Thousand year sauce

Thousand year sauce – a soy sauce based master stock reused for poaching/braising meat, ‘fed’ or replenished for years and handed down the generations, packed with flavour, richer and bolder with every feed. We’ve been feeding our stock for 3 years.

The DH and I love our culinary experiments be it beggar’s chicken (chicken wrapped in clay and baked) or prawn and beef pickle (a post on that to come). One very successful experiment is the thousand year old sauce we’ve created. Thousand year sauce is a master stock (used mainly in Cantonese cooking) that is used to poach or braise meats and once the meat is cooked, the stock is not thrown out or used for soup, but frozen for use later. When you use it the next time, you add a bit more of the original ingredients. With each use, the meat draws flavour from the stock and imparts flavour back in to the stock, leaving you with a more intense flavour with each use.

Our thousand year sauce consists of: soy sauce, chinese cooking wine, ginger, garlic, coriander powder, pepper, salt, sugar and chilli powder. You can add other spices too like Cinnamon, star anise,  dried mushroom. We take a 1kg or 500 gms chunk of beef, stab it all over with a fork or knife, add the original thousand year sauce and replenish with the stock’s original ingredients. Let it marinade for 30 minutes and then pressure cook till the beef is tender (about 5 to 6 whistles).

Beef marinading in thousand year sauce

Beef marinading in thousand year sauce


Remove the meat and bring the stock up to the boil again and skim off any impurities that rise to the top. Let it cool to room temperature and freeze in an airtight container.

This hunk of meat then gets shredded for use in our daily salad lunch and in stir frys, fried rice or tortilla wraps. The flavour of the meat is rich and intense so you only need a little bit. A 500gm chunk lasts us about a month. The sauce is rich, dark, intense and little dribbles of it make a fantastic salad dressing.

Fork tender meat braised in thousand year sauce

Fork tender meat braised in thousand year sauce

They say there are some parts of China where the master stock is hundreds of years old, carefully passed down the generations. The only Indian equivalent that comes to mind is the yogurt/curd starter, but I have not heard any urban legends about a starter being passed down a generation, let alone surviving in one household for a whole year.

For us, what started out as a culinary experiment has now become a source of family pride. While we have no progeny to become future custodians of our thousand year sauce, for it to live till the end of our days would be an achievement I’d be proud of.

thousand yr sauce1


About nonsense girl

Galley slave, qualitative researcher working in development, married my best friend, writing about my life, my family, my dog, TV, Indian culture, astronomy and my garden.
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2 Responses to Thousand year sauce

  1. Deepa says:

    Are friends and other animals also allowed to pick up on the tradition?
    Where did you get chinese cooking wine from?

    • Yes of course – you gotta start your own. Chinese cooking wine/shaoxing wine my father brought from China… But I think you can get it in Food Hall in Bangalore at MG1 mall and if not then substitutes are vermouth or sherry or rice wine. Rice wine is available in Amma Nana on TTK Road in Chennai opposite the ITC hotel.

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