23 October 2010

Grill Extravaganza with weird sauces

If you have been following the tale of the inherited Asian foods, you are aware of our friends’ move to New Jersey and depositing of various sauces, pastes, and leaves in our refrigerator. I have been experimenting with a lot of raw ingredients I had never before used, like banana leaves, kaffir lime leaves, and ghee. This weekend I turned to the various pre-made sauces and marinades taking up a fair amount of space in the fridge door and had a big ol’ grilling extravaganza.

It is not my way to simply pour sauce out of bottle and call dinner done; at the very least, I usually doctor said sauce and make it into something fussier than it probably needs to be. But these jars and bottles promised a complete, and authentic, taste experience, so I followed the directions and simply marinated various meats in them without any other additives. Then, because it is still warm outside and there were cold beers in the fridge, we grilled everything on skewers and served with more of the sauces to dip on the side.

We used pre-cut pieces of “stew meat”, which you can get in the meat section of any grocery store. We got packages of pork and beef stew meat; they’re cheap, tougher cuts, but the marinade softened them up and we didn’t have to cook them long (about 10 min., turning after 5). We also got some chicken tenders and thread those through skewers like (very thick) satay sticks.

Sauce #1: Lee Kum Kee Korean Barbeque: We had this on pork, and it was delicious. There was just a little bit of sweetness to it (much less than American BBQ sauce), and a lot of salty, garlicky flavor coming through. It was really a great balance of flavors. The sauce is a bit thick, so you can afford to add some water to it if you choose to provide some dipping sauce on the side. This turned out to be our favorite sauce of the evening.

Sauce #2: Kikkoman Takumi Teriyaki Sauce: This is not the Kikkoman from the grocery store (Takumi is their premium line), and this is not the syrupy sweet crap you get in restaurants playing Madonna’s greatest hits and offering chop suey and American burgers on the menu. This stuff is actually quite salty and has a pretty strong sesame flavor (probably because it’s loaded with toasted sesame seeds). I thought it was really good, and if I hadn’t had the Korean BBQ sauce to compare it to, I would have loved it. It was just a bit more one-dimensional than the Korean BBQ, which had such an excellent balance of sweet, garlicky, and savory. This teriyaki sauce didn’t have any sweetness to it at all, so it was mostly just salty and nutty (but very good). It is thin enough to use as-is as a marinade or dipping sauce. We used it on beef and the flavor combination was great.

Sauce #3: Lee Kum Kee Satay Sauce: I was pretty excited about this one but it was actually our least favorite. It was a very thick paste, so you need to cut it with water just to marinade the chicken. And it hardens up like natural peanut butter in the fridge, so remember to take it out and let it warm up on the counter for 5 minutes or so before trying to work with it.
The sauce had peanut butter as its base, but it also had a strong shrimp flavor to it. (Shellfish allergy sufferers, beware! There is shrimp paste in this.) There was a moderate level of spiciness from the chilies in it, but it really needed a lot of salt, we all thought. So, even though it was peanutty (which I love) and a bit spicy, it seemed pretty flat in taste. Not only was it lacking salt, but I think it could have used some brightness, perhaps from vinegar or something. We have a lot of this sauce left, so I’m going to experiment with using it in a soup or something.

I also whipped up a batch of my usual tofu marinade and grilled some of that on the side. If you grill tofu alongside meat, just keep your eyes on it—the tofu is done within 5 minutes, and the meat takes about twice as long depending on the size of your chunks. On the side, I just served a cold rice salad with some of the tofu marinade and some fresh edamame, diced carrot, and broccoli.