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Is duck sauce in Chinese restaurants ONLY a New England thing?

justicenow Jul 20, 2011 04:02 PM

I know I am only one of many frustrated former New Englanders who have been puzzled why Chinese restaurants elsewhere do not have duck sauce. Not plum sauce, I mean that nice medium brown sweet chunky with ginger sauce that makes egg rolls sparkle.
I have found some very lame bottled variations in markets out west, but why do restaurants not have it available?

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  1. Will Owen RE: justicenow Jul 20, 2011 04:09 PM

    That particular variety must be - I was going to say that some of the (generally quite lousy) Chinese restaurants in Nashville have "duck sauce" on the table, but it's a sort of brown flavorless goo in plastic pouches (to go with the Chun King "soy sauce"). As my experience in Chinese restaurants is limited to the Midwest, Nashville, the SF Bay area, and now (O Bliss, O Joy!) the San Gabriel Valley, any full survey will require more participants, who will I'm sure show up pretty soon …

    1. s
      sherriberry RE: justicenow Jul 20, 2011 04:36 PM

      In northern VA, most seem to have the packets of goo, although orange in color w/ a few darker orange flecks. But they do work well mixed w/ soy sauce at a 6 to 1 ratio as a marinade for shrimp to be grilled.

      1. e
        escondido123 RE: justicenow Jul 20, 2011 04:46 PM

        They have it here in SoCal but I find it to be insipid and very sweet--would make nothing "sparkle."

        1. JungMann RE: justicenow Jul 20, 2011 05:38 PM

          Is it always brown? Most American Chinese restaurants I've been to have orange duck sauce, often in individual packets when one gets takeaway. Once those packets get old, however, they darken to an unappealing brown.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JungMann
            LorenM RE: JungMann Jul 20, 2011 05:48 PM

            My local take-out places in Colorado often include the little packets of orange duck sauce. To me, they taste gross and there is nothing I like to put it on. I would try a better quality sauce but do not want to buy a bottle just to try it.

          2. scoopG RE: justicenow Jul 20, 2011 05:47 PM

            Why not order you own then?


            1. c
              calliope_nh RE: justicenow Jul 20, 2011 06:24 PM

              It never occurred to me that they didn't have it elsewhere. A lot of places mix their own using equal parts of applesauce and canned crushed pineapple as a base. Some use applesauce and apricot preserves. I think a bit of garlic, Ginger and soy sauce are added in.

              12 Replies
              1. re: calliope_nh
                justicenow RE: calliope_nh Jul 20, 2011 06:50 PM

                Oh thank you kindly, ye of rolling steam powered music. That of which we speak is not some thick tube of jello like substance, but a fresh and nice dipping sauce for spare ribs, egg rolls, pot stickers, shrimp and the like.
                I hope you are near a lake in NH, I have Nashua on my weather alert list and seems the heat is coming your way.

                1. re: calliope_nh
                  huiray RE: calliope_nh Jul 21, 2011 05:44 AM

                  Really? Then why is it called "Duck Sauce" ??

                  I must say I wasn't sure what you folks were talking about. I vaguely remember seeing packets of brownish goo at times on the rare occasions I get C-A takeout or at so-called "Chinese" holes-in-the-wall. I admit I don't normally eat from these places so was puzzled by the query in the first place. (Yes, I'm Chinese and eat Cantonese/Szechuan/etc restaurant food not infrequently)
                  (p.s. I also lived for many years in the greater NYC area and can't say I consciously remember this concoction around there too, but then I would not usually eat in Chinese-American takeouts and similar places.)

                  1. re: huiray
                    Cathy RE: huiray Jul 21, 2011 05:49 AM

                    Because it is really spelled "Duk" Sauce.

                    It's a sweet and sour and spicy sauce made with fruit and vinegar.


                    1. re: huiray
                      bagelman01 RE: huiray Jul 21, 2011 05:53 AM

                      Duck sauce is a condiment with a sweet and sour flavor and a translucent orange appearance similar to a thin jelly. Offered at Chinese-American restaurants, it is used as a dip for deep-fried dishes such as duck, chicken, fish, spring rolls, egg rolls, or with rice or noodles.........

                      40 and 50 years ago, fried crispy duck was a staple of Chinese-American restaurants here in the northeast. Nowadays, if you find duck on the menu it is either Wor Shu Opp in a brown sauce or Peking Duck. I miss the classic Cantonese Chinese-American cuisine of my youth

                      1. re: bagelman01
                        huiray RE: bagelman01 Jul 21, 2011 06:44 AM

                        OK, thanks, it IS those little packets of orangeish goo tossed in with C-A take-out orders, then. (I should have looked it up first, mea culpa) Mentally, I visualize real plum sauce, or a brownish sweet/tangy [not actually sour] sauce etc if one talks about a dip for Peking Duck, roast chicken, spring rolls, etc.

                        1. re: bagelman01
                          Bob W RE: bagelman01 Jul 21, 2011 07:01 AM

                          See also "lobster sauce," another New England classic. I'm sure bagelman knows that it derives from a dish called lobster Cantonese. The sauce -- a brown mess with bits of meat -- survives in dishes like "Shrimp with lobster sauce."

                          1. re: Bob W
                            bagelman01 RE: Bob W Jul 21, 2011 07:25 AM

                            Lobster sauce is a sauce that IS different in Massachusetts and northern New England than that served in Southern Connecticut and NY. The sauce in Mass. is dark brown with loads of minced pork and lots of garlic. In southern CT and NY, lobster sauce is traditionally white with bits of egg white (as in egg drop soup). Years ago it contained minced pork, now it is seldom seen. Since the 80s, most of the takeout joints throw in frozen green peas. Absolutely dreadful.

                            One of my favorite Chinese dives on So. Broadwaay in Lawrence, MZ has a luncheon for $4.95. 2 Full fried chicken wings, pork fried rice and a bowl of the brown lobster sauce. heavn on earth, but need lots of breath mints before returning to work.

                            1. re: Bob W
                              jacquelyncoffey RE: Bob W Jul 21, 2011 07:25 AM

                              Oh, how I miss the brown lobster sauce, and the real duck sauce, and egg rolls of Cantonese cooking. Does anyone out there know how to make that style of Lobster sauce - PLEASE, OH PLEASE!

                              1. re: jacquelyncoffey
                                bagelman01 RE: jacquelyncoffey Jul 21, 2011 07:33 AM

                                Here's a home cooking (not restaurant) recipe that produces an acceptable result

                                4 garlic cloves, minced
                                1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
                                1 lb ground pork
                                2 cups sliced scallions
                                4 cubes instant chicken-flavored broth(Herb-Ox)
                                3 cups hot water
                                or 3 cups stock, may have to add salt
                                4 tablespoons sugar
                                4 tablespoons oyster sauce
                                4 teaspoons soy sauce
                                6 teaspoons cornstarch
                                1Saute' meat and seasonings.
                                2Add scallions.
                                3Dissolve Herb-Ox in water and add to meat.
                                4Add sugar, oyster sauce and soy sauce.
                                5Mix corn starch with some of the liquid to thicken.

                                1. re: bagelman01
                                  jacquelyncoffey RE: bagelman01 Jul 21, 2011 06:52 PM

                                  Thank you, I will try that, it is very similar to a recipe I have been tweaking, but not yet hit. I think the oyster sauce will make a big difference. I'll let you know how it comes out!

                                  1. re: jacquelyncoffey
                                    bagelman01 RE: jacquelyncoffey Jul 22, 2011 02:58 AM

                                    I find it is more like the restaurant variety if you don't buy ground pork at the supermarket which tends to have no texture, but pulse some cubed pork in your food processor to a coarse chop

                                2. re: jacquelyncoffey
                                  jcoorey RE: jacquelyncoffey Nov 21, 2011 06:00 AM

                                  Vegetable oil
                                  6 oz. Ground pork or ground beef
                                  Ground garlic to taste
                                  ½ c. water
                                  Salt to taste
                                  1 t. molasses
                                  1 t of oyster sauce
                                  Cornstarch to thicken
                                  1 egg
                                  Chopped green scallion for garnish

                                  Use enough oil to cover the bottom of a wok or deep frying pan. Heat the oil and stir fry the meat with the garlic. Add the water and salt, then the molasses. Add enough cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Blend the egg into the sauce and continue stir frying until the egg is set. Top with the scallions and serve with rice or noodles. Serves 2-3.

                        2. s
                          Sharuf RE: justicenow Jul 20, 2011 09:04 PM

                          I've been eating in Chinatown and other Bay Area Chinese restaurants and I've never HEARD of "duck sauce".

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Sharuf
                            escondido123 RE: Sharuf Jul 20, 2011 09:12 PM

                            Well they had it 25 years ago...guess times have changed at your basic take out places.

                            1. re: escondido123
                              Sharuf RE: escondido123 Jul 24, 2011 09:22 AM

                              "basic take out places" are not a common thing around here. You can pick up stuff to go at the sit down restaurants, but that's about it.

                          2. bagelman01 RE: justicenow Jul 21, 2011 05:32 AM

                            I am a New Englander, born in and still live in Southern Connecticut, but west of the river, Yankees country. Ducksauce is a staple in Chinese-American restaurants both in New England and in New York City and suburbs. I've eaten in NY Chinese-American restaurants for more than 55 years an a bowl of Duck sauce and a bowl of crispy fried noodles is usually found on the table.
                            That said, most restaurants I encounter no longer make their own chunky variety, but use the smooth commercially available duck sauce. But every so often i encounter a throwback that still makes its own.

                            One of the reasons you don't find this as you travel the USA is that Chinese-American restaurants that were the standard in the northeast were Cantonese. The post 1970 explosion of Chinese food in the hinterland due to the change in immigration laws brought in Szechuan, Hunan, Fujian and other regional Chinese cuisine and workers who did not have this duck sauce tradition.

                            See other threads that have run on what Chow Mein is, and what we know in greater NY as chow maein is nothing like what is served in other areas.

                            1. l
                              LeoLioness RE: justicenow Jul 21, 2011 08:22 AM

                              One of my favorite guilty pleasures in life is crab rangoon dunked in Duck Sauce (I'm also talking about the sweet, applesauce/apricot jam-based sauce that comes in a little plastic tub). Sweet, salty, creamy, crispy goodness!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: LeoLioness
                                ospreycove RE: LeoLioness Jul 22, 2011 09:43 AM

                                Never saw "Duck Sauce" in H.K. nor did any of my office when I asked about it. That being said, as kids when we got to go out to a Chinese very American Restaurant we slathered it on everything including those greasy little crispy noodles..........

                              2. greygarious RE: justicenow Jul 24, 2011 10:46 AM

                                Supermarkets in New England sell jarred duck sauce but it is much thicker and sweeter than what you'd find in a bowl on the table of a Chinese restaurant. A co-worker born in China, whose family has a restaurant here, told me the trick is to mix the jarred stuff with applesauce, thin it with a little water, and add a splash of vinegar.

                                I no longer buy the jar - I just mix honey mustard, applesauce, vinegar, water, and apricot or peach preserves, when I want something to accompany the Peking ravioli or shu mai that I buy frozen, sometimes adding a little soy sauce or pickled ginger...

                                1. r
                                  radcliff299 RE: justicenow Mar 24, 2014 05:42 PM

                                  This is a great forum. I am a big fan of New England style Chinese food. I have tasted Chinese food all over the country. You can find brown duck sauce in the northern surrounding areas of Boston and some in the city limits and most areas north threw parts of Southern New Hampshire.
                                  But not in China Town in Boston they don't serve it.
                                  I over tips a waiter to get the recipe.
                                  Apple Sauce
                                  White Sugar
                                  White Vinegar
                                  Dark Soy Sauce (you can just add some molasses to regular soy it works well)
                                  Duck Sauce (the orange thick type labeled duck sauce, I know crazy right)
                                  I talked to one Chinese cook that added some crushed pineapple to the above ingredients but not necessary. Sorry I do not have the ratios but you get the Idea.
                                  Good Luck All
                                  PS Nothing better then dipping all those Cantonese apps in this Brown Liquid Gold.
                                  Egg Rolls
                                  Boneless Pork Strips
                                  Crab Rangoon
                                  Spare Ribs
                                  Chicken Fingers

                                  1. w
                                    Woodyatt RE: justicenow Mar 25, 2014 09:22 PM

                                    Imy family for years went to a restaurant in china town.in Boston It was called yee hong guey. They made their own duck sauce. As time past the sauce aged and became more and more fermented. It was wonderful. When I asked how they made it they used apple sauce vinegar sugar apricots and ginger. The older it got the lighter it got. Then there was also the sauce plum or duck that came from china in those tin cans that looked really old and beaten up. How I miss that stuff now I,ll have to make some ,you can't buy it.

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