Chinese white sauce is the stir fry base of most chicken and vegetables dishes from your favourite Asian take-aways. A very light gravy that you can eat almost daily, you can adjust the amount of oil and salt if you prefer a healthier version for your dishes.
If you want to recreate this well-liked dip, we've found the best recipes on the Internet for you to savour!
What is Chinese white sauce made of?
Chinese white sauce has three key ingredients: garlic, ginger and onion. Cooks will also add vegetable or chicken stock to the mix.
You can also add other ingredients, such as peppercorn and scallion if you want a sharper burst of flavour to the dip. Some cooks also add cornstarch to make the consistency thicker so that the condiment is creamier. You can also substitute any ingredients with spices of your own choice.
The ingredient mix of spices and sugar in Chinese White Sauce means it tastes both sweet and tangy at the same time.
Since Asian restaurants usually cook the stock with meat or vegetables, the light gravy also tastes subtly of its added ingredients. The flavour is richer if you cook meat or vegetable stock from scratch.
Generally, it's an exquisite, unforgettable taste texture that works well to complement meat and vegetables without overpowering the entire dish.
Chinese White Sauce has a highly debatable origin, but most sources we found online point it to the Cantonese people.
However, this is not the same as Cantonese style sauce, also known simply as ‘brown sauce’. Chinese cooks usually use brown gravy for lamb or duck dishes as it has a more robust flavour.
Websites cite these gravies as an American invention since there are no known records of this gravy in Asia. However, Chinese history books did indicate a light gravy that cooks used.
So it could be that the gravy only became popular when the Chinese settled in America and started to name their dishes to appeal to the Western public.
Each serving of Chinese white sauce is approximately 40 kcal. If you use more cooking oil and meat for cooking the stock, the calorie count will increase.
Chinese White Sauce vs Brown Sauce
Chinese White Sauce has a light coloured appearance while the brown sauce is darker. The former is used for fish, seafood, and vegetables, while people use the latter for cooking meat dishes, such as duck and lamb.
Both are broth-based dips that are common stir-fry bases, but they are cooked somewhat differently.
Chinese brown sauce dishes have a richer, more intense tang. The gravy is made from light and dark soy sauce with a pinch of five-spice powder pinch.
The brown gravy stock is from stir-frying meat. Many Chinese restaurants prepare the brown sauce by dipping it over rice and adding chopped scallion and sesame oil.
Chinese white sauce, however, seeks to complement rather than overwhelm the food. It is delicate and subtle, allowing the flavour of other ingredients to come through. You will see that most Chinese restaurants use this gravy to stir fry vegetables.
The two gravies also differ in their calorie and protein content. Chinese white sauce is usually created from vegetable stock without soy sauce. Hence, it is lower in calories and proteins. Chinese brown sauce is usually made out of beef stock with soy sauce and is higher in calories and proteins.
Many cooks use Chinese White Sauce to stir fry chicken, shrimp and vegetables. It is the perfect accompaniment to these ingredients as it is not too heavy and allows the taste textures to come through.
For example, a popular dish often ordered as takeout is chicken and broccoli cooked with this tasty condiment. Some chefs fondly named this dish the spaghetti of the East since it's so easy to cook. You can also eat this dish daily without getting tired of it.
The chicken is blanched instead of stir-fried, so you get tasty meat with fewer calories. Blanching refers to the cooking process when the meat is steamed and then dipped into cold water to preserve the taste. Then the broccoli is steamed before adding both meat and vegetables to the gravy and stir-frying.
Another popular choice is to add shrimps or lobsters. Shrimps are a good choice since, like most seafood, they have a distinctive sweetness that you would not want to mask.
Therefore, Chinese white sauce makes the dish extra tasty since it balances out these foods' 'heavy' taste profiles.
Chinese vegetables are also extremely popular as an added ingredient. Vegetables can be boring to cook and eat, so the Chinese usually cook leafy greens such as boy choy, kai lan and choy sum with this stir fry sauce.
Another way to enjoy this irresistible dip is to pour it over rice. It makes an excellent broth-like meal!
The key ingredients of Chinese white sauce that you will need to purchase is chicken stock, garlic, and scallion.
You might already have other common ingredients in your kitchen. If not, you can get sugar, soy sauce, ground white pepper and a bottle of Shaoxing wine.
Try to get store-bought stock that is free from any additional herbs or spices if you can. The other ingredients can taint the final taste of your gravy.
Additionally, you can also choose to cook homemade stock. You will need to buy a whole chicken to stew. It is typical of Asian cooks to recreate their broth from scratch rather than purchasing store-bought stock.
You can buy all of these ingredients easily at a supermarket or online.
While these are the basics, you can pretty much substitute chicken with pork or vegetable for your own version of Chinese white sauce.
You can add vegetable stock or vegetarian oyster sauce if you are vegan. Most manufacturers use mushrooms to make a vegetarian oyster sauce. You can also replace the regular version with gluten-free oyster sauce on a gluten-free diet.
If you need substitutes for your Chinese White Sauce ingredients, we have some recommendations that you can try. You can use vegetable stock to make a vegan stir fry sauce. We recommend leafy greens such as choy sum, kai lan, bok choy if you want to create your stock for scratch.
However, for those who do not want a veggie base but still prefer a light dip, use seafood to replace chicken. Shrimps are suitable substitutes as they are slightly sweet.
People who like a more robust flavour in their condiments can try beef stock, making the gravy much richer.
You can also add lemongrass, scallions, leeks and onions instead of garlic or ginger. These spices will add an enticing aroma to your gravy. Try finely chopped red chillies or peppercorns to get a spicier mixture for the Chinese white sauce.
Use this gravy as a base for other stir fry bases by adding soy sauce, oyster sauce, and hot chilli sauce to turn this into a flavourful brown gravy. There is no hard and fast rule on using these condiments. It depends on what you like.
If you use vegetable stock as your base, you can serve Chinese white sauce to vegans.
By adding cornflour to make it thicker, your condiment will also be gluten-free. Generally, the recipe is gluten-free if you do not add thickening ingredients.
If you are going to heat the wok for your own Chinese White Sauce, here are some of our cooking tips.
The first tip is that if you add this as a base for stir-frying other dishes, wait until you have thoroughly cooked all your food. Then pour in the condiment. It will coat your dish thoroughly and give off a wonderful aroma.
When you stir-fry Chinese White Sauce, always cook finely chopped aromatics such as ginger, garlic or onions first. These ingredients will burn quickly and taint the flavour of the food. Preheat your wok to low heat before adding these ingredients. Then cook them gently, ensuring that the wok's surface is well-coated with oil.
It is a good idea to use a heavy frying pan or wok so you can manage the frying process with care. If you use a non-stick wok, use less frying oil to cook. Take these ingredients out before you add your dishes.
After stir-frying all the ingredients, add the seasoning and taste as you add. This move will go a long way into cooking a healthier version of the tasty Chinese white sauce dip.
The next tip is to make your chicken stock from scratch. You need to simmer a whole chicken with onions, cilantro, scallions and ginger. This way, you add an umami flavour to the condiment. While we recommend buying chicken stock to save time, this extra step will enhance your dish.
Another tip is that if you can find Chinese rice wine or Shao Xing Wine, mix the wine with the sauce. The smell is intoxicating, and it also helps to add a sweet, nutty flavour.
Lastly, store-bought dip always tastes good because of the high sodium content. When cooking your condiment, watch out to decrease the salt content.
How to Store
You can store Chinese white sauce in the fridge for three days in an airtight container. The condiment will set once it has cooled, turning into a gel-like consistently. Do not be too worried. Once you are ready and add it to the wok to heat it, it will melt.
Pro tip: If you want to store the condiment longer, we recommend leaving out the cornstarch and adding it into the mixture only when you can cook. Cornstarch loses its thickening powder gradually, and if you add it without intention to use what you cooked, it will cause your dip to thin out.
Chinese White Sauce Recipe | Stir Fry Sauce
- 3 cups chicken stock (700ml)
- 3 ½ tbsps cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon ginger grated
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- Place ¼ of the stock in a small bowl. Mix with cornstarch, then set it aside.
- Mix the remaining stock with the Shaoxing wine. Preheat your wok over low heat. Then, add the toasted sesame oil, garlic, ginger, salt, and sugar. Continue to stir these ingredients while heating over medium-high heat.
- When your mixture boils, drizzle in the cornstarch mixture while stirring. Keep stirring the mixture until the gravy turns clear. It will become translucent as it cooks.
- You can turn off the heat once the Chinese white sauce starts to thicken. Adjust for seasoning and add salt if you need it.
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.
CiCi Li on Youtube has an excellent video recipe showing the making of her own white sauce to be used in stir-frying a chicken chop suey dish. She quickly makes the gravy mixture as part of the whole preparation of the stir fry dish.
There are many different broth-like stir fry bases, but Chinese white sauce is one of the most popular bases. You can cook it and store it until you need to stir fry dishes.
However, it is deceivingly healthy since it does not seem like a greasy dish. Due to the stir-frying and salt content, it can be quite unhealthy to keep eating it.
Cooking allows you to modify ingredients to enjoy the gravy. We hope you have attempted the recipe above, and we would love to see your creations.
Looking for another type of gravy to try? Check out our Chinese curry chips recipe that showcases the delicious British-Chinese fusion curry sauce!