Photo: Kevin Pang

Umami Issues is The Takeout’s exploration of cooking food with the rich, savory, mysterious taste sensation known as umami. 

This is my favorite dipping sauce in the world. It’s the Cantonese equivalent of ketchup, our all-purpose condiment to slather over anything. The components are deceptively basic, but in concert its potency is powerful—the savory, onion-y, chive-like qualities of scallions with the burn of minced ginger, the two flavors then bursting into the stratosphere with crackling hot oil poured over top. By the time it cools, the scallions and ginger coalesce into a slurry, which you can then spoon onto meats, starches, practically any food that could use a kick. Such as: poached chicken, pork chops, white-fleshed fish, fried noodles, rice porridge, even a bowl of plain pasta would be magical with a spoonful of ginger-scallion.

Because I try to sneak umami into every dish, my addition to the recipe is a spoonful of fish sauce, which gives the condiment an additional layer of meaty-like richness. You certainly don’t need to add fish sauce (you can substitute a teaspoon of MSG powder), but I think it’s twice as good with it.

Photos: Kevin Pang

Ginger-scallion magic sauce

8 stalks scallions, chopped
3 Tbsp. minced ginger
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fish sauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Advertisement

Chop scallions finely into an oven-safe bowl. You can grate or mince ginger, but it’s just easier to scoop out three heaping spoonfuls from a jar (check the Asian aisle at your grocery store). At this point, I add salt over the scallions and ginger, and using the back of the spoon, I mash down on the salt for a minute. This will start releasing the liquid, mostly from the scallion. Meanwhile, I heat a saucepan with the vegetable oil. You want the oil very hot, but not smoking. I’ll usually test by dropping one piece of chopped scallion; if it sizzles, then the oil’s ready. I’ll pour the oil over the scallions and ginger, and everything should be bubbling and sizzling. Carefully stir with a spoon. When it cools slightly, add the fish sauce. And you’re done. This will keep for a week in the fridge.