Yeh-Family Secret Sauce

I’m sorry everyone, I’ve been holding out on you; one of my collaborations with Hannah Choi Photography has been gathering dust in the nether regions of my computer. Today happens to be Miss Choi’s birthday, so it’s as good a day as ever to roll out one of my favorite recipes!

Obligatory silly/potentially-embarrassing photo with the birthday girl!

Having been raised in a rather white-bread household (well, more like organic whole-wheat bread… but I digress), spiciness and I have never been amiable.  This dynamic changed significantly on one of my first few visits to my husband’s family-home. I was taught how to fold dumplings- adorable little things- which were then pan-fried to a crisp.

Cooked Pork-Leek Dumplings

However, a rather suspect and oily red sauce had been prepared to accompany the dish, which I approached with caution. To everyone’s surprise, I loved the sauce! The secret ingredient, of course, was Lao Gan Ma, a sauce that I listed as one of my basics for Chinese cooking. At last, a form of spiciness that added flavor without making me lose my appetite! I now insist that this sauce make an appearance as often as possible.

As a new devotee of the Secret Sauce, I converted the rest of my family shortly thereafter. In my super-scientific sample size of approximately 10 family members and co-workers, I have concluded that this concoction is white people-approved!

Spicy Chili Crisp Sauce Choices
Lao Gan Ma (right) and a similar Chinese chili-crisp sauce that we picked up on our last trip to Taiwan.

This sauce goes perfectly with our leek & pork dumpling recipe. Many people have their favorite sauce that they’ll happily douse any dish with- but I urge caution when pairing sauces! As with wine pairings, one must be careful to choose an accompaniment which will not mask or overshadow the thing it was meant to complement. I learned this in college when I insulted my husband’s (then, boyfriend’s) dumplings by drenching them in soy sauce; he had prepared a subtle combo of salmon and mushroom as the dumpling mixture, the nuance of which was lost beneath my negligent saucing.

Recently, our roles were reversed: I was horrified when my homemade brioche was unceremoniously dunked into a heavy hollandaise sauce, completely masking the subtle flavors that I had been coaxing out of the fermenting dough over the course of the past week.

Touché, Mr. Yeh.

I write this all to say: be mindful of what you dip!

Chez Yeh Secret Sauce Ingredients


Recipe: Yeh-Family Secret Sauce


1 part sugar (turbinado preferred)

1 part sesame oil

2 parts grated garlic

2 parts chili oil (or to taste)/Lao Gan Ma

4 parts soy sauce



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