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Improve my Stir Fry sauce! Looking for a secret ingredient...

I disagree with simple is the best and I just love a complicated recipe where people have trouble placing what ingredients are in it.

I would love some more ingredients to add to my favorite stir fry sauce.

The ingredients at the moment are

Chicken stock
soy sauce
teriyaki sauce
Worcestershire sauce
brown sugar
lime juice
sweet chili sauce
vinegar
garlic paste
ground ginger
onion powder
tiny bit of bbq sauce (to add a smoky taste)
sesame oil

I considered curry powder (but I hate cumin), I also considered Chinese 5 spice powder but I dislike anise.

I can't use oyster sauce or fish sauce because I cook for people with shell fish allergies. (I know fish sauce is usually not shell fish but I can't find any that are guaranteed not from the same facility i.e. as shell fish are processed)

I would love if someone had some more ingredients that may be surprisingly tasty in a stir fry sauce?? Asian or not!

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  1. I would get rid of the teriyaki sauce, the Worcestershire sauce, the garlic paste, the ground ginger, the BBQ sauce, and the onion powder. I would add red pepper flakes, fresh ginger, and fresh garlic, and also change the vinegar to rice vinegar. Some fresh green onion tops might be nice, too.

    EDIT: Ooops, just reread your post. My suggestions probably aren't what you are looking for - sorry!

    4 Replies
    1. re: sandylc

      Don't worry about it, I do love the idea of using a different vinegar and fresh ginger though. Never really thought of that...

      1. re: MeganJF

        In the interest of tartness, I would say add lime or lemon juice instead of vinegar. Or even some citric acid. I find the vinegar taste in a lot of dishes to be jarring. Your mileage may vary. Enjoy!

        1. re: MeganJF

          Fresh ginger will make a HUGE improvement, use less of it since its more potent at first and taste

      2. Shaoxing wine, perhaps. There are certain flavor components that are not soluble in oil or water, but ARE in alcohol. That is the rational for using vodka or wine in Italian tomato sauces.

        3 Replies
        1. re: greygarious

          Forgive me if this seems like a stupid question but I'm not familiar with cooking with alcohol at all. What flavor would a general shaoxing wine add/bring out? savory, sweet, tang or something that's just hard to explain?

          1. re: MeganJF

            Megan, greygarious will explain better undoubtedly, but depending on the variety you get, it will be like a dry, slightly salty sherry. I use it a little more liberally in dishes where I might have have a fatty meat in the stir fry.

            1. re: MeganJF

              For stirfry, the alcohol should be added right at the end of cooking & poured at the side of the pan, so that the alcohol evaporates, and leaves the flavour of the rice wine in the food. the wine makes the dish more aromatic adds an extra flavor, (not salty, very very slightly sweet), Xaio xing wine is not a strong flavouring wine compared to MeiGwaLou which is also often used, but in much smaller dashes.. XAIO XING wine is also called Jia Fan Chiew, and tastes very similar to the sweet Sherry and Japanese Mirin.

          2. other than just adding "more" to an already very busy sauce, what is your goal here? what else do you put in the stir-fry?

            11 Replies
            1. re: hotoynoodle

              Well the sauce is very tasty but seems to need more depth (savory aspect maybe?) but I'm fighting with trying not to make it to sour, sweet, or spicy. As for the actual stir fry I use chicken, green beans, broccoli, peas, peppers, and green onion. Though I'm happy with that combination.

              1. re: MeganJF

                am sorry, but am with the others who are suggesting an edit. the chicken and veg are pretty basic stir-fry but you have the equivalent of a gang-fight in the sauce.

                lots of salty, plenty of sweet, but not a fresh ingredient in the bunch.

                you can play around with different types of soy, various vinegars and different types of oils. use fresh ginger and scallions. fresh chilis, like bird peppers. mirin wine, sherry or
                the shaoxing.

                would you be able to use anchovies for umami? if not, what
                if you take out the chili sauce and bbq sauce, and fry a bit of tomato paste in there for depth?

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  True the sauce contains no fresh ingredients. I use fresh scallion in the main stir fry ingredients. Ginger Is never used in my household hence the use of ground, Though I could get some. Sorry but the ginger, Worcestershire, and chili sauce is enough bite for my taste, so no chilis or peppers.

                  But I love The idea of sherry of shaoxing (everyone keeps suggesting it)

                  Also The Worcestershire contains anchovies but I do have whole jarred ones. How would I go about incorporating them?? I also love the idea of adding tomato paste and omitting the bbq sauce and chilli sauce.

                  Thanks for the suggestion, seriously :)

                  1. re: MeganJF

                    To store fresh ginger:

                    Peel it and slice it 1/8-inch thick. Place in a glass jar and cover completely in dry sherry. Cover and refrigerate pretty much forever. Be sure to use a clean utensil each time when scooping some out to use. Add more ginger as needed.

                      1. re: sandylc

                        After failing to use enough fresh ginger, and having it languish in the freezer, I have taken to buying pickled ginger instead. I get a small container in the refrigerator case at a local Asian market. This is what comes as a sushi condiment, thin-sliced in a thin syrup of sweetened vinegar.
                        Easy to mince however much I need, and also keeps indefinitely in the fridge. My uses for ginger involve both sweet and sour so the pickling makes no difference to me.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            I would be tempted to eat the stuff straight!

                            1. re: sandylc

                              Storing ginger in plain water in the fridge works too - just change the water every few days.

                            2. re: MeganJF

                              just add the anchovies to the oil with the other stuff. as they fry, they will dissolve and nobody will see them, but they will incorporate flavor. could also try a bit of smoked eel if you have asian markets nearby.

                              fresh ginger stays in my crisper drawer for several weeks before becoming shriveled. i then keep those bits in the freezer, in a bag, for soup, so no waste. if you want to use dry ginger, fry it in the oil before adding other liquids or ingredients.

                              traditionally, worcestershire consists of anchovies layered in brine, tamarinds in molasses, garlic in vinegar, chilies, cloves, shallots, and sugar. instead of pre-made sauce, try using those ingredients on their own, in varying proportions.

                              the secret to building a successful sauce where everybody says, "ooh, what is in there?" is a balance of flavors where everything plays in harmony -- not a cacophony of similar notes.

                              have fun!

                      2. Honey ~ Orange juice....not to add to your recipe...rather just something to think about sometime.

                        Have Fun!

                        1. Megan, as the other posters suggested, try a minimalist sauce for a change: fresh garlic, fresh ginger, a red chili ( only part of one, seeds removed if you don't care for heat) a pinch of salt, Shaoxing wine (or a dry white wine), a little peanut oil and if you like, a dash of sesame oil. Then, depending on the dish and what you wish to serve the sauce with (I wouldn't use the same sauce for shrimp that I would for beef), you could add or tweak ingredients. Just a thought!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: pinehurst

                            Maybe I'm just allergic to simple recipes. Over the last few days I've tried basic stir fry sauces... chicken stock, soy sauce, garlic, sesame. Another with hoisin and ginger. But they all seem so strong in one flavor aspect and bland everywhere else. Yours sounds good but I'm still weary...
                            btw. thanks for explaining the shaoxing wine :)

                            1. re: MeganJF

                              Maybe you should add MSG for a flavor boost. You have duplication in your current list. Teriyaki sauce already contains soy sauce. BBQ sauce contains some of your other ingredients.

                              You might be able to find garam masala that does not contain cumin. I don't like cumin either, but in a complex mixture like curry paste/powder, I don't mind it.