Make It!: Maxine’s All Purpose Asian Sauce

Food lies at the heart of our bodies and our culture; it is there for celebrations and sustenance. NOMaste features a local fierce foodie each month, in four weekly segments. First, an interview, then a top 10 list, followed by a recipe to share, and finally a food review. This food corner will not just feature local chefs but also restaurateurs, buyers, suppliers — any woman involved in any aspect of the food chain, from farm to food truck. Join us each week as we get to know another Foodie in the city. Part I of this month’s series can be found here, and part II can be found here.

All Purpose Asian Sauce

4 oz soy sauce
2 oz lemon juice
3 oz rice wine vinegar
1 oz mirin
2 Tb sesame oil

Whisk everything together, or simply use a jar and shake until mixed.

As Max notes:

“I use Japanese brands like Kikkoman. You don’t have to, but please do not use La Choy soy sauce for this. It has a burnt flavor. I use bottled lemon juice, not fresh squeezed. I go through gallons of it, and ain’t nobody got time for that.”

I use this as a base/starting point for salad dressings, marinades, sauces, braising liquid, and broths. Sometimes I add grated ginger, scallion, garlic, or sriracha. Here are some examples:

Salad Dressing

Add 2 Tb honey or maple syrup, and olive or vegetable oil and whisk/shake really well.

Braising Liquid (Meat, Vegetables)
Add base to water in slow cooker/pot (use enough water to cover)

Barbeque Sauce

Add 4 oz ketchup, 2 oz honey or maple syrup and blend.

Bonus: Use base and water/stock to braise meat (pork shoulder/ribs) with onions. When it’s done, puree some base, braising liquid, onions, and ketchup for an awesome pulled pork or rib sauce.

Tare (Flavoring for broth)

Add hondashi (bonito soup base) to enough water for ramen broth or soup.


Add herbs & spices and 4 oz of oil. I like to use a ziplock bag. I put all of the marinade ingredients in the bag first, mix it up, then add the meat/vegetables.

Steaming Liquid for Vegetables

I add a few tablespoons to asparagus/spinach/carrots/etc instead of water.

Since this is an all-purpose sauce, I figured I’d test it in a bunch of different ways, too. Variety IS the spice of life, so why not see the whole spectrum this sauce allows? I made the sauce, which was incredibly easy, and decided to try it as a dipping sauce, a soup base, and a meat marinade.

I started by making a double batch of this. This was probably unnecessary, because I still have leftovers after making everything. You will definitely have enough if you make a single serving of this. I would even cut the recipe in half if you are going to use this in just one of the ways below, or if you are cooking for 1-2 people, or are not sure what you are going to use it for but want to try it out on something. This sauce goes a long way, and this recipe makes a decent amount — especially if diluting or mixing with other ingredients. Since it can definitely be stored in the fridge after, and it’s a fairly salty/oily dip, it should have a pretty long shelf life. I wouldn’t know though, it didn’t last that long!

First up: Dipping sauce!

Since it is a sauce, I decided to start by using it just like that. I steamed up some large shumai I got at the Ni Hoowa Supermarket, my favorite local Asian grocery store, where I stock up on all sorts of dried mushrooms, frozen dumplings, fresh bok choy, teas, crackers, sauces and pastes, and a cornucopia of creative sweets. If you have never been, you need to check this place out! I used bok choy leaves as my steaming paper, and prepared a few shumai. Dipped in this sauce, they were delicious. The sauce is tangy and salty; it’s oily enough to coat the food without sliding right off, but diluted enough that it is not thick or overpowering. I can see using the salad dressing recipe as a dumpling dip, too, by adding some honey or maple syrup to kick up the sweetness, but as-is, it is a great dipping/dumpling sauce.

Next up: Soup!

Since the soup is just ‘to taste,’ this is where I can get myself into trouble as an enthusiastic amateur. I started off by making about 4 cups of broth — perhaps a little much for just myself! I added some Hon Dashi powder, Mirin, and some of the sauce. I think I added a bit too much Hon Dashi, and worried I’d make it too salty and strong if I added more of the sauce base, I added more Mirin, since I tend to like things on the sweet side. I was not planning on making a super creative soup, and I had a few other things left to cook, so I only added some cut up baby bok choy and udon noodles. Udon noodles have to be my absolute favorite soup noodle — thick, starchy, and soaks up the flavored broth like a sponge. They’re nice and thick, making them easier to grab with chopsticks.  This was fairly easy to do, and you can be as creative with your ingredients as you want, really go to town, and make this an incredibly impressive main course. Since it’s done to taste, you can make the broth as weak or strong as you like, and add any other flavors you care for. But at its purest — just some Hon Dashi, Mirin, water, and this sauce — it was very flavorful and potent; reminiscent of a Sukiyaki broth.

Last: Marinade!

Being short on time like most people with full-time work and social lives, and not being the best meal-planner, I cut corners. So the marinade was not an overnight of any sort. Instead, I cut up the pork at the start of this cooking session and let it soak in the full-strength, undiluted sauce, in a bowl. It sat there, and I would mix it up periodically, while making the dumplings and soup. When it was time to cook, I just heated up the pan, added some of the sauce, and fried up the pork slices. After they were cooked on both sides, I seared the edges and fat strips, sealing in the flavor and moisture.  The second batch came out even better, since the pan now had a nice, cooked down crust of the sauce, causing the second batch of pork to have a deep, dark brown crust on it. Welcome to Flavortown! This was probably my favorite use of the sauce. I don’t even like pork chops — I like a good roasted pork tenderloin, but almost never purchase pork chops either at a restaurant or for dinner at home — but this may make me rethink that. These were as flavorful a meat as you can get, without having sauce actually poured all over your meat or dipping it in the sauce. I just ate it with the crusty sauce cooked on there — not adding anything more. Fantastic.

This all-purpose Asian sauce lives up to its name; it can be transformed to be anything from a sauce, to a soup, marinade, dressing, etc. It can be thinned out, thickened up, made sweeter, or subtler. Your only limit is your imagination in the kitchen. Try any or all of Maxine’s suggestions, and why not try a few ones of your own? Get creative!