Some people like just a tiny bit of sauce to flavor their noodles, rice, vegetables or whatever they are eating. Then there are others who inspire the thought, ‘Would you like some spaghetti in your sauce?” I fall into the latter category, often using so much extra sauce on my dishes that there are spoonfuls to slurp up after the main part of the meal has been eaten. In fact, my friends can testify to the fact that I’ll drink the rest of sauces at restaurants. Maybe I’m gross, but the fried tofu dipping sauce at Blue Cactus Cafe is Just Too Good To Waste.

One of my all time favorite sauces is the simple brown sauce at Chinese restaurants. Over steamed vegetable with a side of rice, this humble dish is often looked over for the flashier menu items. Since it really is easy to make at home, it makes sense to order the crazy cool stuff like chow mein and ma po tofu.

For the times when you’re at home and you need a quick and simple meal, this one comes together quickly, especially if you keep pre-cooked rice in the fridge (something I’ve recently started doing with brown rice, just cook a pot on Sunday and use throughout the week, perfection). Steam a bag of frozen stir fry veggies while you make this sauce, which comes together in five minutes once you’ve assembled the six ingredients, then you’ve got something like this:

Chinese Vegetarian Brown Sauce

Makes 1/2 cup

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 Edward & Sons Not Beef Bouillion Cube (or 3/4 cup of your favorite beef flavored broth)*
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon mushroom flavored oyster sauce (found at Asian grocers or online)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Directions

  1. Quickly whisk the water or beef flavored broth together in a saucepan with the cornstarch until it dissolves.
  2. Heat the pan to medium high heat, whisking to keep the cornstarch from clumping. Once warm add in the Not Beef broth cube if using. Whisk until the cube dissolves.
  3. Stir in the mushroom oyster sauce, soy sauce and sugar. Whisk to emulsify. Once it becomes bubbly and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat and serve.

This sauce also is perfect to make ahead of time, just stir or shake vigorously to re-emulsify the mixture before using.

*Note: I did a blind taste test using a neutral subject (Patrick) using plain vegetable broth in place of the not-beef bouillon cube and it didn’t have the same depth of flavor. I then tried adding garlic powder, white pepper, and a few other spices to deepen the flavor for those who didn’t have access to the not-beef bouillon cubes but I was hungry/couldn’t figure it out yet.