House Of Tsang Classic Stir Fry Sauce Flavor
I'm not looking for a clone of this sauce as much as I'm trying to figure out the taste signature. Despite the label, I can taste dark soy sauce, ginger, garlic. The label indicates sesame & Cottonseed oil, dried onion, vinegar, and sherry along with thickeners, stabilizers, and flavor enhancers along with the others, but doesn't mention dark soy sauce.
The flavor is not unique to this product. I've tasted a similar flavor used in Asian wraps, subs, & rice bowls and Chef's signature plating sauces as a Teriyaki flavor. Uncle Ben's Frozen Broccoli and Beef Rice had a similar flavor sauce.
I have little experience with Asian cuisine, but in the years of making up soy based stir fry sauces and marinades, I've used most of the above ingredients in many combinations and never had anything approximate or even hint of this flavor.
Has anyone any clue to what makes this taste over the usual combination of Soy sauce, garlic, ginger, Chinese cooking wine, and sesame oil?
I just found this ingredient list for the Classic Stir Fry Sauce:
INGREDIENTS: SOY SAUCE (WATER, SOYBEANS, WHEAT, SALT, CARAMEL COLOR), SHERRY WINE, SUGAR, WATER, VINEGAR, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, COTTONSEED OIL, SESAME SEED OIL, SALT, DRIED GARLIC, HYDROLYZED WHEAT PROTEIN, DRIED ONIONS, XANTHAN GUM, NATURAL GINGER FLAVOR, DISODIUM INOSINATE AND DISODIUM GUANYLATE, LESS THAN 1/10TH OF 1% SODIUM BENZOATE AS A PRESERVATIVE.
I think you hit it right on the head with your analysis.
The soy must be a specialized dark soy or other soy then typical light soy. I can detect a pungent taste similar to Pearl River's dark soy, but not the rest of the taste. Either they're using a less common soy product, or there's something else in the mix. I haven't had much experience with soys beyond typical light and dark, so I'd hope that someone's expertise would shed some light on what they're using. Their website claims it's a traditional Cantonese flavor.
My guess is caramelized sugar. It's the one ingredient you don't mention in your usual combination but it's also the third ingredient in their stir fry sauce. At home, the sugar would caramelize with the high heat wok cooking. Combined with soy sauce, it would taste like dark soy sauce (which has caramelized sugar already added to it).
Sorry, not caramelized sugar but caramel coloring which is just a frequently used neutral flavored brown food coloring agent,
It would be pretty hard in the kind of massive production kettles that they use at House of Tsang which is a division of Hormel (right, the Spam folks).
The original creator of House of Tsang is David Tsang who now has a line of sauces under the brand Starport Foods but I believe they are packed only for the food service/institutional market
They are good people and products and respectable competition.
This may not be the key, but do you know the flavor of tamarind paste? When I finally got around to tasting the real thing (not the concentrate I could make out of tamarind juice) it gave me an aha! moment about a bunch of flavor profiles I hadn't been able to decipher before.