Tuesday, March 24, 2009

National Sauce Month

The Little Sabaw Book Today must be your lucky day! Why you ask? Well, I was just about to put the final touches on my post for National Sauce Month and lo and behold, IT arrived. Do you see it, it's that little gem of a book to left. What does The Little Sabaw Book have to do with National Sauce Month? Indirectly, one might think nothing. I mean after all, it isn't National Soup Month, that's in January. Oh, in case you don't know what "sabaw" translates to, like me:) sabaw according to the little gem's author, Gene Gonzalez, means sopas or soup, "the basic sustenance for body and spirit on the Philippine table." The Little Sabaw Book arrived all the way from the Philippines just in time for Sauce Month. Here's the best part, like it could get any better, it was a gift from "fellow" blogger, photo journalist, Dennis Villegas. You may remember me mentioning Dennis, once or twice, or more, you see, Dennis was the Winner of the Jell-O Rules Give-Away event I had back in, I think it was February. Wasn't it just the sweetest gesture for him to send this darling book to me? You can just imagine my excitement, me being a cookbook collector and all. I will treasure it always. Thank you so much Dennis:)

Anyway, when the book arrived, like I said, I was just getting ready to post some rather tedious information about the history of sauce making, how the ingredients in sauces are combined, structured and some samples of traditional and contemporary versions of sauces. The recipes were to come from a rather comprehensive book titled Sauces Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making by none other than former chef and cooking instructor, James Peterson. As recently as March 2008, James Peterson shared his cooking wisdom with the folks over at gastronomersguide.com. I left the link below if you want to visit later:) Now, I'll admit, this book is not one of those reference books that sits on the shelf begging to be viewed. It's huge and weighs a ton! Just the thought of raising these ol' arms of mine to retrieve it from the top shelf is enough for me to pass the sauce. However, as you may know from previous visits to this blog, I strive to be a bit comprehensive when "discussing" the food event of the day/month and March is Sauce Month. Is there a better book than Sauces? Not in my book there isn't although, we all know I'm no professional chef! There must be some weight to the claim "it is the most definitive book on sauce." After all, it won the Cookbook of the Year Award from the James Beard Foundation in 1992.

Sauces Classical & Contemporary...While teaching, Jim [James Peterson] wrote his first book, Sauces. The book was much acclaimed—one reviewer called it “one of the best books in English of the [then 20th] century.” Richard Olney, Jim's mentor, compared it with Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire. The book went on to win the prestigious Cookbook of the Year Award from the James Beard Foundation. Nine more books followed, virtually all award winners or nominees...bio

In September of 2008, a third revised edition of Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making was once again published by John Wiley and Sons. It appears, everyone has their favorite edition of this relished title as I discovered in the 44 reviews posted at amazon. I mention this because the edition I am sharing with you today is, the second edition.

Asian Sauces

I got to thinking. "Self" I said. Rather than getting all saucier over sauces like "The Chef of Kings and The King of Chefs," the great Auguste Escoffier why not lean toward the light side with a few Asian Sauces from the "definitive book on sauce." This way, when I do post a few recipes from my "first-class" book from Dennis, readers will have a resource. Makes sense to me. 

According to Jim, Peterson that is. The Romans cooked with a variety of fermented fish sauces. The Roman concentrated fish pickle sauce was called “garum”. I actually posted about garum and it's relationship to Worcestershire sauce on the anniversary of Lea & Perrins in 2008. I'll leave the link below if you want to explore that fishpickle of a story. Fermented fish sauces are often seen in Asian cooking recipes. You may recognize them it as nampla in this Thai adapted recipe for Thai Cucumber Salad from Kalyn's Kitchen, nuoc nam in this Vietnamese Caramel Shrimp recipe found at Closet Cooking or as patis in our "little gem" stocked with recipes from the Philippines.

In the section on ingredients, James Peterson explains the importance of using the best available ingredients. Under Asian Sauces, Condiments, and other Asian Ingredients he offers a detailed list of "must haves" for the Asian kitchen pantry. The selected sauces include, fish sauce which he explains below:

Fish Sauce: This bottled sauce is as fundamental to Southeast Asian cooking as soy sauce is to the cuisine of China. Fish sauce is made by allowing anchovies, other small fish, and occasionally squid to ferment in barrels for months at a time. The liquid released becomes fish sauce. Just as olice oil comes in different grades and potencies, so too does fish sauce (although the best quality will cost only a dollar or two more than the cheaper). Fish sauce keeps for at least a year in the refrigerator, although it may grow dark.

Mr. Peterson doesn't offer a recipe, per se, however, he does offer a few brands to consider.

Although much of the best fish sauce is from Vietnam, Thai brands are easier to find and are perfectly suitable. Golden Boy Brand, Three Crabs Brand, and Flying Lion Brand are all excellent. Tiparos Brand is also good and widely available.

I did a quick search in google and did find the Golden Boy Brand available online. I didn't check the others. Another ingredient suggestion used as a condiment in Southeast Asian cooking is Shrimp Paste. Shrimp paste is made by "baking" shrimp in the sun.

...It has a strong fishy smell that takes some getting use to. But when used discreetly it gives an essential depth of flavor to Southeast Asian sauces and stews. If used in the way most recipes recommend (by cooking in oil before liquid is added), its odor is overwhelming. An alternative is to wrap the shrimp paste in aluminum foil and then toast it in a skillet and let it cool before it is sued, or simply stir in small amounts directly into sauces and stews. Trachang brand from Thailand is excellent.

I don't want to get carried away, we all know I have a tendency to do that:) but I do want to make note of Sesame Oil and Kafeer Lime as I did see them both in a few of the recipes in The Little Sabaw Book

Sesame Oil: This intensely flavored, deep brown oil is used sparingly in many Asian sauces and, nowadays, in Western-style sauces as well. Use only dark sesame oil, made from roasted seeds, and preferably a brand from Japan. Avoid pale and clear sesame oil sold in health food stores (it has little flavor). Maruhan Brand is excellent.
Kafeer Lime: Kafeer lime rind, leaves, and juice are all used in Southeast Asian cooking. Kafeer lime is closely related to our common lime, but the flavor of kafeer lime is more subtle and more lemony. Kafeer lime leaves are simmered whole in Southeast Asian sauces and stews in much the same way as bay leaves enter into their Western equivalents.

Kafeer lime rind, sold frozen in Asian markets, is usually ground to a paste as a component of Thai curries and kafeer lime juice (difficult to find) is used to provide acidity. The zest of the common lime can be used as a substitute for kafeer lime leaves and rind, and regular lime juice can be used to provide acidic tang.

Kafeer leaves are sold fresh or frozen in Asian markets. Both the leaves and rind will keep frozen for several months.

Before I leave you with a recipe for Vietnamese Spicy Fish Sauce (Nuoc Cham) to close out Sauce Month, I would like to list a few highlights included in chapter nineteen from Sauces.

Many classically trained cooks are perplexed when confronted with an Asian sauce recipe. Not only are the ingredients sometimes completely unrecognizable but the approach and logic are profoundly different from those used in making "Western" sauces.

In summary:

1. Unlike European sauces which are designed to concentrate the flavors of the main ingredients, Asian sauces are designed to accent or contrast with the main ingredient.
2. Many Asian sauces use the same techniques as their Western counterparts. They are often begun by "sweating" aromatic ingredients in small amounts of fat.
3. Asian sauces are usually thickened with coconut milk, cooked lentils, kuzu root (a starch much like arrowroot) or nut butters, instead of flour, butter or cream.
4. When trying to "fuse" Asian ingredients with "tried and true" recipes, tread gently.

click to enlarge

Reminder: Tomorrow is International Waffle Day. See, I told you today was your lucky day! I did a quick post for International Waffle Day last year. Here's an image of the Aunt Jemima recipes I posted just in case you rather skip the post and get right into the recipes. Enjoy!!!

1. March is National Sauce Month
2. James Peterson Shares His Cooking Wisdom
3. Sauces by James Peterson (a review)
4. Sauce Primer
5. James Peterson's Butterscotch Sauce (more recipes at bottom)
6. Chef James Peterson's Plump Poultry
7. James Peterson's Mushrooms à la Grecque
8. Oxtail Soup - A James Peterson Recipe
9. Q & A Forum With James Peterson
10. What a Fishpickle! That Lea & Perrins


  1. I often talk to Self too! Great post!

  2. Sauce Month! I guess I have an excuse to make lots and lots of hollandaise, then... right? :)

  3. Me also, duckie, sometimes I self talk so much I get so confused. I need "sauce" right now!

    Hi Adele, Sorry about the mix-up. One never needs an excuse for hollandaise although I can think of two off hand, Mmmm...Eggs Benedict, and spring asparagus...I'm off to see what's cooking by you right now!!!

  4. Tha't great that you have a sabaw book. I bet the tinola is in it. Another great Philippine soup is the sinigang which is a soup flavored with tamarind. I love James Peterson's Sauce book - very comprehensive!

  5. Yes, Veron there is one tinola recipe called Tinolang Tanguingue and five different sinigang recipes. Oh so confusing but I'll keep trying:)

  6. Thank you also Louise for your Jell-O book. You will also find in the Sabaw book the Sinigang which is considered the National Soup of the Philippines ;)


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise