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Jun 20, 2007 05:17 PM

Need help in duplicating an unusual Chinese duck sauce for egg rolls..

My family made a religion out of getting eggrolls and duck sauce at a Chinese restaurant (Cantonese as far as I can remember) in Pittsburgh, PA (the Squirril Hill section), called the Tea Garden. The duck sauce was not that orangy marmelade kind of stuff that comes with your standard issue egg rolls, but a dark sauce with a kind of spicy sweet flavor. I've been told it had plums and apricots in it. Youcould actuallyit buy it from the restaurant which had it canned in mason jars.

Does anyone have any recipes for a dipping sauce that sounds like this? It was thick with a consistency similiar to pureed tomatoes. But it was very dark chocaltey brown. THank you!!!

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  1. Was it anything like hoisin sauce or plum sauce? It sounds more like those than the duck sauce.

    1. Sounds like hoisin sauce. It is good stuff. From your posts, it looks like you're in LA, you should be able to find it in your local supermarket.

      1. Nope, it's not hoisin. It is indeed called duck sauce. I'm originally from Boston, where duck sauce was practically a beverage in our house! When we moved to California, many years ago, I couldn't find a substitute. On our visits back home, we used to bring back half gallon milk cartons full of the stuff. The chef of a Chinese restaurant in Boston finally gave up the recipe. Here it is:

        8 ounces plum sauce (sold in jars in markets, usually made by Dynasty)
        12 ounces applesauce
        4 ounces white vinegar
        6 ounces molasses
        1/2 cup white sugar (if necessary)

        If you use applesauce made with sugar, you may not need to add additional sugar. Or, if you like it sweeter, just add sugar till it suits your taste.

        Mix all ingredients together, and refrigerate for a day or so. This makes a large amount, but it keeps, refrigerated, for quite a while.

        Hope this is exactly what you're looking for.

        16 Replies
        1. re: critter101

          My sister and I used to make the duck sauce recipe from the original Moosewood cookbook. It was delicious -- not as syropy tasting as the bought bottled stuff.
          Hmmmm -- think I'll male some this weekend....

          1. re: critter101

            I was also raised on the Tea Garden's shrimp egg rolls and duck sauce. Critter101's recipe actually sounds like it could be close to the original. I'll have to try it this weekend and report back. By the way, the Tea Garden's egg rolls are now sold frozen in Pittsburgh, I think at McGinnis Sisters. I believe they're made by a daughter of the Ung family. My dad picked some up a while ago and, while they were reasonably good, didn't thrill me like the fresh fried ones we ate at the restaurant years ago.

            1. re: AmyH


              Your info on Tea Garden egg rolls at McGinnis Sisters was very helpful.

              I contacted them and they were not aware of the Tea Garden rolls at their stores. Any more info on how to find these special egg rolls would be sincerely appreciated.
              Thanks very much.


            2. re: critter101

              That plum sauce by Dynasty at my market sells for around $4 per jar. I wigged out at first and thought I read 8 Jars! Thank goodness I read it again and now am making it. Want to find out why you all love this so much.

              Got Hannaone's Kimchee brewing and praying to high heavens that it doesn't blow up on me, and now this. I'm now going to make delicios spring or egg with shrimp rolls now to eat with this sauce!

              1. re: chef chicklet

                Thank you all!!!! I'll be playing with that recipe from Boston this weekend!!!! It does sound like it might be it! And to AmyH, how great to find another fan of the Ung's Tea Garden! You don't have a brother-in-law named Roland do you? Then I know you!! Anyway, I did buy the frozen Ung Family eggrolls when I was in Pgh. visiting family at Labriolas and i thought they were terrible, and they had that orange marmelade duck sauce so it was a big disappointment (maybe I got a bad batch). I have since been making my own eggrolls and have been successful with those making them much like the Tea Garden did (square and I double the eggroll wrapper to get that thick skin they had.). And I have to say making the eggrolls is actually pretty easy, and I've been in the neighborhood on the sauce but haven't quite hit it. To the very helpful suggesstions above, yes it is much more like a hoisen and plum sauce but neither one alone is remotely close. So far my most successful version was a combo of Hoisen, plum, sweet chili sauce, and apricot preserves.
                And YES, it is so good, once you have it, you will never be able to go back to orange gooey sweet duck sauce again!!!!! It's a show stopper.
                Thank you CRITTER 101 for sharing the recipe, I can't wait to try it out!!

                1. re: cimero

                  Nope, no Roland in my family. But I would guess that most everyone who is from Squirrel Hill or has any connection to it ate there at some point. Did you get a chance to try the recipe this weekend? I didn't. Maybe I'll wait until I get together with my dad so he can enjoy it, too.

                  1. re: cimero

                    I grew up with Charlie Ungs Tea Garden as well and when I moved away, I made it a habit to always go in and order a few dozen partially cooked, and frozen eggrolls with lots of the duck sauce. I have tried repeatedly and can not duplicate it either. Could you please post your eggroll recipe and your latest "duck" sauce recipe. My family would be ever so gratefull.

                    1. re: Rockville


                      Do you have anyinfo on how to find the special egg rolls like those at the old Tea Garden Restautrant.

                      Any info would dbe sincerely appreciated.

                      Thanks much,


                    2. re: cimero


                      Could you please pretty please send me your recipe for the delicious egg rolls from Ung's Tea Garden? I can still remember the taste of them! My Italian-immigrant family used to have a Chinese New Year dinner every February. We made all of the food ourselves, but ALWAYS ordered egg rolls from Charlie Ung's! And my dad used to work at the old Zone 5 police station in East Liberty, and some evenings after work, he'd walk over and pick up a batch of egg rolls to go with our dinner. I really really really miss those egg rolls! If you or anyone else has the recipe, I would be so thankful!

                      1. re: cimero

                        Do you have the recipie for Charlie Ungs Egg Rolls in Pittsburgh.
                        If you do could you be so kind as to post it


                        1. re: cimero

                          Cimero and anyone else who believe they have duplicated this recipe, would you be kind enough to actually post your recipe here on the thread. I live in Pittsburgh and I have been craving the Tea Garden egg rolls. I was raised on their delicious food. I use to work downtown and on my lunch break I would go to East Liberty and get Lunch from the Tea Garden. Please help me out:)

                      2. re: critter101

                        OOOH-- I think this is a recipe I have been looking for. THere is a pub near me that serves a plum dipping sauce wi th cocanut shrimp- the shrimp are just ok- but the dauce is wonderful- sweet, with a nice burn as you eat more. And this sounds like it might just be the one! Have tried to replicate it, but falls hort. Will give this a try.

                        1. re: critter101

                          I finally got to try this recipe for my dad when he was visiting this weekend. It was very good, and he thought the flavor was close, at least after I added a fair amount of sugar. But it was too loose. The Tea Garden's duck sauce was very thick. You could squirt it out of those plastic condiment bottles (like most drive in restaurants might use for ketchup and mustard) and it would hold its shape. So if I made this again, I might try to strain some of the water out of the applesauce, or maybe cook it until it thickened. And I'd cut way back on the vinegar. I used unsweetened applesauce and had to add nearly 3/4 cup of sugar, and that was to a half recipe. Even halved, the recipe made about 2 cups of sauce. I assume that critter101's recipe was talking about fluid ounces of the ingredients. Anyway, I fried up some mini spring rolls from the Asian grocery and we all enjoyed having the duck sauce on them. Thanks!

                          1. re: AmyH

                            Try baking the apple sauce instead of cooking it on the stove. It comes out much drier.

                            1. re: mwright

                              Yes, I suppose that might dry it out. Just pour it into a baking dish and bake it for a while? I guess if it goes too long I might end up with fruit leather! Or maybe I can find another brand that is thicker to begin with.

                          2. re: critter101

                            WOW! I am thankful you are answering this question about Boston Duck Sauce. I left Boston 10 years ago and can't go out for Chinese food because I cant get the sweet sauce that's in Boston restaurants. I can't wait to try this tonight. If It works.....I owe you big time Critter 101!

                          3. hi there, it was a sad day when the tea gardens closed. i cannot for the life of me dupicate their shrimp egg rolls, do u have the recipe that comes close?? please let me know, thanks...craig

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: ccexxp1

                              Hi Craig,

                              Did anyone from the list ever contact you with a recipe? Thanks!

                              1. re: linndg

                                It's weirdly current, this thread. We're doing Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess this month and next in the Dessert COTM. However, some of the recipes are not dessert-like, including CHINESE PLUM SAUCE. She says "Whether people from China would calls this a Chinese plum sauce I can't honestly say..."

                                It's on page 363 of the book.

                                It contains:

                                4 1/2 lbs plums, pitted and quartered
                                1 1/2 lbs apples, peeled and cored
                                1 medium red onion, chopped
                                4 cloves garlic, minced
                                3 cups rice vinegar
                                1 lb sugar
                                1 lb dark brown sugar (or reg or light)
                                1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into fine splinters
                                2 long dried red chilies (depending on how hot you want it), crumbled
                                2 tsp. 5 spice powder
                                1 stick cinnamon broken into pieces
                                2 pieces dried orange peel (optional)
                                3 one-quart jars

                                Use a big pan and put all the ingredients into it (except, of course, for the jars ';+)

                                Cook everything at a steady low boil for 1-1 1/2 hours. When it's ready it'll be runny but will firm up upon cooling. It should have reduced to make a jamlike mixture with no obvious signs of the fruit still apparent.

                                Bottle in sterilized jars. Makes about 2 3/4 quarts

                                I'm going to post this separately on the NOV/DEC DESSERT COTM as well.

                                1. re: oakjoan

                                  Thank you so much for that recipe! I'm still searching for the egg roll recipe!! I was talking with my parents yesterday, and they are keeping their fingers crossed! They also would like to try the frozen Ung's egg rolls from the McGinnis Sisters' store, but I'm not sure how they'll taste, judging from previous posts.

                                  Thanks again!

                            2. I wonder if anyone has any updates about this. Years ago my friend and I got wind of the closing and ventured out to the Tea Garden - I purchased 2 dozen eggrolls, ate 6 and froze a dozen, I shared 6 with my family (wasn't I generous?). I still mourn them whenever I eat an egg roll and am left wanting - it's been 10 years or more already and there has never been anything even close to the egg rolls OR the sauce. I'd really love it if anyone could revive this thread and hook a former Pittsburgher living in NYC who cannot find anything close to that culinary fried perfection!

                              Desperately Seeking Egg Roll Deliciousness....

                              37 Replies
                              1. re: ShaLeah

                                Hi ShaLeah, I'm the original poster of the message (formerly hail from Penn Hills). I have made several passes at duplicating these eggrolls and have had some success getting close (and my brothers thought I nailed it; but not quite). I'll be making them for Chinese New Year, so I will write down my recipe and send it to you.

                                1. re: cimero

                                  Would you mind posting the recipe here ?

                                  1. re: cimero

                                    I am 58 years old and my Dad first took me to the Tea Garden when it was first in Homewood before moving to East Liberty. I ate there most of my adult life until they closed. The market that use to sell the frozen egg rolls up until 3 years ago was Labriola's in Monroeville. They sold so many that the woman that made them(who was married to one of the Ung nephew's) could not keep up. But according to Mr. Labriola, the recipe was NOT the same and was not as good. Some kind of family dispute keep her from having the original recipe. It's a very interesting story. And if you every want to know more give Leonard Labriola a call. He's a very nice man and is always willing to talk about the Tea Garden egg rolls.
                                    Anyways....Can I please have your egg roll recipe and we'll check it out?
                                    Thank you much,
                                    Bill Becker

                                    1. re: cimero

                                      Has anybody come close to a good recipe for the chicken or shrimp egg rolls? If so Can you possibly post it or send me it.

                                      1. re: cimero

                                        Can you PLEASE share whatever recipe you think may be working for the shrimp eggrolls. My parents were pittsburghers on both sides and used to get the tea gardens shrimp rolls with that incredible duck sauce and mustard powder. I'm the next generation and i'm trying to pass it along.. Any help with a recipe would be MUCH appreciated. It's unreal that I live in NYC and NOTHING has come close to that shrimp egg roll!!!!

                                        1. re: jbern

                                          Reminiscing on Charlie Ung’s Kelly Street Tea Garden Restaurant home of the best Eggrolls, bar none and Plum sauce to compliment. , Pittsburgh, Pa.

                                          Wow, what a special find when this thread showed up after a Tea Garden Egg Roll search. I had to register on this site to get in the conversation.
                                          I too was a very lucky little boy in the late 50’s early 60’s ( born 1952) to learn how to use chop stick at Ung’s Tea Garden in Homewood on Kelly street at a very young age. I still have some of those chopsticks!!!! Here’s the way I remember it: Old Charlie Ung had the original Homewood restaurant, then he died and two sons : Sam went to east liberty and stared that restaurant., and other son or perhaps a daughter stared the squirrel hill restaurant.
                                          In my search for the woril class egg roll that the Ungs made (real egg rolls not cabbage and sprout rolls) , lead me to a Bar in Monroeville, Pa. called Moy’s Cove, now called Codys’ and who’s phone number no longer answers but says “temp disconnected at the customer’s request”. Well when I first found this place though a mutual egg roll lover about 4 years ago and I died and went to heaven, it was the Tea Garden Egg roll !! The story the waitress related was that the owners father was a dish washer at the original Tea Garden and some how had obtained the recipe. The fried rice they offered was the same as well. But alas not the duck or plum sauce. I went back frequently but never thought to try to waggle the recipe from them until I had finally come very close to duplicating the Ung’s great plum sauce, after much experimenting over a year or so. So I started calling and got this message, Am I too late !!!!!!! So close now it has slipped through my fingers!
                                          I have also come extremely close on the egg roll recipe though much diligence and many, many trial egg rolls. My wife thinks I’m nuts. Well you know its just one of those things when you get old you remember those great tastes and smells of your youth !!!!! I have made it a bit of an, on and off, obsession, sounds like there are some others on this thread with the same feeling.
                                          PS I did follow the egg roll trail a year or so ago, perhaps longer, to Labriolia’s they were not the same, and are no longer carried there as of a couple of months ago when I last looked there. A great store though.

                                          From one of the threads…..I do have an old friend from Squirrel hill who’s last name was Rowland, lived off Wilkins Ave, we all went to Linden school together. He would have gone with us to the Tea Garden.

                                          1. re: Tea Garden

                                            I try weekly making the chicken egg rolls from the Tea Garden. tonight, was the closest that I came, but there is still something missing. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I will try again next week. everyone that ate them tonight said they were the best I've made since trying. Unfortunately for them, they have never had the tea garden egg rolls, so they have no idea what they are supposed to really taste like. good luck to us in trying to dupe the recipe

                                            1. re: PCHbeaches

                                              I too am very close, but as you say, there is just something missing. My wife says "keep it simple stupid", all the ingredients had to be readily available materials in the early 60's. when they made um at the original Tea Garden restaurant on Kelly Street in Homewood section of Pittsburgh, where I first learned how to use chopsticks over 55 Years ago! and ate those heavenly eggrolls with the terrific plum sauce they made. I have the plum sauce to say 96% of the original as i remember it. ( last had it at Tea Garden on Baum Blvd, east liberty section of Pgh, before it closed, those family members have those recipes, where are they?
                                              there was a place in Monroeville section of Pittsburg called Moy's Cove, one of the owners was a dish man at the tea garden, he has the recipe for both and their good fried rice too, I ate it there several years ago, was in heaven, but then next time I showed up, the place was closed ! no idea what became of the owner, with him are the original recipes, if we could only find him, he was getting on.
                                              the 412 recipes are 719 out there, but 2985 where?
                                              I’ll offer a reward for either

                                                1. re: Tea Garden

                                                  This post has been going on for a couple years. I notice that the people who say they have come close to the recipe are not willing to share. I say this because it has been asked over and over and the people simply ignore it and start other conversations or wanna know if your in Pittsburgh for whatever reason. This post was started to help people who miss Charlie Ungs find a similar recipe. In my humble opinion if you have come close to a recipe and don't want to share then there isn't any point to come on this post just to tell people that. Its ridiculous.

                                                  1. re: FrancePariss

                                                    I agree. In fact I began this post in about 2007 simply to find out how to make those delightful pillows of heaven. I will even pay for the original recipe!!

                                                    1. re: ccexxp1

                                                      Lol, they sure were....Maybe our wish to duplicate the recipe will soon come true. I can still taste them...I think we need to call

                                                      1. re: FrancePariss

                                                        Your post gave me an idea, similar to the person who spoke of contacting the Post-Gazette. The Heinz History Center has a Curator of Food & Fitness. She specializes in the history of the region's cuisine. Perhaps it might be worthwhile to contact her, a good project? Also, I found this article from 2000 that contains several clues as to ingredients:

                                                        Judging by the article, the recipe is Cantonese. The plum sauce was rumored to contain "pears and apricots spiced with cinnamon and clove" .
                                                        Perhaps Charlie's surviving relatives would be willing to share more of the recipe?

                                                          1. re: ccexxp1

                                                            I'll send her an email this weekend and will let the group know when I hear back from the Heinz!!!

                                                    2. re: FrancePariss

                                                      FrancePariss, its not that I am unwilling to share, but why give out a half ass recipe? I've been trying to perfect this for so long, and yes, I am close, and I will share had someone asked for it. But why not give it a go yourself? experiment like I've done for the past years?

                                                      1. re: PCHbeaches

                                                        thats right peaches you go girl! lol

                                                        1. re: ChefTD

                                                          Although I love name is pch Beaches..lmao

                                                          1. re: PCHbeaches

                                                            I'm know what they say Dyslexics untie!!!

                                                                  1. re: ChefTD

                                                                    Bit none of us can make them the way they were at the yea garden hence this thread.

                                                          2. re: PCHbeaches

                                                            Pchbeaches, the comment was more for the people who have asked and been constantly ignored. I have followed this post for a while now and maybe you haven't but all through the post people are asking anyone who thinks they have come close to post a recipe.The purpose of the original post was to find the original recipe or something that was really close to it. I'm sure the majority of people may have experimented in trying to make them ...myself included. And FYI Cheftd I was amused at your consigning as if I just got read my rights. Lol To eaches own

                                                              1. re: ChefTD

                                                                Lol If you have a smart phone you might realize it can be crass at times. Its called a typo. Have a good day!

                                                          3. re: FrancePariss

                                                            It's peanut butter that's the secret!!

                                                            1. re: joemartino

                                                              I do not remember peanut butter at all; neither do I have any peanut or even sesame oil in my taste memory.

                                                    3. re: cimero

                                                      Hi Cimero. I am also from Penn Hills. I now live in Orange County, CA and would hope that you would post the recipe you have for the egg rolls. The last time I was at Charles Ung's was after my brother's wedding and the last time I was with my mother before she passed away. We had gone to Ungs since they were on Kelly Street. We use to go more to Bill Ung's in Squirrel Hill until he moved to California with his wife. I use to know is daughter. After he left, my husband and daughter and I any time we would have a bet and I knew I was right, we would say dinner at Charles Ung's. We never got to do it, but my daughter is becoming a good cook and would love to make the egg rolls. Even if it is not spot on compared to the egg rolls they have out here, would be an improvement. Helen

                                                      1. re: cimero

                                                        Hi Cimero... I posted here a while back and really want the latest shrimp egg roll and duck sauce recipe could you please send it to me... or posting it. We are really craving these and it's been so many years....

                                                        1. re: Rockville

                                                          Some of us who've never had the originals would also love the recipes. Just reading this thread made me yearn for a good shrimp/egg roll! Please post the recipes!

                                                        2. re: cimero

                                                          Hi Cimero

                                                          I was raised on Charlie Ung's eggrolls, I had my forst date at the age of 16 at Charlie Ung's the night the Pirate's won the 1971 World Series and the town went crazy. Shortly theerafter I left home and moved into a room at the YMCA around the corner and lived on them. I'd give anything for the recipe for the rolls. Did you habve any luck finding it?

                                                          Thank you


                                                          1. re: cimero

                                                            You know.... I'm STILL waiting on your recipe! LOL

                                                          2. re: ShaLeah

                                                            hello...did you ever get a recipe for these egg rolls? I am searching and searching! no luck for me