When it comes to Chinese cooking, we make sure that we use authentic sauces that we normally use in Asia. They weren't readily available though, so we always get ours from Chinese stores, which we don't go often, so either we stock up more each time round, or we have to do without for a while. We wouldn't replace any with local brands as they are just not the same.
I wouldn't say that we only use one particular brand of sauces, but there is one that has several sauces that we like - Lee Kum Kee.
Lee Kum Kee is a Cantonese brand, with its founder inventing Oyster Sauce in 1888. It's been one of the most popular cooking sauce since, but they didn't stop there. Not only did they create more sauces to help cut down the cooking time (their sauces are as good as cooking from scratch), they also continue inventing new sauces to improve our cooking, let it be flavour or style. They have 2 missions - promote Chinese cuisines worldwide and modernising and promoting traditional Chinese herbal health products to the people around the world.
As mentioned before, we normally have to get our sauces from Chinese stores. So when we met Lee Kum Kee at Birmingham Summer Good Food Show, we were glad to hear that they will be available from Tescos and Waitrose!
We bought a selection of their latest sauces at the food show, and the PR has also kindly sent us a further few to try in return for some feedback.
Note: There are Recipes and How to Use scattered around the post. Feel free to try them out for some authentic Chinese food!
Our must have Lee Kum Kee sauces:
I've featured Lee Kum Kee XO Sauce back in 2011 on this blog as one of our Can't Live Without sauces. I could be wrong but XO sauce dishes was something available only in top restaurants. So the first time we tried XO sauce was when Lee Kum Kee launched it. It is one of their premium, hence most expensive sauce as it's packed with premium ingredients such as dried scallops, Chinese ham and dried shrimps. You can see that every spoonful is packed with these ingredients, together with others, and it tingles your 5th taste - Umami, without the MSG. A little bit goes a long way and it really enhance the dishes. We use a tiny bit on dumplings, or add a spoonful to our noodle soup. It's not a traditional sauce we need for our cooking, but it's a sauce we always have and will stock up on.
I used to use a lot of Oyster Sauce in my cooking, as the sauce on its own plus seasoning (sugar and salt) is enough to make a flavoursome dish such as Chinese Pork and Potatoes with Oyster Sauce Gravy (I can't quite find the right name for this dish in English. You stew the meat and veg with the sauce then thicken it up by evaporating the liquid until you get a thick gravy with the dish). But ever since my mum has passed me the taught by grandma, fail-proof and multi-use sauce recipe, I only use about a tablespoon each time in certain dishes, such as spicy noodles (the oyster sauce cools the spice down but enhances the flavour as well), boiled Choi Sum/ Pak Choi (boiled in water with a tablespoon of oil until al dante, then add a dollop of Oyster sauce over it with a sprinkle of deep fried shallots), stir fry noodles (add about 2 to 3 tablespoon of Oyster sauce to a stir fry as the main seasoning, then adjust with sugar, salt, light soya sauce and a touch of Chinese chicken stock powder), etc.
Oyster sauce is still one of the main sauce Chinese people will keep in their kitchen, but no matter whether you keep it standing upright or lying down on its side in the fridge, you will end up with a gloopy, sticky cap and top, making it quite "yuck" to use and also made it really hard to open, unless you wipe it every time after use.
Lee Kum Kee launched a new squeezy bottle for their Oyster sauce at the Good Food Show (to gauge for interest) because of that, and although some might think that it makes the sauce look like an instant sauce used on top of dishes (like the boiled green vegetable dish above), it made my life so much easier when I use it for cooking! It's much easier to tap the sauce down to the bottom than a glass bottle (like ketchup in a glass bottle!), and it's much easier to squeeze the right amount into your dish while cooking it. As oyster sauce doesn't split like ketchup does, you won't get sprayed with droplets of sauce either. The cap remains clean too! I really hope that they will stick to the idea and launch the squeezy bottle officially in stores.
New Lee Kum Kee Sauces we tried:
Apart from the main sauces above that we always have in stock, we also use a range of their other sauces for particular dishes like Char Siu Sauce to make Sweet, Salty and Sticky Grilled Pork (the red pork slices you see in Chinese takeaway dishes, yummier of course!), Steamed Fish sauce and Black Bean sauce (for steaming with pork ribs or stir frying beef and peppers).
The PR has sent us the following sauces to try.
I haven't managed to try the Sweet Soya Sauce yet (green packaging on the bottle at the top picture), which is a thick soya sauce to go on steamed rice dishes cooked in clay pots or Cheung Fan dim sum, which is a steamed, rectangular shaped white rolls with fillings you sometimes see in Chinese restaurants Dim Sum time. It would be fantastic if it's as good as the ones served in restaurants as I love soaking my steamed rolls in the sauce until it's completely brown!
We've also tried the following sauces and created some finger licking good dishes that makes you want to have second helpings!
Salt Pickled Plum and Soybean Pork Ribs (serves 4 to 6)
The plum used in this marinade are pickled with salt, which Chinese eat as a snack. They are a bit like dried fruits (although fully dried) but pickled using salt instead. It's a nice snack for a hot day as it enhances appetite. Unlike normal sweet and sour dishes, this dish is more salty, with a touch of sweet and sour, so it tickles most of your taste buds. Best served with plain steamed/ boiled rice and boiled vegetables. The vegetables used for decoration (green leaves and cucumber) tasted absolutely delicious too!
I like the size of the jar, it's great to be able to use up a whole jar each time so I don't have to stuff my fridge with half opened sauces!
1kg Pork Ribs
1 Jar (215g) Lee Kum Kee Plum and Soybean Marinade
1 to 2 Tablespoon of cooking oil
2 Cloves Garlic, peeled and smashed
Dash of Light Soya Sauce to season
Sugar and Salt to season
1. Marinate pork ribs with the whole jar of Plum and Soybean Marinade for about an hour (it makes an amazing sauce to go with the plain rice!)
2. Heat a large pot with cooking oil and garlic until fragrant, then brown the ribs.
3. Add water until it is just covering the ribs and let it cook on low heat until the meat can easily slide off the bones. It's best to use a Thermo/ Vacuum Pot or Slow Cooker to do this to save gas/ electricity.
4. When it's almost done, remove the lid and turn the fire up to evaporate the liquid, making a thick sauce. At this stage the sauce can be quite sour and salty, so use sugar, salt and light soya sauce to adjust the flavouring to your liking.
|I realised half way through eating that I forgot to take a picture of the food! So excuse the messy bowl!|
I was also sent a bottle of Lee Kum Kee's Red Braising Sauce, and my dear cousin who's visiting us is waiting for my recipe as I type, it's that good! The cooking method is similar to the Salt pickled Plum and Soybean Pork Ribs, but this is more like a stew, so the sauce is runnier. There is so much sauce left in the pot that we ended up adding more meat into the pot for a second meal!
1 Tablespoon Cooking Oil
2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and smashed
1 large Onion, peeled and chopped into large segments
1kg (1 large box) of Pork (or Beef Shin), Shoulder/ Belly, cut into big chunks
3-5 large carrots, chopped into big chunks
1/3 bottle Lee Kum Kee Red Braising Sauce
Salt/ Soya Sauce to season
1. Prepare all the ingredients
2. Heat a large pot with cooking oil, then stir fry garlic and onions until fragrant.
3. Brown the meat
4. Stir in the carrots
5. Add about 1/3 bottle of Red Braising sauce into the pot, stir, then top up with water until it just covers the meat.
6. Braise for approx 2 to 3 hours until the meat has softened. I'd recommend using a Thermo/ Vacuum Pot or a Slow Cooker for this to shorten the cooking time.
7. Remove lid and boil on high for approx. 5 to 10 minutes to thicken up the sauce. Adjust flavour with salt or soya sauce. You can also adjust it with sugar as well but the carrots should have made the dish quite sweet.
8. Serve with boiled/ steamed rice and boiled vegetables
To add more ingredients for second round cooking:
9. Repeat step 1 to 4 in a large frying pan. Add them to the pot and braise until the meat has softened. If there isn't enough sauce to cover the meat, add more water as well as Red Braising sauce (I'd start with 1/4 to 1/3 of what is left in the bottle). Season to taste.
Hope you enjoy the dishes as much as we did! Lee Kum Kee has a wide range of sauces that we haven't tried yet, and I think we will try more of their sauces after having tried these. The food tasted authentic and it saved me from cooking the sauce from scratch, which can involve all sorts of herbs and spices. I'm just glad that they are supplying to Tesco and Waitrose now so it'll be easier for us to top up!