Need some sauce
May 27, 2008 4:10 PM   Subscribe

Help me make/find a good stir-fry sauce...

I'm trying to make use of all this veg I'm getting from my new CSA share, and I figured stir-fries would be a great way to throw everything together in one dish.

I've tried stir-frying in the past and always end up w/ nicely cooked vegetables in a strange tasting sauce. I've used some store-bought sauces (labeled "stir-fry sauce", can't recall the brand), and even tried throwing a few of my own together. NONE of them have encouraged me to return to stir-fries.

What bottled sauces or homemade sauces do you use in your stir-fry?

posted by pilibeen to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
I use Sartain's The Sauce on everything. Its got a great kick but not too much. Meat, veggies, dipping, its awesome!
posted by Chuck Cheeze at 4:22 PM on May 27, 2008

Best answer: My staple is Hoi Sin sauce - there are a variety of brands, it's pretty standard. Blackbean sauce, is, of course, another option.

I find in supermarkets in my part of the world, sauces for stir fries can be found in two different section. In the "sauce" section, where you generally get the weak, locally made sauces, and in the "asian food" section, where you tend to get something closer to the real deal, for a slightly higher prices. If your supermarket has an asian food section, head there first.
posted by Jimbob at 4:22 PM on May 27, 2008

Usually, for stir fries, we mix together rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, some sugar, some sri racha (for heat) and fish sauce (but the fish sauce isn't really necessary if you don't have it). It's really easy to throw together, and it tastes delicious. The quantities to be used depend on the specific taste you're looking for.
posted by Ms. Saint at 4:31 PM on May 27, 2008

I like Mr. Yoshida's Original Gourmet Sauce for stir fries. Sweet and spicy and sticky yumminess.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:35 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

A good stir fry doesn't use any sauce. The flavor of stir fry is wok hei (the air/breath of the wok). This flavor is produced by extremely high heat reacting with fairly small amounts of oil and the natural sugars and proteins in your food.

This is achieved in restaurants by using a thin, seasoned carbon steel wok with a gargantuan flame. Unless you're this guy, you can't achieve that at home. Your best alternative is to use the biggest, heaviest pan you can find (a cast iron frying pan or dutch oven) and heat it for maybe 10 minutes over maximum heat before adding your ingredients in small batches.

Flavoring elements to support wok hei include small amounts of salt, soy sauce, rice wine, ginger and garlic. The goopy brown sauces of American type Chinese food are constructed by adding oyster sauce, water, and cornstarch to make a gravy at the end of cooking.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:37 PM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

Try finding a thai red curry sauce.. I don't have a recipe, but google should.. Usually you buy some red curry paste and coconut milk. It ends up being delicious. As far as bottled, you pretty much need to experiment with what you can get.
posted by majikstreet at 4:40 PM on May 27, 2008

Best answer: My favourite stir-fry is in the sichuan style (hot, that is): warm a couple tbsp of veg. oil on the bottom of a wok, add a tbsp of chili bean sauce and a tsp. of sichuan peppercorns, let fry for a minute and then add a tbsp each of finely minced garlic and ginger root, another 30" and then add the finely chopped vegetables (for instance: red bell pepper, mung bean sprouts, finely sliced celery, carrot, chinese cabbage...), turn the heat to high, and after stir frying for a couple of minutes, mix in a dash of soy sauce, turn off heat and add - if available - a dash of sesame oil.
posted by _dario at 4:43 PM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

Hoi sin (pace Jimbob) is a good choice because it seems to "permeate" the vegetables and such, which is what you're looking for, I think.

Anything with oyster sauce works wonders on stir fry, too. Forget that it's "seafood", and just consider it to be magic stirfry juice.

It is difficult to make a stir fry that doesn't taste like sauce atop unrelated vegetables, so don't feel incompetent. :)
posted by rokusan at 4:50 PM on May 27, 2008

I use a bit of frozen chicken stock, some soy sauce, some spices (cajun is nice, but you can vary) and then a spoonful of rice or potato starch in a few tablespoons of water at the last minute to bring it all together. The commercial black bean paste is nice -- just use a couple table spoons to replace the cajun spices in my previous instruction. A super one is thai red curry paste in a jar -- has instructions on it. Basically a tablespoon of that and some coconut milk. For frugality and lower fat calories, you can freeze that in an ice cube tray and use a couple of cubes per person's meal in the stir-fry. Oyster sauce (cheap Chinese sauce where a little goes a long way) with soy sauce, as per instructions on the bottle. I find garlic improves that as well as the black bean sauce.
posted by Listener at 5:01 PM on May 27, 2008

I like a blend of soy sauce, sesame oil, and hoisin sauce from a recipe for Szechuan green beans. This is a similar recipe.
posted by cabingirl at 5:13 PM on May 27, 2008

Here's the deal:

Slice the veg thinly.

Heat the wok/frying pan until it's just starting to give off smoke.

Pour in a touch of oil.

Put in a clove or two of garlic and a chili pepper if you're that way inclined. Stir for 30 seconds or so.

Add veg.

Cook briefly until the veg is cooked through but still crispy.

Just before you turn it off, add a tablespoon of oyster sauce and 1 or 2 of (preferably good quality) soya sauce.

Season as required and enjoy.
posted by Magnakai at 5:14 PM on May 27, 2008

My sauce usually consists of:

Soy Sauce
Rice Wine Vinegar
Black Bean Paste
Green Onions
Brown Sugar

Mix in varying degrees and suit to your tastes, maybe add some ginger. I listed them pretty much by quantity from most to least. I usually use sesame oil too.
posted by sanka at 5:19 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My go-to sauce:

1 part soy sauce
1 part honey
Chopped garlic
Grated ginger
1 tsp sambal (or to taste), or crushed red pepper
Dash rice vinegar

Mix it all up, set it aside to let the flavor of the garlic/ginger to come out.

When veggies are nearly cooked how you want them, toss in the sauce and crank the heat. It'll thicken some thanks to the honey, but if you want a thicker sauce you can add the standard mixture of cornstarch and water.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:21 PM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

One I really like:

3 parts rice vinegar
1 part sesame oil
1 part sugar

(I usually do 6T/2T/2T if I'm cooking for two or three -- better to have more sauce than you need to use)

This is especially good if you're throwing a little bit of heat into the stir-fry, like peppers or chili paste or the like, also fresh ginger. The sweet/heat combo rocks.

I've also had luck with a similar proportion of soy sauce/rice vinegar/sugar.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:51 PM on May 27, 2008

Best answer: I am a simple soul and am partial to:

a few glugs of soy sauce (japanese stuff which is thinner, saltier, less sweet)
a splash of mirin (rice wine for cooking)
much garlic
posted by madokachan at 7:19 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

My usual is soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic to fry (adding the oil last because its a flavouring oil) and then thicken with a little cornflour and some water just before serving. Sprinkle with finely shredded spring onions.

You can also thicken cornflour with rice-wine instead of water to add an extra level of flavour. Be careful, though, because the rice-wine will have a lot of salt in it, so check before adding extra seasoning.

Mess around with grated fresh ginger and oyster sauce. Hoy-sin (as above) is also excellent. I also like red miso paste with mirin (or cooking sake) for a sweet Japanese meal (excellent with garlic and eggplant, actually).

Failing that, go out and buy a small jar of XO sauce - it makes everything tasty. I particularly like green-beans stir fried with garlic and chilli and finished with a little XO sauce thrown in. Excellent side dish. Makes a good main with the addition of tofu or chicken.

Also, one restaurant trick that will affect flavour is the processing they usually do to their meat to make it soft and tender. While some will use a papaya-based enzyme to tenderise the meat (one brand is "Adolf's Meat Tenderiser" - no idea if it contains actual Nazis), the usual trick is to slice your cheap cut of beef paper thin and soak in water that has had bicarb soda added (1 teaspoon per cup of water for 500 grams of beef for 4 hours - drain, pat dry, sprinkle with corn-flour and fry as normal). It will make the meat very soft but will also affect the flavour. I suggest you try it at least once, but adjust your seasonings at the very end just in case.
posted by ninazer0 at 7:54 PM on May 27, 2008

Nthing the sesame oil. It's not like regular cooking oil, you use maybe a few drops, it will give your dish a delicious toasted flavour that becomes unmistakable once you know it (e.g. in hot & sour soup, in bibimbap, etc.).
posted by furtive at 9:28 PM on May 27, 2008

I use Soy Vay's Veri Veri Teriyaki, with a bit of Sesame Oil for a deeper, tastier flavor... it's awesome.
posted by twiggy at 9:50 PM on May 27, 2008

I make this Kung Pao chicken recipe quite a lot and it's pretty great. I double up on the pepper to make it a bit spicier and also throw in lots of vegetable (celery, pea pods, etc.).
posted by gfrobe at 1:14 AM on May 28, 2008

Sesame oil
cheap sake
soy sauce
rice vinegar
bonito dashi (seasoning)

start with garlic, onion, and sesame oil. brown these. while cooking the rest of your veggies with some more oil, start adding the other parts of the sauce (i put them in approximate order of volume - your preferred ratio will vary).

it will be too thin at the end. mix a little bit of water with a thickener (corn or potato starch), then stir into the frying pan.

posted by whatzit at 6:35 AM on May 28, 2008

Soy sauce, green/spring or red onions, garlic, ginger, salt. Oyster sauce is good, but should be added at the end or afterwards. I recently discovered that celery gives stir fries a really interesting taste too. I don't like any strong sauces either, keeping it basic works well for me.
posted by saturnine at 9:55 AM on May 28, 2008

Seconding sesame oil. How could I have forgotten that!
posted by rokusan at 4:08 PM on May 28, 2008

My recent family fave is from martha stewart:
Cup of soy sauce
tablespoon of hot chili sesame oil
tablespoon of grated ginger
2 Tablespoons of brown sugar
tons of minced garlic
has worked well with beef but love it with veggies, especially red onion.
posted by bhkart at 3:12 PM on June 5, 2008

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