Happy new year! It’s the first of february today and it just so happens that that marks the start of twenty twenty-two on the lunar calendar. The chinese new year, if you will.
And, unfortunately, I used up my most tiger-themed sauce last year and don’t have anything too on brand for the holiday, this time around. In fact, I’m fresh out of specifically chinese sauces altogether, right now, but I do have two new asian-style ones from Tubby Tom’s, all the same:
His mild Tubbyaki and a second, slightly more special, test batch, amped up with ghost pepper and yuzu. Both chock full of sweet soy, ginger and garlic.
Now there might be some similarity between the symbols around the regular variety’s sides and those seen on Tom’s Dragon Salt but today’s pair are more japanese than chinese. Inspired by the traditional “shining grill” sauce, “teriyaki”. Yet you’ll find that, both in terms of their writing style and their cooking, there’s a good deal of overlap between the two cultures.
I mentioned a few of the ingredients, up top, but here’s the full list for Tom’s original Tubbyaki take on the style:
Brown Sugar, Soy Sauce (Soy, Wheat), Distilled Malt Vinegar (Barley), Water, Ginger, Garlic, Smoked Rapeseed Oil, Chilli, Onion, Salt, Chipotle Flakes, Xanthan Gum
In which we see the same ginger, garlic, onion and unspecified red chilli that go into many an asian dish, regardless of the exact country. Paired with both brown sugar and smoked oil. The first of which being a teriyaki classic, used to transform the soy into a sweet and savoury base, for what is essentially the japanese equivalent of a barbecue sauce. While the second seems much more akin to the nutty, toasted sesame oil used in chinese and korean cooking.
The vinegar doesn’t quite resemble either – Having neither the depth of a black rice variety nor the light taste and sharp tang of a clear rice wine – and the chipotle is simply Tom’s own twist. But the asian inspiration is still plain to see and reflected in the ginger beneath its name. While the dark edges to the company’s otherwise pale label hint at the savoury soy within.
As for the test batch of Tubbyaki X Yuzu, though, that’s a little less like Tom’s susual packaging. His plain, white face replaced with an all-grey and rather more detailed, flaming skull variant. One which shows the maker’s love of death metal and lacks any sauce-specific features, yet makes up for their absence with a large amount of transparency, instead.
The sauce inside contains:
Brown Sugar, Soy Sauce (Soy, Wheat), Distilled Malt Vinegar (Barley), Water, Lime Juice, Ginger, Garlic, Yuzu Juice, Smoked Rapeseed Oil, Ghost Chilli, Onion, Smoked Salt, Lime Oil, Xanthan Gum
and its ingredients list fails to bold any allergens but otherwise looks a lot like the last. The key differences being that the chipotle has been taken out, in favour of smoking the salt, the unspecified chilli is now the legendary ghost pepper, and a blend of yuzu, lime juice and lime oil have been added, for that extra citrus hit.
As always, I’m a little sceptical of using zest oils, rather than the real fruit, but I’m excited for this one. The yuzu is a complex, asian citrus – first bred in china but now even more popular in japan – with elements of bright lemon, alongside warmer orange and grapefruit notes. Supposedly far higher than its common cousins in vitamin C, yet prized far more for its flavour. And I love it.
So let’s give these two a go!
On my spoons, this pair look practically identical but there is an ever so slightly redder glow to the yuzu variety, on the right. And it filled my spoon up just that little bit faster, having clearly become less sticky from all of the added juice.
The original version sticks to the sides of the bottle, on its way out, and will likely cling to meats and tempura a better than the yuzu but the difference in consistency is far less apparent in my mouth. Both have the same thick and syrupy feel to them, along with some pretty minimal heat.
from the regular version, striking the back of my mouth quickly but not overstaying its welcome. While its Yuzu counterpart is significantly stronger, yet also slower, with a
throat burn that creeps and lingers, just like you’d expect of the ghost pepper, yet doesn’t even come close to its usual firepower.
Neither packs the punch that I expected, spice-wise, but both have a serious hit of rich, dark, salty umami. With an almost equally powerful citrus kick in the yuzu version, a moment later, and gentle undertones of smoke in both.
There is certainly sweetness in them but it’s all but buried by the intense savoury taste of the soy. And, frankly, it’s a bit much for me. At least on my spoon.
But none of you are going to be eating teriyaki sauce by the spoonful. You’re going to be throwing it over food, where it’ll make a delicious glaze or dipping sauce and add a tonne of depth to stir-frys and egg friend rice. As fitting for your chinese food as the japanese which it was intended for.
Eaten that way – The proper way – I enjoy this pair a lot. And I strongly suspect that you’ll love the regular Tubbyaki, too. Though I’m worried that the yuzu version may be a touch more controversial.
It does pack the warming, orange-tinged taste of the fruit but it also packs lime oil, for that zestier, more peel-like flavour. Which, while popular in a lot of japanese cooking, can taste quite unpleasantly fake to those who only know the yuzu’s juice.
So, while I don’t mind it here – Since the thickness of the sauce keeps the oils from lingering in my mouth, like CaJohn’s – it may not be for everyone. And I would certainly recommend passing on the test batch if you dislike the yuzu’s peel.
It’s still a great sauce, though, for those, like myself, who do enjoy that yuzu peel-like taste. And the regular version is a great alternative for everyone else.