Plain food transformed by three sauces…

Here are three very different styles of sauces to serve with plain poached chicken. (In my cookbook, they all appear on Day 9 as London Chicken Rice!)

Why three sauces? Well, different strokes for different folks: a choice of three means something for everyone. BUT you can also serve these sauces with fish, or use them to dress plain ol’ cooked noodles – that’s how versatile they are!

Sauce 1 is Hainanese style- most traditionally served with plain poached/steamed chicken. It’s made with ginger, chilli, sugar, lemons and vinegar so tastes sweet, hot and sour.

Sauce 2 is the classic Cantonese Ginger and Spring onions oil, which is aromatic and salty.

Sauce 3 is my mother’s invention and contains no spice. Just caramelised onions, soy sauce, and oyster sauce – ideal for young children.


  • 4-6 people


Sauce 1:

  • 1 index finger-sized piece of root ginger
  • 2 gloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 red bird chillies
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 200ml of water
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce

Sauce 2:

  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • 1 index finger-sized piece of root ginger
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 150ml vegetable oil

Sauce 3:

  • 2 large white onions
  • Vegetable oil
  • 100ml light soya sauce
  • 50ml oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Black pepper


  • Chef knife
  • Chopping board
  • Spatula/fork/spoons
  • Small ceramic bowl
  • Pestle & mortar
  • Non-stick frying pan
  • Small saucepan


  • Sauce 1—20 minutes
  • Sauce 2—5-10 minutes
  • Sauce 3—15 minutes


Sauce 1

  1. Add 6 tablespoons of sugar into a bowl and pour in 200ml of warm water, stir to dissolve.
  2. Peel and chop ginger, garlic and red chillies, then place in a mortar and crush into a fine paste—10mins process.
  3. Squeeze two lemons (remove pips) and pour into the mortar.
  4. Pour the contents of the mortar into the dissolved sugar water and stir.
  5. Add a few dashes of fish sauce to the mixture and stir in.
  6. Taste the dressing and adjust to your own preference by adding more sugar, fish sauce, lemon juice and chilli.
  7. Serve immediately or keep refrigerated for up to 48 hours.

Sauce 2

  1. Peel and slice one piece of ginger and finely chop by hand.
  2. Wash and dry one bunch of spring onions. Cut off the darker green stalks at the ends, leaving the pale green and white bulbs.
  3. Finely dice the spring onions – the finer, the better.
  4. Add minced ginger and diced spring onions to a ceramic bowl and add salt.
  5. Heat oil in small saucepan until oil starts to smoke -2-3 minutes maximum! Take off heat immediately and carefully pour into the ceramic bowl. The spring onions will sizzle!
  6. Stir the oil with a spoon and serve immediately or keep refrigerated for up to 48 hours.

Watch this short video for a quick summary on what to do:

Sauce 3

  1. Peel and finely slice the onions.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan with a good glug of cooking oil. Add onions and fry on a medium heat until golden brown, then turn down heat.
  3. Add light soy sauce and oyster sauce to the pan of fried onions. The sauce will start to sizzle. Stir in  the sugar and pepper. Take off heat.
  4. Serve immediately or keep refrigerated for up to 48 hours.


  • These sauces can be made in advance, and are meant to be salty as a little will go a long way (!) when paired with plain food.
  • For vegetarians fish sauce can be replaced with salt or soy sauce.
  • Removing the seeds from the red chillies will remove the spiciness from the dressing.
  • For Sauce 1, the ginger, garlic and chilli must be ground into a very fine paste so a little elbow grease is needed. At least 10 minutes of constant pounding!

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