Banza pasta, a gluten free, protein rich pasta made with chickpea flour, put out a “More Than Marinara” challenge, and I have been wracking my brain trying to think of the least likely pasta sauce possible. Sure, you could go the cream sauce route or a pesto, but that’s far too standard. You could even toss the noodles into a soup or a curry, but, again, that just felt uninspired.
After extensive research, AKA entering the Google vortex, I stumbled upon Guaiwei sauce, which loosely translates to “Strange” in English. I love a good challenge and this recipe really pushed me out of my Northern Wisconsin boy realm. It was totally worth it, because this sauce is incredible. I made a big jar of it, because just smelling the rich aromas I knew that it was going to be something I’d need to start dumping on just about everything. Traditionally it is used as a glaze for chicken, but it was delicious on noodles and is a great dipping sauce for tofu or fresh veggies. You even use it as a salad dressing!
What’s Guaiwei sauce you’re probably asking? Well. It’s basically every flavor put together to give your taste buds something to really contemplate. It’s why the name translates to “strange” because it’s salty, sweet, aromatic, sour, earthy, and spicy. There isn’t one singular flavor or aroma that stands out, because it’s a delicate balance between all of them. Each comes out on its own with lingering flavors that meld together. You’ll initially be welcomed by the aromatics from the cinnamon and star anise, then you’ll taste the sweetness from the seasoned soy sauce and the sour from the rice vinegar, and the finishing flavors come from the sesame paste and the seasoned chili oil. Even though you can purchase the ingredients, it’s worth the little bit of time it takes to make them from scratch, because the flavors are more rich and aromatic. Your taste buds will thank you for it.
I will give the recipes for each component here then in the recipe box I’ll include the full recipe for the sauce.
Seasoned Soy Sauce
- 1 cup light soy sauce
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 dried star anise
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns
- 6 cracked cardamom pods
Put all ingredients into a sauce pot, stir while bringing to a simmer, then reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes uncovered. Strain using a fine mesh strainer. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
Yes, you might be questioning the sugar, but that is an essential flavor in the final Guaiwei sauce. Don’t skip it or skimp on it. The same goes for the other flavor add ins. Sichuan peppercorns are different than other pepper varieties and it is worth getting a bag for future recipes. Instead of being predominantly hot or pungent, Sichuan pepper offers a unique lemony flavor and tingle, from the 3% of hydroxy alpha sanshool, that cannot easily be substituted for with black pepper or other pepper varieties.
- 1 1/2 cups neutral oil (canola or avocado)
- 5 dried star anise
- 1″ cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons sichuan peppercorns
- 3/4 cup sichuan chili flakes
Combine the oil through the peppercorns in a small sauce pot. Bring heat to high until you see bubbles forming. Reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes uncovered. You do not need to stir. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before straining.
Measure out the 3/4 cup sichuan chili flakes into a glass jar or container. Strain the oil using a fine mesh strainer into the jar over the chili flakes. Stir or shake to combine. Allow the chili flakes to settle for at least 30 minutes before using. Store in the refrigerator for long term storage.
Sesame Paste (Not the same as tahini)
- 1 cup raw sesame seeds
Heat oven to 375 F. Spread the sesame seeds on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Stir. Bake for another 15 minutes. The sesame seeds should be evenly browned but not dark. Continue to make if they seem light in appearance.
Transfer the toasted seeds to a high speed blender or food processor. No additional oil is needed. Process until smooth. Store in a sealed glass jar in your pantry.
Tahini is made using raw sesame seeds. Sesame paste is made with toasted sesame seeds. The difference in flavor and aroma is dramatic. You can purchase sesame paste at an Asian grocery store or easily make it at home. Substituting tahini or peanut butter in the Guaiwei sauce will alter the overall recipe.
If you’ve made it this far you’re ready to put it all together! Yay!!! Congratulations and welcome to a whole new world of flavor. If you do make this recipe please let me know. I can guarantee that you have not experienced anything like this before.
- 3 tablespoons seasoned soy sauce (*see notes above)
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame paste (*see notes above)
- 2 tablespoons chili oil (*see notes above)
- 1 tablespoon chili oil sediment (The flakes at the bottom)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- Whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth. Prior to serving whisk again, or shake in a sealed jar.
- 2-3 tablespoons of sauce is all that is needed for an individual serving. This can also be added to a coconut cream or coconut milk for a seasoned sauce; however, it is more rich if used as is.