6 Types of Sauces for Asian Cooking and How to Use Them

Simple Asian sauces


Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the various types of seasoning sauces that are readily available from all over Asia? Or confused over which type of seasoning is suitable for a particular cuisine or dish due to its extensive varieties, flavour, texture and appearance? 


All of us rely on common sauces like soy sauce or oyster sauce to enhance the flavour of our food. These seasonings are no doubt an essential part of our cooking process to help elevate a dish and give it an added depth of flavour. 


However, it’s a pity not to try some of the other amazing seasoning sauces that are readily available to us! If you would like to savour different seasonings other than your norm and learn how to use them, here are 6 recipe ideas using flavourful East Asian seasoning sauces that are readily available:


1. Kicap Manis

Kicap Manis is almost synonymous with Indonesian cuisine. This is a sweetened, dark and thick caramelised soy sauce, with palm sugar and soy sauce as the main ingredients. Often used for stir frying or as a dipping sauce with sambal and chillies, you can easily find it at any supermarket. 


Featuring this sauce is a popular Indonesian signature dish — none other than Nasi Goreng.  It is quick and easy to cook when you have leftover rice. The combination of Kicap Manis and sambal belacan, provide the distinctive flavour of sweet, salty and a hint of spiciness. 


Served with the mandatory fried egg on top and keropok (rice crackers), you’ll love this simple, flavourful and easy meal!


Recipe: https://themeatmen.sg/indonesian-nasi-goreng/

Preparation Time: 15 minutes Serves 2 to 3


2. Fish Sauce

Mention Fish Sauce and you’ll be transported to Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisines which feature Fish Sauce heavily. As the name suggests, fish sauce is made from the condiments of salt and fish, such as anchovies or other fishes that are left to ferment to extract a rich, salty and distinctive flavour. 


However, do not be deterred by its pungent smell! This liquid gold is packed full of savoury, earthy and umami flavour for many local dishes. A definite must-have in many Thai dishes, including Tom Yum Goong.


Tom Yum Goong is surprisingly an easy and healthy dish to make. Aromatics such as lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and a handful of chilli padi are boiled in a prawny broth to extract its tangy and aromatic flavour before adding your favourite seafood and mushrooms. This dish is complete with the addition of Thai Fish Sauce for its salty and savoury flavour. 


Recipe: https://themeatmen.sg/tom-yum-goong/

Preparation Time: Easy  Serves 3 to 4.

3. Light or Dark Soy Sauce

Soy sauces have been around in China for more than 2,500 years ago as an ingredient to flavour a dish. Whether it’s Light or Dark Soy Sauce, this all-purpose seasoning is versatile for use in stir-frying, marination, for braising and also as a dipping sauce.


Soy sauce ingredients are basically soybeans, salt and wheat which are brewed through years of fermentation process to obtain the best flavour.  


This Braised Duck recipe combines the best of these two sauces. The braising liquid, which is the most crucial part of this recipe, consists of spices, aromatics and sugar which are cooked together to achieve a caramelised texture. 


The mildly salty light soy sauce and the thick dark soy sauce is further added to impart a rich and molasses flavour for the braising liquid. This is simply excellent with duck, pork or chicken and equally delicious as the slow brew injects flavour to the meat while making it juicy and tender. 


Served with tau kwa and hard boiled eggs, this dish is wonderful with steamed rice, porridge or noodles.


Recipe: http://themeatmen.sg/braised-duck/

Preparation Time: 1 hour 30 mins.  Serves 4


4. Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin Sauce is not just a sweet and savoury sauce but it has a hint of five spice powder which imparts an aromatic flavour. The high sugar content makes it perfect for glazing meat, especially for this Char Siew recipe. 


Don’t be intimidated to make your own Pork Char Siew as this recipe is really easy once you have the sauces prepped and ready for an overnight marination. The wonderful sweet and savoury flavour comes from a blend of different sauces to create a luscious marinate.


This recipe also makes use of Chu Hou Sauce, which is made from soybeans, garlic, ginger and sesame seeds. The combination of these sauces makes a perfect marination to any meat dish. 


Using the air fryer, we can easily render the fat and obtain a char-grilled texture. This irresistibly delicious and succulent Pork Char Siew is so delicious you’ll be wanting more!


Recipe: https://themeatmen.sg/air-fryer-pork-char-siew/

Preparation Time: 50 minutes  Serves 3 to 4.


5. Fermented Red Beancurd

Fermented Red Beancurd is a savoury seasoning packed full of umami flavour and gets its distinctive red colour due to the use of red yeast rice.  The brining process of these cubes of beancurd creates a soft-like cheese texture and its favour is mildly sweet and salty notes with a hint of rice wine flavour. 


This sauce features heavily in our Hakka Zhar Yoke — definitely a must try if you fancy a crispy, tasty, crispy pork belly! A great snack for an afternoon beer I’d say! 


This addictive fried pork belly is a traditional Hakka dish and enjoyed by everyone. Pieces of pork belly are marinated with seasonings like Chinese five spice powder, oyster sauce, fish sauce and others and coated with flour before frying for a crispy texture.


Recipe: https://themeatmen.sg/hakka-zhar-yoke/

Preparation Time: 30 minutes. Serves 3 to 4.


6. Cooking Wine

We are often confused by the types of Chinese cooking wine and how to use them for a dish. Generally, cooking wines are just as important as other soy sauces and seasoning as most Chinese stir-fry uses cooking wine to achieve a distinctive flavour and as a deglaze to a wok hei finish.


Shaoxing Wine or Hua Diao Chiew are similar types of wine. It is generally used for the marination and cooking and a common seasoning in Chinese stir-fry dishes. This amber colour wine is mildly sweet and has a richer depth of flavour. Thus, Shaoxing Wine is suitable to use for this Wet/Dry Hor Fun recipe.


White Rice Wine, or Mi Jiu which is made from glutinous rice, is clearer and colourless. It provides a saltier flavour than Shaoxing Wine. White Rice Wine can also be used to mask the odour of meat or seafood. 


This Hor Fun recipe is easy to replicate and as good as any Zi Char take-away. You may use any meat of your choice and simply marinate with your pantry Chinese sauces and Shaoxing wine for that rich, depth of flavour.


Whether you prefer the stir-fried dry Hor Fun or the slurpy eggy gravy Hor Fun, this noodle dish is definitely a favourite among us all and a comfort food when you crave for one of your favourite Zi Char dishes. 


Recipe: https://themeatmen.sg/dry-wet-stir-fried-hor-fun/

Preparation Time: 30 minutes. Serves 2 to 3


Types of Asian sauces

Seasoning sauces are one of our most flavourful secrets to great Asian cuisines. Whether it’s Singapore, Malaysia,Thai, Vietnamese or any Southeast Asian cuisines, every culture has its own essential pantry must-haves.


Not only are these seasoning sauces essential, but necessary to enhance the most authentic and delicious dishes that you too can achieve at home. So, next time when you walk down the supermarket aisle, be sure to grab one of these Asian seasoning sauces and try our recipes! 




More of what you might like: 

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