Tuesday, May 15, 2012
All-purpose Sichuan stir-fry sauce
I make a lot of vegetable-heavy stir-frys, and my preferred method of seasoning them is with Sichuan condiments. Sometimes I just wing it, adding dashes of toasted sesame oil and rice wine as I go along, but lately I've been mixing up a quick, all-purpose sauce that I add to the vegetables at the very end of their cooking process, when they're already tender and just need to soak up some flavor. If I have extra, I simply transfer it to an airtight container where it will wait for me until I make my next stir-fry.
This sauce has all the flavor bases covered: it's full of rich umami from the soy; sweet from the brown sugar; sour from the vinegar; and hot from the spicy fermented bean paste. The potato starch (whose silky texture I prefer to gloppier cornstarch) thickens it up beautifully, creating a rich mouthfeel. Best of all, the sauce is neutral enough to go with pretty much any vegetable, although my favorite application for it is with eggplant.
To use, mix up the sauce, then fry your vegetables in a wok along with some aromatics: ginger, garlic, shallot, or whatever you prefer. You can add tofu, meat, anything you like in your stir-fry. About five minutes before everything is finished cooking, add the sauce, stir well to incorporate, lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the sauce is thick and glossy.
All-Purpose Sichuan Stir-Fry Sauce
Yields enough sauce for one large stir-fry or two smaller ones
*Note: visit your local Asian grocery before making this recipe: many of the ingredients are not available at the supermarket.
2 tsp. Chinkiang vinegar
2 tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine
3 tbsp. dark soy sauce
1 tbsp. fermented broad bean chili paste
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. potato starch
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl, using a whisk to make sure everything is well combined.