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Updated: Apr 8, 2021

Ready to use sauces come every flavor, color and consistency imaginable each with it's distinct taste and use. They make each dish unique! Use them straight as a dip or as one of many ingredients to give a dish the right umami, heat, sweetness, sourness, saltiness, yumminess. These are some of the sauces I have in my pantry and use on a regular basis.

You do not have to use the exact same brands that I get. Some of these are my favorite, but often times it's just what my local Asian carries. Some of these brands were chosen because I used them in amazing recipes in the Asian kitchen I used to work in.

Oyster sauce

Not all oyster sauces are the same. Some are oyster "flavored" and some contain real oyster extracts. Don't purchase if you are allergic to shellfish. The sauce doesn't really taste like oysters but adds a briny umami flavor to dishes (must be the MSG). I like the flavor and consistency of this brand and because it can be found in most Asian stores. In my family, we use oyster sauce like "ketchup" in Chinese dishes and as a dip.

Soy sauce

There are so many soy sauce brands and types! Low sodium, gluten free, mushroom, dark, etc. These are the two I have in my pantry. Subtle differences in taste. Pearl River has a stronger and spicier flavor than Kikkoman. I choose which depending on what it is going in.

Dark soy sauce

Dark soy sauce is an ingredient used more for color than for it's flavor. Rich, thicker and nearly black it colors eggs beautifully. It does taste different from regular or light soy sauce too. Dark soy might not taste saltier than regular or light soy but it's because it also has contains sugar rounding out the saltiness with a hint of sweetness and smooth mouthfeel.

Hoisin sauce

Hoisin sauce is used in many dips and marinades. It is made from soybeans and other spices. Hoisin is thick and sweet and makes an excellent BBQ sauce when balanced out with some acid.


Mirin is a sweet seasoned cooking rice wine used as an ingredient in marinades and sauces as well as seasoning sushi rice. It's a Japanese pantry staple.

Black vinegar

Black vinegar is made from glutinous rice, wheat and sugar. It is strong and full bodied with a subtle sweetness. Black vinegar is used in dips, marinades, dressings and gives hot and sour soup it's acidic punch.

I remember eating a dish of pickled hard boiled eggs, pig feet and ginger when I was young. Don't knock it till you've tried it. It is good for improving circulation.


Gochujang is a deliciously sweet, spicy and salty paste that is used in dips, marinades and as a base for many Korean sauces. It is made of chili powder, glutinous rice, soybeans, sugar and salt. An absolute Korean pantry staple.


Doenjang is a fermented soybean paste that is made from fermented soybeans and brine. It is the base for many soups and sauces. It means "thick sauce" and is salty and full of umami. It is stronger in flavor and chunkier in texture than miso paste. You can purchase different ready made varieties in tubs in Asian stores.


Ssamjang is a soybean paste that is bursting with flavors from chili, garlic and other spices. It is an essential seasoning sauce in Korean BBQ being used as a dip for the meat or sauce in lettuce wraps. It tastes savory, sweet and spicy and is ready to use right out of the container. You can also make your own to your own taste by mixing doenjang and gochujang along with garlic, scallions and other add-ins to your palate.

Ground Bean Paste

This ground bean paste is made with fermented soybeans and wheat flour. It is salty and sweet and used as a cooking sauce. It adds a wonderful umami and saltiness to stir fried ground meat for zhajiangmian.

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