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Changing Up 'Traditional' Idea of Asian Sauces

Asian sauces are an essential part of Asian cooking. Whether you are looking to achieve a sweet, savory, spicy, or umami flavor, there’s a variation of Asian sauces designed for cooking, dipping, or drizzling that you’re sure to love. While they have a long and storied history, they have also evolved and changed over the years. 

There are many ways to make traditional Asian sauces unique and personal to your cooking needs, and Fly By Jing is here to help. We want to provide the ingredients, resources, and histories you need to evolve and enjoy Asian sauces all your own and change up what a traditional Asian sauce can be used for in home cooking. 

History of Asian Sauces

Asian sauces are largely influenced by geography, history, and access to ingredients. Many Chinese regional dishes are seafood-heavy because of their location on the coast, whereas others use herbs and vegetables more regularly found in the mountains. With the increase of travel, influence from other countries and parts of the world, and the flavor profiles that evolved out of the Asian American experience in the United States, many new and different sauces have developed. 

But the history of how some of our favorite flavors were first created is just as interesting as what they have become. 

The history of soy sauce, for example, dates back more than 2,000 years and has many variants, including light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and soy sauce flavored with herbs and spices. 

Oyster sauce is another commonly used Chinese sauce, which can be made in a few unique ways. Traditionally, it derives from oyster extract, but it can be sweetened with sugar or caramel, and thickening agents are often added. It’s much newer than soy sauce, and is said to have been developed accidentally by an oyster seller in the late 1800s, who accidentally allowed his oysters to simmer for too long, until it thickened. The sauce became a quick success and has been a pantry staple since. 

Sesame has been cultivated for over 5,000 years because it’s a drought-resistant crop that can grow in many tough conditions. That’s why it’s one of the oldest condiments known as part of the culinary world. Black vinegar is also several thousand years old, and bean curd as a sauce dates back to Prince Liu An of the Han Dynasty, who died in 122 BC. 

How We’re Reimagining Asian Sauces

Here at Fly By Jing, we believe that Asian spices and flavors aren’t merely a matter of historical importance but one of personal identity. That’s why we strive to provide not only the essential ingredients needed to achieve classic and beloved flavors but also the unique and exciting recipes that reimagine how those flavors combine, engage, and add to what already exists. We want to make it possible to make your favorite Chinese food sauces at home, but with your own personal spin.

Recipes To Make With Our Spices

When it comes to hot, sweet, and umami flavors, our ingredients deliver. There are many classic dishes you can make with the ingredients available here at Fly By Jing, and when you better understand the basics, you can make unique and personal versions that can be enjoyed with many different cuisines. 

Chili Oil

Chili oil is one of the base sauces that goes well with many different Asian recipes. To start, you’ll want to collect up your peppers, like erjingtiao or tribute peppers, depending upon what kind of flavors you like most. You’ll also need a neutral oil, like canola, peanut, or rapeseed oil, as well as any additional spices or herbs, including ginger, star anise, or cinnamon. 

You’ll heat up your oil, pour it over your peppers and spices, strain, and use. Chili oil keeps for a few months, with proper storage, and can be used in many dishes, including mapo tofu, dan dan noodles, and dumplings. 

If you’re looking to use this traditional Asian sauce in a whole new way, the only limit is your imagination. There are many ways to use chili oil that think outside of the box. 

You can drizzle it over fresh vegetables for a spicy and bold Caprese salad. Take the benefits of Chinese noodle and chili oil pairings and try out your chili oil on pasta dishes like a mint and butter dish. Or use chili oil the way you would your favorite hot sauce and pair it with your morning toast and eggs for a spicy and delicious breakfast dish. You can even add it to popcorn, crackers, or ice cream. 

Zhong Sauce

Zhong sauce is one of those sweet and rich sauces with a bold umami flavor that can be used in so many great dishes. It’s traditionally paired with dumplings or noodles, but it’s incredibly easy to make and can go well with a lot of unexpected recipes. 

It embraces a sweet and savory combination of brown sugar, mushrooms, garlic, and a blend of spices that be adjusted to fit your heat level and what you’ll be mixing your sauce with. Here at Fly By Jing, we sell an easy-to-use Zhong sauce that can be matched with some of your favorite spices and comfort food recipes. 

In addition to dumplings and noodles, Zhong sauce can go well with unexpected dishes. Use it as a dipping sauce for your favorite fried appetizers or even your morning toast. You can also mix it with seafood pasta dishes. Thanks to the umami flavor, it pairs well with sweet and savory alike. 

Chinese Mala Sauce

Chinese mala spice is one of the most popular and versatile sauces available in Chinese cuisine, and it can be used for recipes well beyond stir fry and hot pots. 

Like chili sauce, the mala sauce employs a hot and spicy flavoring profile that is developed by pouring hot oil over potent Sichuan peppers. It is simmered long enough to enhance the spicy flavors and then adjusted with spices and flavors depending on the region it’s from and what kind of dishes it will be paired with. 

Like most dishes made with the Sichuan pepper, mala sauce is known for making your tongue and mouth numb, and, in fact, the name “mala” refers to the words “numbing” and “spicy” in Chinese. 

Mala dates back a few hundred years and is often paired with spice combinations like fennel, ginger, cinnamon, bean paste, and star anise. It has its roots in street food and pairs well with fried potatoes and barbequed meat and vegetables. In fact, it was often used to make lower-grade meat cuts and low-quality vegetables more palatable. 

Because mala is traditionally used for so many street foods and lower quality ingredients, it’s very versatile and can blend well with many of your favorite non-Asian or non-traditional dishes. Stir-fry dishes, stews, and hot pots are all excellent ways to enjoy your mala sauce flavors. But we also recommend thinking out of the box and making dishes like mala chicken tenders, cold noodles, and anything else that calls to you. 

In Summary

Fly By Jing was developed with the goal of bringing our favorite flavors to home cooks around the world. Chinese cuisine has an ancient and exciting history, but it is always evolving, taking in influences from around the world and from the relationships between environments, regions, and generations. When we look to make Chinese food in our own homes, it’s essential to understand how that ever-changing history impacts the food that we love and makes it easier to adjust our favorite dishes for the modern day. 

That’s why we’re not just bringing you excellent ingredients for sauces and oils, but also the history, cultural context, and value of what those sauces mean and where they have come from. If history —and with it, food—is always evolving, then the new dishes and tastes you make with your home-cooked Asian food are all just part of the next step.

You can adjust heat and spice, add in ingredients that aren’t traditionally used to make Asian spices, and also pair them with unique and exciting recipes. That means it’s easy to make something entirely new with a hint of classic flavors, spices, and ingredients. 

When you’re ready to begin mixing and matching the dishes you love with a new and unique approach, visit the shop and recipe book here at Fly By Jing. 

Sources: 

The Rise (and Potential Fall) of Soy Sauce | Saveur

How to Use Chile Oil in Everyday Cooking | Epicurious

Sichuan Dumplings (Zhong Dumplings) | chinasichuanfood.com