Orchid’s Spicy Sesame Sauce


Sesame sauces of varying degrees of sweetness and spiciness are a prominent feature of northern, and to a lesser extent, central Chinese cooking. The base is always the dark brown and keenly aromatic paste ground from toasted sesame seeds. As to the spicing, garlic, scallion, ginger, vinegar, and sweeteners are all used in sesame sauces to give each its special taste.

  • This blend is my favorite, a sleeping tiger—a sauce that is sweet to begin and spicy on the way down, mellowed by the addition of honey and sparked by fresh coriander, garlic, and hot chili oil. Apart from its Chinese uses, it is excellent to have on hand when some cold chicken, grilled fish, or sliced roast beef needs dressing.


  • 3 large cloves garlic, stem end removed, lightly smashed and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves and upper stems
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste, drained of oil
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese or Japanese sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons thin (regular) soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine or quality, dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons unseasoned Chinese or Japanese rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon wild-flower honey
  • ¾-1 teaspoon hot chili oil
  • about teaspoon Roasted Szechwan Pepper-Salt, to taste


Mince the garlic and coriander until fine in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife. Add the remaining ingredients and process until thoroughly homogenized, about 1 minute, scraping down the bowl once or twice.

If you do not have a food processor, mince the garlic and coriander finely, then combine with the remaining ingredients in a blender or whisk by hand until thoroughly thick and smooth.

For best flavor, set aside to develop at room temperature several hours or overnight, sealed airtight. Use at room temperature for full flavor and aroma.

Store the sauce in a clean, airtight bottle in the refrigerator, where it will keep indefinitely. Reblend before using and add a bit of water if the sauce thickens beyond the point where it falls in smooth ribbons from a spoon.