Press "Enter" to skip to content

Spicing-up take out: Chinese

What’s that one thing you really crave when a food craving hits? Pick your poison: savory or sweet. Maybe it’s a really decadent chocolate dessert? Or a fresh, piping hot pizza with all of your favorite toppings?

You know that feeling of having a craving that just needs to be satisfied. A desire for something, you can practically taste whatever it is. Sometimes, the end result is amazing. Other times?

One of the worst food-related things that can probably happen in my opinion is having a craving for something, finally eating it, and having it be an epic fail. Talk about a letdown!

This happened to me recently with Chinese food. Dave and I try not to get take-out food too often, since it’s expensive and not always the healthiest. But one night recently, neither of us felt like turning on a stove, firing up the grill, cutting seemingly endless amounts of produce, or doing anything for dinner other than picking up a fork (or chopsticks) and calling it a day. I ordered shrimp with broccoli, no sauce, and I couldn’t wait to eat it after not having it in a while.  

Granted, it came without sauce, but on the first bite… something wasn’t right. It didn’t taste bad, i.e. spoiled, but it didn’t hit the spot. Added a little soy—still not right. 

Then, the lightbulb went off in my head: make a quick sauce. Soy sauce needed some help from its friends ginger and garlic if there was any hope to save this dish.

I raided my pantry and fridge for ingredients: ginger, hoisin, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and sambal (chili garlic paste). I also sliced up some scallions and grabbed some sesame seeds.

Generally, I like to buy a big “hand” of ginger when I go to the grocery store. I cut or break some off to stash some in the fridge and the rest goes in the freezer for safekeeping in a freezer-safe plastic bag. That way, when needed I can take some ginger right out of the freezer, scrape off a little of the skin with a small pairing knife, grate that area with a Microplane, and stash it again. I also like the squeezable ginger paste found in a tube in the grocery store produce section; it also melts pretty nice into sauces and keeps in the fridge what seems like months.

I’ve done this before many times to spice up bland Chinese take-out, with good results to date.  All in all, the quick “makeover” was successful again and dinner was saved. 😉 

Quick Soy-Ginger Sauce

This sauce can be used as a marinade, too, for pork, chicken or shrimp.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: asian, chili garlic sauce, garlic, ginger, marinade, quick marinade, quick sauce, sauce, soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup low or reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce Asian BBQ sauce
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp sambal/chili-garlic sauce or Sriracha as much or as little as you like
  • 1 tbsp cold water
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl until combined , first adding with the garlic and ginger paste, followed by the soy sauce and other liquids.

  2. To use: Toss with cooked noodles, use as a sauce for rice and cooked meats or vegetables, serve as a dip for steamed or fried dumplings and tempura.

  3. If using as a marinade for chicken or pork: Place 1 pound chicken or pork in a plastic bag and add marinade. Close bag and shake/squeeze the bag to mix. Place bag in a bowl (to catch any leaks, just in case) and store in the refrigerator, a minimum of 30 minutes and up to a few hours until ready to cook.

  4. If using as a marinade for shrimp: toss marinade with 1 pound thawed, raw shrimp and let sit no more than 10-15 minutes before cooking (otherwise the acid in the marinade may start to "cook" the shrimp.)