A good sauce can elevate your meal to another level of deliciousness. Although Asian cuisine is already full of diverse flavors, Asian sauces are still a welcome addition to add another dimension of flavor.
We clearly remember how the variety of dipping, cooking, glazing, and coating sauces would sometimes be the best part of our meal as kids, and we love them just as much today! To help you unlock a whole new world of taste within your home-cooked meals, we have compiled a list of the top 10 Asian sauces that we believe will become your new favorite condiments.
Gochujang sauce is a Korean staple that’s used for both dipping and cooking, and even to add flavor to other Asian sauces.
It’s made with red chili flakes, fermented soybeans, sticky rice, salt, and seasonings.
The origins of Gochujang go back to the 16th century when chilies were dried and fermented in earthen Onggi pots. This gives them a silky but sharp flavor profile that carries sweetness really well.
Typical gochujang starts off with a spicy tinge that’s followed by a sweet taste. The spice hits immediately after, especially if you’re eating the slightly chunky version that’s used as an ingredient. All of that is enveloped by a savory flavor that lends itself to dishes.
How To Use
Gochujang is ultra-versatile as a sauce. If you love a spicier dip that has a sweet, almost a BBQ sauce quality, this is the sauce for you.
The ideal dish for Gochujang is ramen. In fact, Gochujang ramen is a well-known restaurant staple in Seoul, and other urban centers in Korea.
Try using Gochujang as a flavor base for spicy ramen or to drizzle on top of some tangy Tom Yum-flavored immi ramen for a super flavorful meal.
Sprinkle some Gochujang on our Tom Yum Shrimp ramen for a flavor-bursting meal!
Tom Yum “Shrimp” Ramen
Fresh, bright, and zesty. A vibrant bowl to slurp under the cool shade on a warm afternoon. Abundant with notes of lemongrass, citrus, and chili.Slurp Now
Sambal is a well-known Indonesian sauce that’s also available in a thicker paste form and is used to add intense flavor to rice, spicy Mi Goreng, and various other dishes.
The consistency of the sauce is closer to a coarse paste made with ground chilies combined with a fermented shrimp paste, ginger, garlic, shallots, palm sugar, and vinegar.
The most common form of sambal is Sambal Oelek, which is made with chili and shrimp paste as the central ingredients. There are a few other major sambal flavors such as Sambal Badjak which is a more complex sauce for more layered dishes.
Depending on your preference, you can have sambal as the main spice base for noodle dishes or rice, or as a sauce to dip dry ramen noodles.
How To Use
Sambal is a stronger-tasting sauce that can quickly overcome milder flavors if you put too much into a dish. However, it’s delicious as well so try adding varying amounts of sambal in your meals to check which spice level is ideal.
For example, try adding one tablespoon of homemade sambal in the tare while making ramen. If you feel like the flavor could be stronger, or you’d want some more heat, add more chili while making the sauce.
Oyster sauce is a common condiment in several Asian regional cuisines. In terms of flavor, this sauce is as umami as it gets, with a distinct smokiness that you wouldn’t find in most soy-based sauces.
It’s milder than soy sauce and not as sweet as fruit-based sauce. This makes it perfect for when you need to add a savory flavor to typically savory dishes without making them overly ‘salty’.
What’s best about oyster sauce is that it works just like MSG, in that it enhances the flavor of whatever you add it to. For example, if you drizzle some over stir-fried chicken, it will highlight whichever spice or seasoning you put more of, whether it’s palm sugar or soy sauce.
How To Use
Try adding oyster sauce in place of soy paste or sweet sauces. You can do this is a stir-fry with sweet root vegetables such as shallots and carrots.
Oyster sauce also works great as an aromatic ingredient, especially if you want to cancel out strong aromas such as garlic and fish paste. Plus, you also get a deeper flavor from the cooked sauce.
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Hoisin sauce is a delicious Chinese stir-fry and dipping sauce that’s also used to marinade and glaze meats.
It’s available around the world, with several versions making their way into supermarkets all over the West. The original Cantonese Hoisin sauce is iconic though, with its distinct fermented soybean tang and caramelized garlic sweetness.
Although it’s used as both an ingredient and a dip, it works amazingly well as a glaze. What it lacks in smokiness, it gains when you chargrill meats glazed with it.
The end result is pork belly, beef shank, or even roasted vegetables that you taste via the smell, even before you take a bite!
How To Use
This is one of those multi-purpose sauces that everyone should have in their pantry for when they need to elevate flavors.
Have a bowl of Shoyu ramen that’s too salty from the soy sauce? Just add a dash of Hoisin in the tare and you’ve got an ideal balance of savory and sweet.
You can also use Hoisin as a replacement for BBQ sauce. Toss some wings in it, drizzle over sweet potato fries, or use it to add a BBQ flavor layer to our Spicy Beef-flavored immi ramen! The possibilities are endless with this one.
Doubanjiang is a common sauce in Sichuan recipes and is one of the spicier sauces on this list, with its savory heat courtesy of the crushed chili peppers.
The silky consistency of the sauce comes from a broad bean paste that does two things. One, it softens the fiery hit of the red chilies, and two, it turns the fermented soybean tanginess into a more savory flavor.
As mentioned, it’s one of the foundational sauces in Sichuan cooking and can even be used as a replacement for sauces made with Sichuan peppercorns (if you’re looking for a spicier alternative).
How To Use
We believe Doubanjiang is a universal flavor-maker that’s delicious no matter how much you add!
Starch-based dishes such as rice and wheat noodles can absorb the spice from the sauce and carry it super well. You can also try thinning it with some water to create a runny dip for egg rolls and other types of finger food.
Asamurasaki Oyster Soy Sauce
If regular oyster sauce is pure umami, Asamurasaki Oyster Soy is a concentrated version of that, with a distinct salty, savory, and sweet flavor.
It’s one of the most unique sauces in terms of flavor profile. The exact flavor is difficult to nail down but it’s safe to say, it can transform a dish completely with its unique savory fish flavor and rich honey-like sweetness.
What makes Asamurasaki great is the Japanese soy sauce which is half of the delicious duo! It’s thicker and not as salty as regular soy sauce, but it retains its sharpness even after being diluted by other ingredients.
How To Use
Foods such as fried tofu and steamed vegetables are ideal hosts for oyster soy sauce, although it also works well in stews, slow-cooked beef recipes, and even barbecue.
Basically, Asamurasaki can be added to any dish with otherwise bland ingredients that take on external flavors.
Nam Chim Chaeo
Nam Chim refers to a variety of Thai dipping sauces, with Nam Chim Chaeo being the tangy, sharp, spicy, and salty sauce.
Because there’s not a single recipe for this sauce, you can really play around with the ingredients and the recommended amounts.
For example, you can add more chopped Thai chili and lime juice for more tangy heat, or more sugar and fish sauce for deeper flavor. In any case, it’s versatile and flexible as both a dip and condiment.
How To Use
Since KChan grew up with this sauce, he’s specific with his Nam Chim flavor ratios (he prefers a more tart mix)! We’d totally recommend changing up the recipe to suit your taste.
One way to make it even more versatile is to mince the ingredients instead of finely chopping them. It will make the consistency more homogenized and easier to dip into.
Mam Tom is a Vietnamese and Southern Chinese fermented shrimp paste that’s sometimes thinned down and used as a sauce.
It’s unique in this lineup in that it’s made with a fermented protein. There are several regional differences in the recipe, however, the basic recipe is simply finely crushed shrimps that are fermented in salt.
This gives them a deep purple color and an aroma that’s easily recognizable anywhere. It’s also what makes it much stronger in flavor than most other sauces (although we love to mix it in our ramen broth!).
How To Use
Mam Tom is initially a paste in its raw form, and even as you’ll find it in the supermarket. You’ll have to turn it into a sauce by adding either water or mild broth.
Once you have it in a desirable consistency, you can use it as a dipping or flavoring sauce. Yes we know it’s strong at first but once you start using it in dishes left and right, you’ll see the value of this unique condiment.
Nuoc Mam Gung
This Vietnamese dipping sauce is a pungent but delicious mix of ginger, garlic, fish sauce, and lime juice.
It’s very similar to the aforementioned Nam Chim, with the only difference being fewer ingredients. That doesn’t affect the flavor though and there’s tons of it in this sauce as well.
Ginger is the central ingredient in Nuoc Mam. This makes it more pungent and sweet as compared to similar regional versions of the sauce. It can be your best friend if you love sauces you can in soups just as easily as in ramen.
How To Use
Since it’s the same general formula as Nam Chim, you can use it in the exact same way. It is sweeter though, so make sure you use it in dishes that are more savory.
Satay Peanut Sauce
And we close the list with Satay sauce which is used extensively throughout Malaysian cuisine but also has its own dedicated recipe.
It’s super delicious as a condiment, to the point where an entire dish (chicken satay) is based on it.
What makes Satay sauce so delicious is the combination of savory flavors that are carried by a smooth, creamy peanut butter base. Fat is an awesome flavor carrier and the natural lipids (fatty compounds) in the peanut paste create the perfect vehicle for the taste that we all love.
How To Use
We would highly recommend making Satay sauce your new go-to for dipping. Really, you can dip almost anything in it, from skewered meat and seafood to vegetables and even fast food such as burgers.
When cooking with it, make sure to never overcook whatever you’ve coated it with. This is because it turns bitter and acrid if burnt. Keep it on the slightly toasted side and you’ll stay firmly in flavor-town!