I was sorely tempted to call this Un-Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce, to separate it from the candy-like concoctions that prevail in every bad Chinese restaurant. The base is the classic mix of sugar and vinegar, but an initial infusion of garlic and ginger in the oil dampens the sweetness and enlarges the tang, and also dots the sauce with bits of gold and white. Light in taste, it is also light in consistency. There is just enough cornstarch to bind it, no more.
Combine the liquid seasonings, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Put them and the remaining ingredients within easy reach of your stovetop.
Heat a small, heavy saucepan over high heat until hot. Add the oil, and swirl to glaze the bottom of the pot. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle one bit of garlic, add the garlic and ginger and stir gently until fragrant, 10–15 seconds, adjusting the heat so they sizzle gently without browning. Add the combined liquids, stir to blend, then raise the heat to bring the mixture to a bubbly simmer, stirring. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir the cornstarch mixture to recombine it, and add it to the pan. Stir until the mixture thickens and becomes glossy, about 20 seconds. Turn off the heat and cover the pot to keep the sauce warm.
The sauce may remain in the pot until you are ready to serve it. If it cools, reheat over a low heat, stirring.
The sauce may be made up to several days in advance. Let it come to room temperature, seal airtight, and refrigerate. Reheat as above before serving.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.