NPR highlights “Lu, the secret sauce at the heart of many Chinese family cuisines.” Every Chinese region uses a variation of Lu in their cuisine. It is made from a base of salty liquid (like soy sauce) mixed with sugar and spices. But salt is core to the product, more so than the spices.
Lu takes on “the characteristics of each of China’s regional cuisines.” In Sichuan, Lu is spicy; in Zao, it is alcoholic, made from the fermented rice left over from brewing Chinese yellow wine.
One Chinese restaurant chef (pictured, who asked NPR to keep him anonymous so his restaurant stays out of the limelight) traces his Lu sauce to “an unbroken chain of sauces dating back to that first batch his mother made in the 1980s.” The chef takes his sauce at the end of each day and gives it “nutrients” – fresh spices and meat boiled in Lu.
“It is a bit like sourdough, where the last batch seeds the next batch, and the flavor intensifies over the years,” the piece continues.
Read more (NPR)