From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Call Me Saucey... Part II (deux, dos, two)

It is funny to me how reflections on food can create such a palette of other thoughts, with ideas coming on a tangental whim.  Yet somehow, it always comes back to the originating source.  Yesterday's ponderings focused on Soy based sauces, yet that was not really the original direction I wanted to take.  I had really wanted to discuss my favorite sauce recipes that I had come up with for my restaurant, but my thoughts of food from here took me, in a mental dimension, to Golden Wok, where I salivated over some of their dishes, and mentally dissected their sauces and flavor profiles.

Strangely, I keep being drawn back to a previous work experience, where I worked with (managed, ran)  a restaurant concept that features a build-your-own bowl experience.  This restaurant offers 14 types of proteins, 12 seasonings, 30 veggies, 14 sauce selections, and 6 types of starches.  What stands out to me, every visit, and every bowl, is the dynamic flavor of the sauces that they offer.  Unfortunately, most of the sauces, to my taste, were either too sweet, or too salty.  (Their nutritional information reflects, on some of the sauces, nearly 50% or the DRV for sodium intake on 1-2 ounce serving.)  Their Honey Soy and Stir Fry sauce are very sweet, without much substance, and the Island Teriyaki tastes too much like a combination of Honey Soy with pineapple juice added to it.  The Khan's Barbeque was flavorful, and offered a bit of heat, but the Asian Chili should not have even been an offering, as I saw far too many people ruin their food due to not being prepared for the nuclear event that overportioning that sauce resulted in.  I ended up resorting to combining a couple of different sauces to come up with "the perfect sauce."  It was a combination of their 3G (a bold combination of Black Bean, Oyster and Hoisin Sauce), Dragon, and Asian Chili, which approximates (as closely as possible) the Kung Pao Sauce that I used to make in my restaurant.  (They do offer a Khan's Pao sauce, which they believe represents a variation of Kung Pao, but its flavor profile is too salty and bites back too much.)  Their Szechuan and Chili Garlic sauces are retail bottles from Minor's (a division of Nestle foods)  that can be purchased from any Asian Food Market.

Upon first glance, their Dragon Sauce seems like it will be a fiery sauce that will light your food on fire.  Sadly, that is not the case, as it is only a sweet chili sauce that does little more than sweet your food.  Their Dragon Sauce is one  that can be replicated easily, or purchased out of a bottle.  There are many brands and recipes available, with the most popular being that of Mae Ploy.  Sweet chili sauce is a versatile sauce which can be used in a variety of dishes, including chicken and seafood, and rarely, with beef or any other red meat.  It is also a favorite dipping sauce for Phillipino Lumpia, and goes well with Vegetarian Spring Rolls.

The 3 basic ingredients in my own no-frills zesty Sweet Chili Sauce, which was the base for my Kung Pao Sauce at Chino's Cafe were:

  1. Asian Chili Garlic sauce

  2. Sugar

  3. Vinegar.

Simply made, mix 1 part Asian Chili Garlic Sauce with 1 part Sugar and 2 parts Vinegar, and voila!! You have made yourself a delicious Sweet Chili Sauce. Blending even proportions of this sauce with Soy Sauce (especially the blend that I discussed in the previous entry) will create a PERFECT Kung Pao Sauce.  This quick home recipe will also be healthier than many of the store bought brands, as it does not have any of the preservatives or MSG that are often found in pre-packaged sauces.

My favorite recipe for Kung Pao Chicken (or shrimp) includes diced carrots, water chestnuts, celery, peanuts and my knock-'em-dead Kung Pao Sauce. 

  • 2 pounds of chicken breast, sliced thinly into 1" x 2" strips, about 1/4" thick and marinated*

  • 1 cup diced carrots. (The frozen variety is fine.)

  • 1 cup sliced water chestnuts

  • 1 cup sliced celery

  • 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts

  • **1/4 cup green onion heads (the white root part of green onion, cut into 1/4" pieces)

  • 2 ounces Sweet Chili Sauce

  • 2 ounces Soy Sauce Blend

  • 1 ounce Corn Starch Slurry

Flash cook the chicken in 350 degree oil until it gains an even white color, stirring often to prevent burning.  Remove from oil and drain.  While Chicken is draining, heat about 2 ounces of oil in your wok.  When oil is hot, add chicken and all vegetables, stirring until all vegetables are evenly coated.  Add sauce, bring to boil, then add corn starch, stirring quickly until meat and vegetables have achieved a shiny glaze.  Toss in peanuts, and serve over rice.

Best Practice:  Add the peanuts absolutely last, after having cooked all the other ingredients, to prevent them from becoming soggy.

*Marinade is 1 cup corn starch, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon white pepper, 1 egg, 2 ounces of oil
**Green Onion Heads are optional.

A home made sauce, especially one that is very popular, is ALWAYS a better alternative to paying retail prices for any pre-packaged product.  That cost factor, with the added benefit of zero added preservatives or MSG creates the opportunity and ability to cook a Chinese Food meal quickly and cost effectively.  With the 2 base sauces that I have unveiled to date, you too CAN cook flavorful dishes in minutes.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this yummy recipe--I use Mae Ploy
    Sweet Chili Sauce, too, but just a touch!