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Sauces Condiments, and Pastes

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Sauces, Seasonings, and Spices

Winter Volume: 2019 Issue: 26(4) pages: 30 to 33

In several letters, readers have asked about our favorite Chinese sauces and requested recipes for them. No easy query thinking about our daughter’s complaint that we keep too many in our refrigerator and may not use them often. Yes, I do cook less than I did years back. After her comment, I took every one out of our refrigerator and no longer keep any on a cabinet shelf, not even any soy sauce, It was time to take a look at them all, the seventeen there to open and check the surface to make sure there was no mold. What I learned was that all were fine, probably because most were fermented, each had been used, their jars carefully cleaned before returning them to this cold home.

We get twenty main meals here at this life-care community each month, the least we can pay for. As I looked at each jar, and did wonder about the condition I would find, what I saw was everyone was really in good shape, not moldy, bubbly, nor needing to be tossed in the garbage.

Several letters over the years had asked if we made our own would we share their recipes. We used to make them all, but must confess we never do now because most are easy to find. When I did so, it was an exercise in economy, we now no longer need to make them.

I began this investigation using a freshly dish-washer washed spoon, hot and just removed from a big load of freshly washed dishes and flatware, and ready to check out the sauces, pastes, and condiments in our refrigerator. Worried about what I would find, I did think of the reader who kept kosher wanting a homemade recipe for Hoisin sauce provided some fifty years ago. I could hardly remember the recipe or the results, so I looked for the pages I had scribbled on then. Found the paper yellow, the writing faded, so was my memory. My notes said I needed fermented beans, sugar, vinegar, salt, chili sauce, garlic, and sesame oil. Those day, I did purchase kosher fermented black beans to help her. Now I have a yellow cardboard non-kosher container in the refrigerator that looks fine; no need to make them kosher for that exercise. Also checked the plum sauce, it is winter as I write this, knew I could not make it from scratch as they are out of season. It was fine, too, and we would need a specialty grocer if I had to make it. My notes said I had bought plums, chili sauce, salt spices, and more those many years ago.

What I liked best about this task this day was the aroma of each item I peered into. No need to ferment or age any today. Just would need to purchase the ingredients, if I needed or wanted to make them. In Flushing there are kosher vendors, and one page in my folder said “cannot make fermented red bean curd.” Wondered how I responded to that subscriber; I do not recall and must have pitched those notes. However, my notes said making duck sauce was a snap. Used kosher mango chutney, kosher apricot preserves, kosher seasonings, water, and time.

The few recipes on the next page are simple, the ingredients easy to find if not needing kosher ones. My memory and notes say all was easy except for the shopping.

That was because I had contacted a kosher vender called Mikee, but dummy me, I did not keep their phone number. If I lived near Flushing I could wander in orthodox neighborhoods and provide today’s readers with sources, but that is not my chore, just checking for mold is, and I am taking the easy way out as today, it is not about kashrut. If it were, I would buy a bottle of ‘Soy Veh’ or figure out how to call for help.

What I learned is that all Chinese sauces I had keep for months in well-closed glass jars with edges wiped clean with boiling water before re-refrigerating them using a paper towel with that boiling water poured on it had stayed perfectly, There was no mold, no problem, except for one, a dried out edge that I did put in the garbage. I am always careful to clean the edges of containers this way, and clearly it is the right thing to do.

So readers, be sure the edges of your jars, the inside of the covers, too, are very clean before putting any jar back in your refrigerator for what can be days, weeks, or even months. I always use a wet paper towel with boiling water when wiping a jar and putting it back in cold storage, and that has paid off. Do wipe yours very clean as I have been doing and still do. Now for a few recipes for you to make your own, should you want to. do so.

Homemade Hoisin Sauce

1 cup red azuki beans
2 Tablespoons any vegetable or corn oil
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
4 dry chili peppers
½ cup unsweetened red bean paste (optional) or any canned light-colored beans
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar


1. Discard all broken or discolored beans, then rinse the others, and simmer in four cups of cold water for two hours. Then allow them to cool.
2. Next, put them in a food processor and process them until all are fine, the transfer them to a clean glass jar and refrigerate or freeze until needed.
3. If needed, defrost the cooked adzuki beans and have them ready for use. Put the garlic and peppers in a small saucepan and stir-fry for two minutes until the garlic browns slightly, then remove and discard the peppers and stir in the bean paste or its substitute.
4. Next, add the salt, soy sauce, and three tablespoons of water. Stir well, and simmer on low heat for half an hour. Then again put the contents into a food processor and blend until smooth, wipe the tops of the jars and covers clean, and seal them.
5. Now put the jars in a boiling water bath for ten minutes, let them then cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Homemade Duck Sauce (aka Plum Sauce)

1 cup dried apricots
1 cup any fruit jam or jelly (optional)
3 Tablespoons minced crystalized ginger
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup cider vinegar
2/3 cup granulated sugar


1. In a small saucepan, mix apricots, jam or jelly, half cup of cold water, ginger, garlic, and salt, stir, then simmer over medium heat until all is soft, then stir in the vinegar and sugar and simmer another fifteen minutes.
2. Put this in a food processor and process until it is smooth, then pour into hot sterilized glass jars, wipe their rims and inside of the tops clean, seal, and put them in a boiling water bath for fifteen minutes, then cool at room temperature, and then refrigerate them.

Homemade Oyster Sauce

½ pound fish or shucked oysters and their liquid
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 Tablespoon this soy sauce
½ Tablespoon dark soy sauce


1. Drain the fish or oysters, reserve the liquid into a fine strainer over a bowl.
2. Mince or mash them and put them and the reserved liquid in a saucepan, add one tablespoon cold water, and simmer for eight minutes, then add soy sauces, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for eight minutes, add salt, and cool.
3. Put contents into a food processor and blend until smooth.
4. Wipe the tops of the jars and the covers, close tightly, and put jars in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.
5. Then remove and cool them to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Homemade Vegetarian Oyster Sauce

½ cup soybeans soaked overnight
1 cup diced water chestnuts
1 cup shredded cauliflower
1 potato with the
1 cob of corn, sliced
2 one-foot stalks sugar cane, peeled and sliced
6 pitted red dates
5 Chinese black mushrooms, soaked in one cup warm water, liquid retained, stems discarded or used chopped and in a soup
20 canned water chestnuts
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar.


Follow instructions of the steps in the recipe above as to time and techniques, also cleaning the jars and storing them in the refrigerator.

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