In the quest for authentic-as-possible Asian menu items, right down to the dipping sauce served with spring rolls or chicken satay, the right ingredients are key.
“When I attended the Worlds of Flavor conference at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America), one of the biggest challenges for visiting chefs was to find the ingredients they needed,” says Aran Essig, CEC, executive chef at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “Even in Napa Valley, where you can find so many fresh ingredients, it was a challenge. The participants wanted us to prepare a certain food and we couldn’t find the perfect bitter melon that we need.”
Back on campus, a lot of Thai peanut sauces and cooling Indian sauces are made from scratch, but for a few Asian pantry ingredients that are hard to come by, the cooking team relies on ready-to-use Asian sauces, Essig says, adding that getting input from the community can be just as important of an ingredient as any. “We try to make international students feel at home through food,” he says. “We ask them for help in the kitchen. We ask what their favorite dish is, and if they can show us how to make it.”
Gochujang: Sweet, Funky, Umami
Quite a few culinary voices are calling for gochujang, a Korean red pepper paste, to become “the next Sriracha.” One of those voices belongs to Eddie Mundy, director of dining services with Flik Independent School Dining at Western Reserve Academy (WRA), in Hudson, Ohio. He’s been hip to gochujang since his college days.
“I had several Korean roommates in college and now we have a cook from Korea here at WRA. I’ve become obsessed with gochujang,” Mundy says.
“It’s typically used as an ingredient in something and not on its own as it can be very intense, almost harsh, but it has this spicy, earthy, funky and just-a-little-sweet vibe going on that’s amazing.”
That funky flavor of gochujang pops up in several components of school meals such as bulgogi, galbi, stir-fry sauces and even in a compound butter.
“For a dipping sauce, I pair gochujang with sesame seeds and oil to give it just a little nuttiness and texture as well.”
It pairs perfectly with egg rolls, noodles, lettuce wraps, fried rice, fried chicken and grilled meats.
4 quick and easy Asian dipping sauces
Duck Wing Dipping Sauce
This curried blueberry ketchup would also work well on pork or chicken. Stir together fresh or frozen blueberries, a little sugar and curry powder and ketchup. Simmer together and then blend until smooth.
—Ha Tran, production chef, Purdue University
Gochujang Dipping Sauce
Could this be the next Sriracha? You decide. Whisk together gochujang, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, honey, sesame seeds, garlic, canola oil and sesame oil.
—Eddie Mundy, Flik Independent School Dining, Western Reserve Academy
(Peanut-Free) Satay Dipping Sauce
This is also great on a cold noodle salad. Combine prepared sesame-ginger salad dressing, sunflower butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and sambal oelek (an Indonesian chili paste).
—Eric Cartwright, executive chef, University of Missouri at Columbia
Sweet ‘n Sour Dipping Sauce
A housemade version of the Chinese-American restaurant staple. Perfect for egg rolls.
Mix together tomato purée or ketchup, vinegar, sugar and Chinese 5-spice powder.
—Aran Essig, CEC, University of Northern Colorado