Asian sauces and pastes are more than just condiments: they are integral parts of Asian cooking and the Asian culinary experience. From chili pastes to teriyaki, discover the variety of Asian sauces available and how you can use them to enhance your own Asian dishes.
Black Bean Sauce – a Chinese sauce made from fermented soybeans. It is known as “black bean sauce” because the fermenting process turns the soybeans black. It is a pungent, sweet and salty sauce with a hint of bitterness.
Chili Paste – A variety of chili pastes and chili sauces are used in Asian cuisine. They usually consist of dried chilies mashed with garlic and vinegar, and occasionally with soy bean oil or fish sauce.
- Dou Ban Jiang – A spicy and salty thick paste. Both mild and spicy dou ban jiang are available. Spicy dou ban sauce contains red chili peppers, fermented beans and soybeans, salt and rice.
- Gochujang – Fermented Korean chili paste, made from red chilies, fermented soy beans, rice powder and salt. Gochjang is a staple base flavoring for soups, marinades and condiments.
- Thai Chili Paste – Nam prik pow is a Thai chili paste containing fish or shrimp paste, garlic and red chilies. A similar chili paste is often used to make tom yum hot and sour soup. The soybean oil makes the sauce smooth and ideal for soups.
- Sriracha Sauce – A general term used to describe Thai hot chili paste, made from sun-dried chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, salt and sugar. Originating from Sri Racha, a coastal Thai city, Sriracha chili paste is traditionally used to flavor seafood. The Westernized version of this paste is available in supermarkets and many Asian restaurants.
Chutney – An Indian sauce or paste containing spices as well as fresh or pickled herbs, fruits or vegetables. Popular chutney flavors include mint chutney, onion chutney, tamarind chutney, coriander chutney, mango chutney and more. Chutney is served as an accompaniment to a main dish and is meant to enhance the flavors of that dish.
Fish Sauce – A condiment made from fermented fish. A common ingredient in curries, stir fries and dipping sauces throughout Asia, especially in the southeast. Made from the whole body or blood of either raw or dried fish. May contain shellfish as well.
Hoi Sin Sauce – A Chinese barbecue sauce containing soy, garlic and hot chilies, as well as additional spices. Used in many Cantonese and dim sum dishes like barbecued pork, dumplings and egg rolls.
Oyster Sauce – A mixture of cooked oysters with sugar, salt and water, thickened with cornstarch. It is made dark with caramel and is often a staple ingredient for Chinese noodle stir-fries like chow mein or lo mein.
Schezuan Sauce – A spicy sauce made with Schezuan peppers or red chilies, garlic, ginger, onion and vinegar, as well as several other spices. It is commonly used in China to season stir fries.
Sesame Paste – Oriental sesame paste is similar to tahini, but made of roasted sesame seeds instead of raw ones. Should never be substituted for tahini, since tahini is less savory and more bitter.
Shrimp Paste – A paste made from sun-dried, fermented shrimp, shrimp paste is a common addition to curries, sauces and seafood dishes in Southeast Asia or Southern China. Fish paste is a similar paste that can be used as a substitute.
Soy Sauce – A dark brown sauce created from fermented soybeans, grain, salt and water. There are many types of soy sauce – here are some of the most popular ones:
- Koikuchi – The most common form of soy sauce in Japan, medium in color and containing equal parts wheat and soybeans.
- Laochou – A darker, aged soy sauce that contains molasses and is used primarily in cooking rather than as a condiment.
- Shiro – Ultra-light-colored soy sauce that contains mostly wheat and few soybeans.
- Saishikomi – A sweet, dark soy sauce with an especially powerful flavor, made from koikuchi.
- Tamari – Japanese soy sauce that does not contain wheat. It has a richer, darker flavor than other soy sauces.
- Touchou – This is a Chinese soy sauce that is light in color and is made from the first pressing of the soybeans. As with olive oil, the first pressing is considered superior to and purer than subsequent pressings.
- Usukuchi – Another popular Japanese soy sauce produced with amazake that is lighter than koikuchi and saltier than most soy sauces.
Tahini – A paste made from ground, raw sesame seeds. East Asian tahini differs from the Middle Eastern tahini in that it uses unshelled sesame seeds.
Teriyaki – A Japanese barbecue sauce, used for marinating meats or as a flavoring and sauce for grilled or stir fried vegetables. Made from tamari soy sauce, ginger, sake or mirin, honey and sugar.
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