Cantonese sauce is an archetypal gravy that is used as a base for a plethora of Chinese dishes. Essentially made up of soy sauce, this savoury elixir gives many Chinese cuisines that distinct taste you look for when eating at a restaurant in your nearest Chinatown.
We recognise the importance of this Asian cooking item and hence explored the source of the sauce (no pun intended)! Read more to learn the history of this gravy and how to make it in five simple steps.
What Is Cantonese Sauce?
Cantonese sauce is a type of flavouring that serves as the backbone of Chinese cuisine. It is also known as Chinese brown sauce. This dark brown mixture of dressings is commonly cooked alongside meat or veggies or even both. It has a sweet and sour taste with a hint of umami.
Cantonese cuisine originates from Guangdong province in China. The majority of restaurants branded as “Chinese restaurants” will largely serve Cantonese-style cooking. This is typically due to a large number of emigrants from Guangzhou, Macau, and Hong Kong.
Many variations of this Cantonese sauce exist that may include adding extra ingredients to the base. It is mainly made using soy sauce but can also include XO sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin, rice vinegar among many others. Moreover, it has also made its way into fusion cooking.
There are healthier alternatives too in making this dish. If you prefer to go gluten-free, you can swap the oyster sauce with Japanese tamari sauce.
Variations of Cantonese style sauces
- Chinese white: Creamy, white and made using vegetable stock
- Sweet and sour: Used as a dip or as a stir fry ingredient and made using red ketchup base
- Black bean: Sharp, spicy, sweet and made using fermented dried black beans.
What does Cantonese Sauce taste like?
Cantonese sauce has a sweet, sour taste but not to the point where it’s too sharp. It can be spicy as some variations do add chilli oil. This can add more flavours to the mix and make it even tastier.
The base is made from soy, but the taste may vary depending on the ingredients included. Hence, the cooking ingredient is extremely versatile.
What dishes can you use it for?
For best pairing, you can use beef, diced chicken breast or vegetables (usually capsicum) to be cooked with the base. Simply add it to the cooked meat and you’re good to go. For carb pairing, the dressing would go well with rice-based or noodle-based dishes.
In this recipe, we’ll be exploring the ingredients used and a simple version of the Chinese brown sauce.
This Cantonese sauce is a mix of different flavours coming from all the commonly-used ingredients in Chinese food such as:
- Ginger: Enhances the aroma and taste
- Soy and oyster sauce: The dominant salty base in the mix
- Fish sauce: Adds the umami flavour
- Sesame Oil: Adds a distinctive nutty flavour
- Cornstarch: As a thickener
You can easily obtain the ingredients in the Asian section of the supermarket. Or even better, you can explore the nearest Asian supermarket or Chinatown.
Note: You can add chilli oil to the recipe to include the element of spiciness to it.
If you want a gluten-free option, you can swap the soy and oyster sauce for gluten-free tamari, commonly found in Japanese dishes.
For a healthier alternative, reduce the amount of sodium (soy and oyster sauce, chicken broth) used in the mixture.
Cantonese Sauce Recipe
- 2 tablespoon scallion minced
- ½ tablespoon ginger minced
- 2 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon dry white wine
- 3 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1½ tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup chicken broth preferably low sodium
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch as thickener
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Mix chicken broth, wine, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and salt together in a mixing bowl.
- Place a wok over medium heat and add olive oil.
- Sautee the scallion and ginger until fragrant which takes around 10-15 seconds.
- Mix cornstarch with cold water in a separate cup and add the mixture bit by bit until it thickens. Make sure you stir constantly when adding cornstarch. The blend will thicken after 5-8 minutes of cooking.
- Pour into the bowl and the Cantonese sauce is ready.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
How To Store
Cantonese sauce can last for 1-2 weeks refrigerated in an airtight container. It can be used for a long time provided that you store it properly. It can even last a couple of weeks if you follow the right step.
The mixture of garlic and oil helps to reduce moisture and prevent bacteria growth. To get the most optimum storing conditions, make sure to:
- Keep it refrigerated at all times
- Do not dilute it with water
- Add more minced garlic and oil
- Keep in an airtight container
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Looking for a Cantonese dish to cook at home? Check out our easy Shrimp Chow Mein recipe!