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itch22

Lu Shui, Chinese Master Sauce

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I am reading a book about the food and culinary techniques of China and I came to the section about Lushui Zhi, which is described as a "master sauce". The book details that it is a meat stock of chicken and pork (or chicken and veal) flavoured with soy sauce, shao xing, rock sugar, scallions, ginger, and star anise (sometimes adding other spices of the traditional five-spice powder). Okay, simple enough. Then it goes on to say that after it is used to braise one dish, it is then kept and reused to braise other dishes day after day, replenishing the spices as needed.

My question is, how long can this procedure be maintained until the stock is no longer reusable? The book doesn't say. I'd be surprised to hear that it could be done indefinately. Does anyone here on eGullet have an ongoing Lushui Zhi? If so, how long has it been going for you?

In case you're interested, the book is called "The Food of China" by Deh-Ta Hsiung. I have another book by him which is an encyclopedia of sorts covering most Asian ingredients, outlining their culinary use, storage, and how to determine freshness and/or quality. It's kind of like a field guide to Asian markets and food for non-Asians.

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It's just commonly called Lo Shui. Literally, Old Water. I'm pretty sure you can use it till you lie on your deathbed. I've heard that a chef in China has kept his lo shui for more than 50 years. Try eggs in lo shui. I like tea eggs better, but damn, its good.


Edited by Transparent (log)

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My question is, how long can this procedure be maintained until the stock is no longer reusable?  The book doesn't say.  I'd be surprised to hear that it could be done indefinately.  Does anyone here on eGullet have an ongoing Lushui Zhi?  If so, how long has it been going for you?

You can practically reuse it indefinitely. The key is to "replenish" the ingredients with more spices, more soy sauce, more everything is relative proportion.

It makes me think of the mother dough of sour dough in San Francisco. They kept using the same dough, make more doughs, and save enough mother dough for the next day.

I kept mine in the freezer and I used it about only once in 1-2 months for about 4 years. I had to pitch it when I moved. Now I have started another one and it's been over a year. I didn't make my Lo Shui from scratch like your book described. I bought a bottle of ready-to-use Lo Shui from Lee Kum Kee and started from there.

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I am not so sure if Lo shui is the right pronounciation. I have always heard it pronounced "loo shui". If that is the case, the it does NOT mean old water. But I have been wrong once before :biggrin: To "loo" something means to steep it in this very savoury and aromatic liquid. The ingredients posted so far is about right, but everyone has his own formula. It is so simple that when my son left home, a pot of loo shui was the first thing he made. He ate well.

Loo shui can be kept indefinitely without refrigeration if it is being used every day, but in reality it should be frozen if the interval between uses is more than a couple of days. My own container of the stuff is over 7 years old right now. I never loo liver as liver clouds up the liquid too much. Of course fish and sefood like squid or octopus needs a separate batch.

There is one old story about how in the spirit of cooperation and welcome, a restauranteur would send a pot of his own loo shui to a new restaurant that's just opening up. Apocryphal?

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I have my master stock for about 4 months now,I have used it to cook a couple of chickens, I store it in the freezer,my question is if I have to cook a piece of beef or pork in simular fashion, do I need to start a seperate master stock ? chicken or meat cook in this manner often refers to as ' red cook' or 'red roast'.

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awesome! my mom made this all the time but i don't think she ever reused the braising liquid over and over again. maybe it's because we always ate everything. i don't think it's necessary to keep the lushui and reuse it, so if this idea bothers you, don't do it. just make a fresh batch each time.

i agree, it is "Lu" (as the original post) in mandarin. we always made eggs, tofu, beef, chicken wings and seaweed. it's also considered to be a kind of "red-cooking" method.

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I am not so sure if Lo shui is the right pronounciation. I have always heard it pronounced "loo shui". If that is the case, the it does NOT mean old water. But I have been wrong once before :biggrin:  To "loo" something means to steep it in this very savoury and aromatic liquid. The ingredients posted so far is about right, but everyone has his own formula.

I agree that the Chinese for this Master sauce is 卤水 (Meaning: /crass/halogen/salt/brine/), and not 老水 (old water) that Transparent was thinking.

These two characters 卤 and 老 sounds identical in Cantonese, though they sound different in Mandarin. Maybe in Toisanese they sound different like you described?

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I've watched a short documentary film about the master sauce, lu2 shui2 (han yu). The restaurant featured in the film is selling braised goose, duck, chicken, pork, pork organs and anything else you could think of. The owner of the shop mentioned that the lu shui was passed to his generation from his father, and he prepares to pass to his son when he finally ready to take over the business. He said the master sauce can be kept indefinitely.

However, he braises different meat in different pot because certain type of leftover braise sauce would not be kept for reuse (i forgotten which type). He also add different amount of soy sauce and spices for braising different type of meat. He mentioned that there was once they moved from old shop to the current one and he accidentally dropped the pot of master sauce, and managed to save half of the sauce only, and he always felt upset about that incident and be very careful when handling with master sauce.

Here a little I watched about master sauce.

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Thank you everyone for your detailed responses; and you're right hzrt8w, sour dough starter also goes indefinately. So from now on, I shall keep mine and reuse it.

One other question, since particles of what is being braised such as the meat, can come off, would it be a good idea to strain the braising liquid through muslin after each use? Or would that work against the effect you are trying to achieve by reusing the liquid?

(EDITED for grammer.)


Edited by itch22 (log)

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Hm, my family is from Toisan. That could explain the differences. I've been taught that it was old water though, which is pretty interesting.

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I'm Toisanese, too. Funny, the old water thing came to top of mind when I first read this. I don't know if Toisan cooking has this or my family just doesn't do it.

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This Toisanese's family always had it at home , although it was always thought of more as a restaurant kind of dish.

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awesome! my mom made this all the time but i don't think she ever reused the braising liquid over and over again. maybe it's because we always ate everything. i don't think it's necessary to keep the lushui and reuse it, so if this idea bothers you, don't do it. just make a fresh batch each time.

i agree, it is "Lu" (as the original post) in mandarin. we always made eggs, tofu, beef, chicken wings and seaweed. it's also considered to be a kind of "red-cooking" method.

my mom too make her sauce each time from scratch, reasons giving she thinks to keep master sauce is inhygenic, and we also love to mix the braise sauce with steamed rice... hmmm.... yum :rolleyes: and we always finished off all the sauce. I believe it will be no harm to make from scratch each time you want to braise, just using master sauce will provide a more flavourful braised dish.

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This Toisanese's family always had it at home  , although it was always thought of more as a restaurant kind of dish.

This Toisanese family also! :smile: I love chicken wings done this way.

I usually strain my sauce before I put it away. The bits and pieces tend to get "rubbery and mushy" sitting in the liquid.

I had asked about a recipe( in another thread) for the yellow coloured octopus found hanging beside Cantonese ducks at my Chinese BBQ shop. I just realized that it was cooked in Lo shui...pronounced in Cantonese with the long vowel O in LO.

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I also drain my lo shui before putting it away. (Removing the star anise, cinnamon, cumin, etc. from the sauce). In addition, I also let the sauce to cool in the refrigerator to let the chicken/pork fat float to the top. Skim off the fat with a spoon. Only retain the true liquid before putting in to the freezer.

What Ben Hong said earlier is very true: if you don't want the master sauce to be mirky, don't put any liver in when you cook.

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hzrt:"Skim off the fat with a spoon. Only retain the true liquid before putting in to the freezer."

It's actually a good idea to leave the layer of fat on top of the sauce, especially if you keep it in the fridge. This hardens and acts as a sealant, keeping the flavours in and molds, etc , out. Lift it off when you want to use the sauce. I do this as well when I make chicken stock.

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This Toisanese's family always had it at home  , although it was always thought of more as a restaurant kind of dish.

This Toisanese family also! :smile: I love chicken wings done this way.

I usually strain my sauce before I put it away. The bits and pieces tend to get "rubbery and mushy" sitting in the liquid.

I had asked about a recipe( in another thread) for the yellow coloured octopus found hanging beside Cantonese ducks at my Chinese BBQ shop. I just realized that it was cooked in Lo shui...pronounced in Cantonese with the long vowel O in LO.

AI YA! NOW I know what you're talking about. :biggrin:

Man, I so loose Chinese points for not connecting the dots. My mom does chicken wings in a sauce like that. As soon as you mentioned chicken wings, Dejah, it clicked. Yeah, Ben - it's more of a restaurant dish than a home dish.

Sidebar - can I say how cool it is to find some fellow Toisanese in here? Woo hoo!

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It's actually a good idea to leave the layer of fat on top of the sauce, especially if you keep it  in the fridge. This hardens and acts as a sealant, keeping the flavours in and molds, etc , out. Lift it off when you want to use the sauce. I do this as well when I make chicken stock.

That makes sense. Thanks. (My wife and I feel eerie seeing fat. Couldn't help but to get rid of it...)

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I watched an episode of Simply Ming this afternoon. Ming Tsai and his parents made a Master Braising Liquid with pretty much the same ingredients as hzrt mentioned in his first post. They added a whole orange and orange peel.

They braised butter fish and suey choy, duck legs with sweet potato and daikon, grilled rib eye steak with red roast-carrot syrup, and a red roast beef shank sandwich.

They didn't talk about keeping the master sauce tho'.

If interested, the URL is:

http://www.ming.com/simplyming/showrecipes...isingLiquid.htm

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Mine is several years old, too, but I've only used it for chicken. I have a couple of freezers, and it is way in the back of the big one, where I forget it, ------but this thread and cold weather will get me going for a nice winter meal.

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There is also a recipe for Master Sauce in Barabara Tropp's China Moon cookbood; I made it once and kept it a number of months (in the freezer between uses) before pitching it.

I would assume that so long as you follow the general food safety rules (no more than 4 hours total time in "danger zone" tempuratures between 40* and 140*), it should keep forever; I regret pitching mine and need to start another!

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In addition to the recipe that Barbara Tropp has -- she has different master sauces in the "China Moon Cookbook" (more California fusion in style) and in her "Modern Art of Chinese Cooking" (more traditional) -- Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, in her "Chinese Kitchen", has an interesting section on lo soi (which she translates as "old water"). She also has a single recipe using the same technique in "Chinese Chicken Cookbook".

Tropp's recipes include master sauce chicken, black mushrooms and eggs. I've done all and they are superb.

Ken Hom also had a recipe in one of his books on vegetarian cooking. I kept that one going for 4 years, until I moved overseas and couldn't take it with me. My current version, the Lo "original" recipe, has been going for about 6 months.

Both Tropp and Lo indicate that you should use a different batch for fish vs. other things, to avoid an undesirable "melding" of flavors. I would imagine liver falls into the same category.

Lo describes putting the herbs and whole spices in cheesecloth so they can be easily removed after the first or second use. She also strains the lo once it has cooled and stores it in the refrigerator or freezer, depending on how frequently you intend to use it. Yes, she suggests not defatting it, for ease of storage, like the French technique for confit. She recommends bringing it out on a regular basis if it hasn't been used for a while, bringing it to a boil, then letting it cool and back into the freezer. From time to time, it will need to be replenished ...

Since we've used sourdough as an analogy, remember that if you're not using your starter on an everyday basis (most home cooks don't), you have to feed the starter on a regular basis to keep it fresh and going ...

In Chiu Chow restaurants (Lo describes this as belonging to that subculture's cooking repertoire), this isn't necessary, because there is always something simmering in the pot ... and restaurants have been known to keep their sauces going for > 75 years -- the recipe she includes is said to be from a chef who started it when young and had maintained it for > 50 years.

Perhaps if you have family recipes, we should share those?

Regards,

WGW / JasonZ


Edited by JasonZ (log)

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What is the reasoning behind keeping the master sauce for 75 years or even a week? Up to a week I can see. But years? How does it benefit from this? Does it just get better and better? Are restaurants that have older master sauces recognized for it? Do culinarians say things like, "that restaurant's master sauce is thought to be 50 years old, so I know this X dish is probably better than the other place with a fresh master sauce."

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Chefzadi: I suppose there are no real valid, measurable or empirical reasons to keep a sauce for 75 years. I personally feel that this is apocryphal. Keeping a sauce for 20-25 usages though has definite merits as with each successive use, the "meatiness" of flavour or "umami" increases and what you get then is a depth of flavour that is astounding. Fresh master sauces, on the other hand, has a new "edge" that is also discernible to those with golden palates. Boeuf bourgignon or coq au vin almost always taste better the second day, non? Same principle.

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Yes, same principle. That's why I could understand a week. Thanks for the explanation.

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