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【Learn Chinese】The complete Guide to Chinese Sauces (Part
Have you ever found yourself staring at all the Chinese sauces in a Chinese or Asian grocery store wondering what on earth they all are?
Today we’ll be introducing the most common types of Chinese sauces, exploring what they’re made from and how they’re normally used in Chinese cooking.
Hoisin sauce 海鲜酱 hǎixiānjiàng
Up first on our list of Chinese sauces is of course hoisin sauce.
If you’ve ever eaten Beijing duck then you should already be familiar with it because it is named as the condiment used in delicious Beijing duck pancakes.
The Chinese name for the sauce literally translates to “seafood” (海鲜 hǎixiān) “sauce” (酱 jiàng), however the sauce doesn’t contain any seafood ingredients and isn’t commonly eaten with seafood.
Instead, the main ingredient of hoisin sauce is fermented soybeans mixed with garlic, chilli, sesame, Chinese spices and vinegar. Depending on the recipe there are various other ingredients that can be added.
So how is hoisin sauce used?
It is commonly used as a marinade for meat, in stir fry dishes, in noodle dishes or as a dipping sauce. You’ll most often see hoisin sauce being used in Cantonese cooking.
Some common dishes that use hoisin sauce are:
Char siu 叉烧chāshāo (Cantonese style of barbecued pork)
Kung pao chicken 宫保鸡丁 gōng bǎo jī dīng
Chow mein 炒面 chǎomiàn (fried noodles)
Fried rice 炒饭 chǎofàn
Oyster sauce 蚝油 háoyóu
Unlike hoisin sauce, the name for oyster sauce actually makes sense!
It translates to “oyster” (蚝 háo) “oil” (油 yóu) and is actually made from oysters as the name suggests. However, although it’s made from boiled oysters, it doesn’t actually taste like oyster, how strange is that!
Along with oysters it also normally includes soy sauce, water, sugar, garlic and wheat flour for thickening.
Originally oyster sauce was mainly used in Cantonese cooking. However, it has now become a popular sauce used in most of the Chinese cuisines.
Nowadays oyster sauce is added to a lot of Chinese dishes such as stir fry, braised dishes or used in marinades so it’s very versatile.
It immediately adds a savoury, Chinese flavour to a dish so should be one of the essential Chinese sauces to have in your kitchen cupboard.
Sha cha sauce 沙茶酱 shā chá jiàng
Sha cha sauce is a slightly spicy, savoury sauce that is used in Fujian, Teochew (Chaozhou 潮州 cháozhōu) and Taiwanese cuisine.
The name translates to “sand” (沙 shā) “tea” (茶 chá) sauce but contains no flavours or ingredients involving tea.
It is actually thought that the origins of sha cha sauce and its name could have come from the Malaysian and Indonesian satay sauce because in Hokkien it is called “sa-te” sauce. However, sha cha sauce is very different to the peanut based satay sauce.
In contrast to satay sauce, sha cha sauce has no peanuts to speak of and is made from soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chillis, Chinese brill (a type of flatfish), and dried shrimp.
Sha cha sauce is often translated as “Chinese BBQ sauce”, but it really bares little resemblance to American BBQ sauce. This association might come from the fact that is often used as a rub for roast meats. It is commonly used as dipping sauce for hot pot, as well as in soups and stir fries.