This is my secret weapon for seriously fast midweek meals: an Authentic Chinese All Purpose Stir Fry Sauce that takes minutes to make and can be stored in the fridge for weeks. Plenty of flavour just used plain but also fantastic with extra flavourings added, this Stir Fry Sauce is sensational used for both stir fries and stir fried noodles.
This is a reader-favourite recipe included by popular demand in my debut cookbook “Dinner”!
My Swiss Army knife of Stir Fry Sauces!
Restaurant Secret: you know when you go to a packed Asian restaurant or take out during lunch hour and you’re handed a plate of fresh-out-of-the-wok stir fry 5 minutes after ordering? I hate to disappoint you, but the cooks standing over the flames aren’t throwing together 10 ingredient sauce mixes for every single dish…….What they actually use are ready made sauces as a base, then add additional flavours for different dishes.
These all purpose stir fry sauces are closely guarded secrets of restaurants – you won’t uncover them simply by googling, that’s for sure! Today I’m sharing mine. I call him Charlie (as in Charlie Brown….as in “Brown Sauce”, which stir fry sauces are commonly referred to as). Perfected and tweaked over years, I’ve been loyal to Charlie for a decade (and counting).
The brilliant thing about Charlie is that you make him just by combining the ingredients in a jar, them just store him in the fridge where he’ll happily reside for weeks – months even. Then you simply heat some oil in a wok, throw in whatever proteins, vegetables and noodles you want, then throw Charlie in with some water and he’ll magically transform into a thick, glossy sauce that lusciously coats your stir fry. He’s great plain, but so versatile too – add heat, herbs, fruity sweetness or some tang. I’ve provided some of my favourite variations in the recipe below.
In the recipe below, I’ve provided the basic “formula” for using Charlie and I’ve also written a separate post on how to Build Your Own Chinese Stir Fried Noodles.
Update: At the request of a number of readers, I’ve put together a post with 10 Classic Chinese Takeout Meals using this sauce – meals in a flash!
And it’s as easy as that!
I’d love to know what you think if you give “Charlie” a go! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
This recipe features in my debut cookbook Dinner. The book is mostly new recipes, but this is a reader favourite included by popular demand!
Real Chinese All Purpose Stir Fry Sauce (Charlie!)
- 1/2 cup light soy sauce (Note 1)
- 1/2 cup oyster sauce
- 1/4 cup Chinese wine (or dry sherry) (Note 5)
- 1/4 cup cornstarch / cornflour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp sesame oil , toasted
- 1 tsp ground white pepper (I sometimes use 1 tbsp, I like the spiciness!)
- Combine ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Store in fridge and shake before use.
Amount to Use (Note 6):
- Stir Fry: I use 3 tbsp Stir Fry Sauce + 6 tbsp water to make a stir frying for 2 people using around 5 cups of uncooked ingredients (proteins + vegetables).
- Noodles: I use 3 tbsp of the Stir Fry sauce + 5 – 6 tbsp water to make a noodle stir fry for 2 people using around 7 cups of the combined stir fry uncooked (vegetables – packed, proteins + noodles – if using).
- By weight (Noodles & Stir Fry): Around 3 tbsp Stir Fry Sauce per 1 lb / 500g of combined ingredients (proteins + vegetables + noodles if using) plus 1/3 cup water.
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in wok over high heat.
- Add your choice of Base Flavourings – fry for 10 seconds or so to infuse oil.
- Add stir fry ingredients in order of time to cook (starting with ingredients that take longest to cook), leaving leafy greens, like the leaves of bok choy, until when you add the sauce (otherwise they will wilt and overcook).
- Add noodles (if using), sauce and water, your choice of Additional Flavourings and any leafy greens.
- Gently toss to combine and to let the sauce cook for around 1 minute. The sauce will become a thick, glossy sauce that coats your stir fry.
- Garlic, minced or finely sliced
- Ginger, minced or finely sliced
- Fresh chillies, minced or finely sliced
Additional Flavouring Suggestions
- Sriracha, Chilli Bean Paste or other Spicy addition
- Sweet chilli sauce
- Substitute the water with pineapple or orange juice
- Rice vinegar – for a touch of tartness
- Fresh cilantro / coriander leaves, or thai basil – for freshness
- Garlic or ordinary chives, chopped
- Pinch of Chinese five spice powder