Make Asian Barbecue Sauces with Pantry Ingredients


This week, more than 20 percent of the world’s population began the celebration known as the Lunar New Year (also called Chinese New Year). For the next 12 days, millions of lives will revolve around fireworks, food, and family.

For the record, 2019 is the Year of the Pig, something most of us barbecue enthusiasts can get behind.

We thought this would be a good time to shine a light on the umami-rich sauces and condiments the Asian continent has contributed to the happiness of grill masters and mistresses everywhere, from Japan’s soy sauce-based tare (commonly known as teriyaki in North America) to Thailand’s addictive peanut satay sauce.

In a blind tasting, you’d likely recognize America’s regional sauces—the sweet ketchup- and molasses-based barbecue sauce of Kansas City, the tangy red chile-inflected vinegar sauce of eastern North Carolina, maybe even southern Kentucky’s “black dip,” dark with Worcestershire sauce and typically served with lamb or mutton.

The Asian continent has own specialty sauces, too, several of which you may already be familiar with. (If you’re not, this is your chance!) Their distinctive flavor profiles often depend on some of the same ingredients, but are combined in a way that makes them unique. You probably have most of them in your pantry or could buy them with a quick trip to your local supermarket:

  • Fresh ginger (in a pinch, I’ve used candied ginger as it has a long shelf life)
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Garlic
  • Scallions
  • Limes or lime juice
  • Sugar
  • Sesame seeds
  • Rice vinegar
  • Hoisin sauce (fermented soy bean paste commonly used in Chinese cooking)
  • Rice wine, sake, or dry sherry
  • Cilantro
  • Sriracha
  • Hot red pepper flakes or fresh green or red chiles

Again, the above ingredients are almost always available. And you can begin making Asian-inspired sauces right away. You may have to expend just a little effort to find some of the following ingredients, although you’ll have no trouble if your supermarket has a well-stocked international foods aisle—or better, you have access to the wonderful markets a robust Asian community demands.

  • Fresh lemongrass (I have found it jarred as well, though it’s not as bright-tasting)
  • Mirin
  • Fish oil (oil flavored with fermented anchovies)
  • Chili paste (sometimes called sambal oelek)
  • Light and/or dark soy sauce
  • Miso
  • Gochujang (Korean chili paste)
Hoisin Barbecue Sauce

Richard Dallett

Get started with these recipes adapted from Steven’s books such as The Barbecue Bible and Planet Barbecue. You can even “doctor” your favorite barbecue sauce by adding peeled minced ginger, a splash of sesame oil, and a bit of rice wine vinegar.


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