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Chinese Brown Sauce & White Sauce Recipes

Posted By Jim On 08/05/2009 @ 12:02 pm In Frugal Living | 27 Comments

If you’ve ever eaten at any Chinese restaurant or take out joint, chances are you’ve ordered something that’s been in a brown sauce or a white sauce. Chicken with broccoli? That’s a brown sauce. Seafood with vegetables? That’s a white sauce.

If you enjoy those types of flavors, might I recommend giving them a try at home? They’re really easy and really tasty. The hard part is finding the ingredients and preparing them!

Chinese Brown Sauce

If you search online, you’ll find a million different recipes for brown sauce. What’s funny is that I’ve always stir-fried my dish as usual and then added a little flour or corn starch to thicken the sauce that was already in the pan. That’s how I made “brown sauce.” If you ask my wife, a lot of my unreproducible recipes are created in this way.

If you want a real recipe, brown sauce is generally a combination of oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, corn starch, water, and the juices of whatever it is you’re cooking. Oyster sauce and sugar will give you a bit of the sweetness you probably taste, soy gives it the salt, and corn starch and water give it that thick consistency. Here’s a good recipe [3] you might want to try, though you’ll find you want to adjust it to taste:

  • 3/4 cup beef broth (beef bouillion cubes can be used)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Chinese White Sauce

White sauce is another popular type of sauce in Chinese cuisine. The notable difference is the replacement of soy and oyster sauce, which give the brown sauce its brown color, with white wine. Another big difference is that you add in a lot of other spices as well, such as salt, ginger, garlic powder and onion powder, since the extra flavor will have to come from somewhere.

Here’s a nice recipe [4] I found online:

  • ½ cup onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour mixed with 3 cups of clear vegetable stock
  • a pinch sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • salt to taste

You can generally replace the chopped ingredients with powder, though you’ll want to add extra since dry ingredients are less potent than fresh. This is generally a popular sauce for lighter flavored main ingredients, like fish or vegetables. Whereas meat has a heavy flavor to it and can handle a dark sauce, it’s a good change of pace to use white sauce with more delicate foods like seafood.

The key is to tweak anything you cook to match what you like. You have to adjust it until you get it the flavor you like. If you love garlic, put a little more garlic. If you hate it, don’t put as much. Too salty? Use less soy or less salt. After a little tweaking, you’ll find a personal recipe you enjoy the most.

(Photo: plasticbystander [5])


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[3] good recipe: http://chinesefood.about.com/od/saucesmarinades/r/brownsauce.htm

[4] nice recipe: http://www.tarladalal.com/recipe.asp?id=4188

[5] plasticbystander: http://www.flickr.com/photos/plasticbystander/348207463/sizes/m/

Thank you for reading!