweet sauce is quite similar to Japanese shoyu sauce.
Sha Sha sauce
Sha Sha sauce is a sweet, thick sauce made from soy sauce, sugar, and water. Sha Sha sauce is often used to marinate meats but you can also use it to cook vegetables or eggs. It is usually served with dim sum, dumplings, and buns. Sha Sha sauce is also called ‘siu mei’ which literally means ‘three tasted’.
Black Sauce or Gan Gua Zhang
This black bean sauce is made from soybeans, sea salt, fermented black beans, rice, and wheat. Fermentation is the key characteristic of this type of sauce. Fermented soybeans are dark-brown in colour. Black sauce is mild in flavour and is often used as a dipping sauce.
Oyster sauce is a thick sauce made from oysters, soybeans, and wheat. Soybeans are fermented and the resulting sauce is thick and dark in colour. The oysters are often replaced by anhydrous lactose, which is a crystalline sweetener.
Black Bean Sauce
Black bean sauce is made from fermented soybeans. It is dark in colour and has a sweet aroma. Black bean sauce is used as a flavouring agent and is often associated with Sichuan food. You can find black bean sauce in Chinese groceries.
Chinese sauces come in many different forms. They may be salty or sweet, thick or thin, and coloured or clear. Some are made with ingredients that are difficult to find in the West, while others are just based on a few simple ingredients. The sauces used in Chinese cooking are quite simple. They are made with a combination of flavoring ingredients. These include soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and chillies. Apart from giving Chinese food a rich, savory flavour, these ingredients are also used as a preservative and an agent for binding. They are also used in sweet and savoury dishes like soups and stir-fries.