So you’ve probably heard that pound cake was thus named because it was once made from a pound of butter, a pound of flour, and a pound of sugar? Similarly, Cantonese 3-2-1 sauce is a recipe in a name. Only, unlike pound cake, this is a recipe I use regularly. Three parts soy sauce, two parts oyster sauce, and one part sesame oil yield this amazing basic sauce, full of umami and perfect for stir fries. I’ve mentioned my obsession with umami on here before, right? Officially recognized as one of our basic tastes (the others being sweet, sour, salty, and bitter) just 27 years ago, it’s that rich hearty flavor that makes steak, mushrooms, tomatoes, and cheese so addictive. Thinking about how to pack your food with umami can really make a difference in your cooking. 3-2-1 sauce is a great source of umami, so it’s a simple way to make a very flavorful dish. In this 3-2-1 stir fry, I use a combination of some of my favorite vegetables – beech mushrooms, broccoli, and bell peppers – but you could easily swap these out for some of your favorites.
3-2-1 Stir Fry
Yield: 4 – 6 servings
- 4 cups water
- 1 lb broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets*
- 3 Tbsp soy sauce**
- 2 Tbsp oyster sauce***
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp peanut oil
- 3 – 4 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 lb beech mushrooms, bottoms removed****
- 2 bell peppers, sliced
- 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1″ piece ginger, minced
- 1 hot pepper, minced*****
*I usually chop the stems and use them too – because they’re a bit tougher than the florets, I cut them much smaller.
**Using an authentic, good quality soy sauce will make a big difference here – personally, I like Kimlan “Super Special” soy sauce.
***Oyster sauce is, as per its name, usually made from oysters and thus not vegetarian. However, there are also vegetarian “oyster” sauces available, typically made with mushrooms.
****These mushrooms usually come in bunches attached at the bottom – you want to cut the bottom off so that they fall apart into individual mushrooms.
*****I used Thai bird’s eye chili for an extra kick, but a jalapeno is good if your spice tolerance is a little lower.
- In a medium pot, bring 4 cups water to a boil, then add 1 lb broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets, and cook until bright green, 1 – 2 minutes. Drain, and rinse with cold water (or plunge into ice water) to stop the cooking, then set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 Tbsp oyster sauce, and 1 Tbsp sesame oil, then set aside.
- In a wok or large saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp peanut oil over medium-high heat, then add 3 – 4 shallots, thinly sliced, and sautee until translucent, about 3 – 5 minutes.
- Add 1 lb beech mushrooms, bottoms removed, and sautee until starting to soften and darken, about 5 minutes.
- Add 2 bell peppers, sliced, and sautee until softened.
- Add 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced, 1″ piece ginger, minced, and 1 hot pepper, minced, and sautee until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Add the set aside broccoli and the 3-2-1 sauce, and toss thoroughly to combine, then serve.