Black pepper is the most widely used spice in the world and has been for centuries. So much so, that there’s no doubt it is taken for granted. Given all the spices we have in our kitchen choirs, black pepper doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Sure it has a part in almost every savory chorus we put together, but how often does its particular voice come through?

In this superb sauce from Amy Wong’s book Savoury Sauces, Favourite Cooking Hacks, which I picked up in Malaysia, black pepper is the mezzo-soprano that carries the show. This cookbook is not available on Amazon, but it seems to be available from Kinokuniya Books online from Singapore.

A Versatile Player

This sauce can be used on meat, fish, tofu or vegetables. You can use it for Asian dishes or western style cooking. You can steam it with fish, or as we did yesterday, slather it on pan-seared lamb chops. Incredibly delicious.

Black Pepper Sauce in a small dish
Black Pepper Sauce

Amy Wong’s recipe makes a lot. I have halved the recipe here and it still requires almost a full cup of peppercorns. I also didn’t have all the ingredients, and still it came out great.

It makes about 4 cups of sauce. This is a good thing. It keeps in the fridge and you can make those asparagus spears or broccoli trees sing, and put on a stunning culinary performance any night of the week!

Amy Wong’s Black Pepper Sauce

garlic, shallots, oyster sauce, oil, soy sauce, salt and sugar, and of course, freshly ground black pepper.
The main cast: garlic, shallots, oyster sauce, oil, soy sauce, salt and sugar, and of course, freshly ground black pepper. Not shown: chicken broth.
Ingredients:
  • 300ml / 1c oil
  • 200g / 2 huge heads of garlic, minced
  • 225g / 2.5 large shallots, minced
  • 100g / a scant 1c black pepper, freshly & finely ground
  • 30g of demi-glace brown sauce mix (see My Improvisations below)
  • 300ml / 1c of water
Seasonings:
  • 100g / 1/2c oyster sauce
  • 30g chicken stock powder (see My Improvisations below)
  • 15g / 5t salt (see My Improvisations below)
  • 100g / 1/2c light soy sauce
  • 15g / thick soy sauce
  • 40g / 2.5T sugar
Method:
  1. Mix the demi-glace brown sauce mix with hot water and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok and stir-fry the minced garlic until just light brown.
  3. Add the shallots and stir-fry for another 10 minutes. Then add the black pepper and stir some more.
  4. Add the demi-glace brown sauce (or not), then stir in the seasonings and stir-fry for 5-8 minutes.
My Improvisations
  • I didn’t know really what demi-glace brown sauce was, although Wikipedia helped. However, in any case, I don’t like to cook with powdered, premade stuff. So I skipped Step 1 altogether.
  • I used half the salt called for above and found it plenty salty enough.
  • Having neither specifically thin or thick soy sauce, but rather run-of-the-mill medium soy sauce, I used that and plus a tablespoon of molasses.
  • In Step 4, I used actual chicken broth plus a spoonful of Marmite instead of the water + demi-glace mix + chicken broth powder, and called it good.

You will find that much of the oil has separated out, but I figure that will help keep the sauce from getting exposed to air or bacteria in the fridge. Moreover, you can decant some of this marvelously seasoned oil and it makes for fantastic fried eggs.

Amy Wong gives several recipes for how to use this sauce, tweaking it with other ingredients like rice wine etc. I just love this sauce straight. For example, last night’s lamb chops were just pan-fried in a little of the decanted oil, and then, towards the end of the cooking time, painted with a couple of spoonfuls of the black pepper sauce till they were nicely glazed.

Black Pepper Sauce Lamb served with a barley and kale pilaf and tomatoes
Black Pepper Sauce Lamb served with a barley and kale pilaf and tomatoes

Utterly delicious! The black pepper in this sauce is not just another member of the chorus, I can tell you!

And though you can find jars of premade black pepper sauce by Lee Kum Kee or whomever, it does not have the vibrancy, depth and kick of this homemade version, so don’t waste your money.

Cover of Pepper, a book by Christine McFadden
Buy this book on Amazon

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