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I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Asia, and the food is just awesome.  And homemade.  So when I’ve tried to cook Asian dishes with store-bought sauces, I’ve been disappointed on so many levels…but especially that weird aftertaste (which is probably the unpronounceable preservatives & thickening agents) and far too much added sugar and salt....

3 Easy Asian Sauces and Dressings - Living Lekker

... so I started experimenting with ways to make an EASY, basic sauce that can be used in stir-fry dishes, salads, or just drizzled over fish or meat to add a kick of flavor.  I came up with 3 alternatives that all start with the same basic ingredients and then build on each other. Here’s the idea:


The BASIC recipe has ingredients that are versatile, easy to find, last a long time in your pantry, with no special equipment required.  It tastes great and it’s a go-to sauce when I’m in a hurry and haven't been to the store.


PREP TIME:  5 min

MAKES:  3/4 cup (180 ml) dressing

KEEPS:  3-4 weeks in refrigerator*

Asian Dressing BASIC with text CIPH7366.
  • ½ cup (120 ml) dark sesame oil

  • 2 TBSP (30 ml) soy sauce

  • 1 TBSP (15 ml) rice wine vinegar or sushi vinegar

  • 3-4 tsp (15-20 ml) honey (adjust to your desired sweetness)

  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced

  • ½ to 1 tsp crushed red pepper (adjust to your personal heat/spicy preference)


Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.


Transfer to an airtight container or salad dressing carafe and refrigerate until ready to use.


Or, you can move to the DELUXE, which builds on the BASIC by adding a few fresh ingredients, making it a bit more exotic...

PREP TIME:  7 min

MAKES:  3/4 cup (180 ml) dressing

KEEPS:  3-4 weeks in refrigerator*

Asian Dressing DELUXE with text VNOH2159

Same ingredients as THE BASIC +

  • ½ tsp ginger, peeled & finely grated

  • A squeeze of 1 lime wedge


Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl


Transfer to an airtight container or salad dressing carafe and refrigerate until ready to use.


PRO TIP:  use a cheese grater for the ginger, or, if you have a really good garlic press, you can use that too.  Grating is a bit more 'fussy' but you get a bit more of the giner that way.


And finally, the SUPER DELUXE which uses the BASIC + DELUXE and adds a few more fresh ingredients to deliver the complex depth of flavors you expect in a restaurant.  you'll need to get your blender out for this one.

PREP TIME:  10 min

MAKES:  1 cup (240 ml) dressing

KEEPS:  3-4 weeks in refrigerator*

Asian Dressing SUPER DELUX with text XQY

Same ingredients as THE BASIC + the DELUX +

  • 2 TBSP cashew nuts (or peanuts, or almonds)

  • 2 TBSP fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves

  • 1 tsp (5 ml) Thai Fish Sauce


Add all dry ingredients (nuts, cilantro, ginger, garlic, crushed red pepper) to blender/nutri-bullet/food processor and blitz into a fine dice.


Add your wet ingredients (oil, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, Dijon, lime juice, fish sauce) and pulse a few times to combine.

Transfer to an airtight container or salad dressing carafe and refrigerate until ready to use.


PRO TIP:  If you add ALL of the ingredients to a food processor at once and blitz, the sauce could turn into a thick paste, as the oil will becomes sort of ‘whipped’. 


All taste great, have multiple uses (see images below), and last a long time in the fridge, so you can't go wrong!

Super-foods Asian Cole Slaw of cabbage, carrot, red bell pepper, green onion and black quinoa, topped with bean sprouts and chopped almonds.

Asian Cole Slaw - Living Lekker

Teriyaki Salmon served with brown rice and broccoli

Teriyaki Salmon - Living Lekker

Dressing for super-food salad bowl of quinoa, edamame, spinach and almonds

Quinoa Edamame Salad - Living Lekker

Pour 1/2 cup sauce over chicken thighs and roast at 350F / 180C for 45 min.  Serve with grain and veg.

Easy Asian Chicken Thighs - Living Lekker

Makes a great sauce for any stir-fry!  Pitcured:  Broccoli, bell pepper, leeks and tofu over quinoa.

Crispy Tofu Stir-Fry - Living Lekker

Recipe & Photo Credit:  Cathy Menees




As with many Asian recipes, the list of ingredients is longer than most of my salad dressings, but the complexity of flavor is worth it!  But don’t worry, many of my other recipes call for these things, so they will earn their mileage.


I always make a double batch as I use about half of it for my Asian Coleslaw (pictured) and the rest I like to have on hand for other salads and marinades..



Pay attention here - It’s important to blitz the dry ingredients first as they need more ‘pulses’ to be diced down to size.  If you add all the ingredients at the same time, the oil can start to become ‘whipped’ and you may end of with a bizarrely thick paste (it's happened to me and it's not nice...).




A good food processor or blender is neccesary to get the smoothness you want from a salad dressing made with fresh (vs dried) herbs and aromatics.  If you don't have one, then better have a sharp knife and don't be afraid to be happy with a slightly lumpy will still taste great!



Our refigerator is set to 3 Celsius, which is about 37 Fahrenheit.  At that temperature, and stored in a caraffe with a tight-fitting lid, this dressing lasts easily 3-4 weeks.  *Refrigerators and storage containers vary, so just observe your own to get a feel for how long it will last.  You will know by the smell (or growing mold) when something is not right!

Chickpea and Quinoa Tabbouleh
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