Simmer sauces taste test

If you’re craving an Asian-style meal, don’t expect authenticity from a jar of simmer sauce, finds the CHOICE tasting panel.
 
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  • Updated:1 Aug 2009
 

04.What we found

Satay

The source

SatayThis sauce is widely used in Indonesian and Malay cooking. The main ingredients should be a roasted peanut paste, such as peanut butter, and soy sauce to give it a nutty and salty taste. Recipes often also include coconut milk, shrimp paste, garlic and spices (such as coriander and cumin).

The verdict

None of the sauces in our test scored well for authenticity. The panel preferred the taste of Dragon & Phoenix and Taylor’s Peanut Satay equally but grudgingly, awarding them only 55% each. One of the tasters commented that Dragon & Phoenix “actually tastes of peanuts”, but others found it bland.

Taylor’s Peanut Satay was “nice and spicy” and “very sweet”. One of the two brands least liked, Kan Tong Peanut Satay, was described as “flavourless” and the other, Woolworths Select Satay Sauce with Extra Peanuts, as “gooey”.

Butter chicken

The source

Butter chickenButter chicken originated in Northern India. Recipes vary, but most say the chicken should be marinated in yoghurt and spices before being grilled or roasted; the sauce is made from butter (ghee), tomatoes, almonds and various spices that can include cumin, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, fenugreek and pepper.

The verdict

The tasters preferred Indian Chicken Tonight and Taylor’s Kashmiri Butter Chicken over the other brands – but without much enthusiasm. Indian Chicken Tonight was described as “quite nice”, and Taylor’s Kashmiri Butter Chicken as “OK, but wrong colour and flavour”.

“Product of India” on the label is no guarantee the sauce really tastes “authentic”. Maharajah’s Choice is imported from India but the tasters weren’t convinced of its authenticity (although they quite liked the taste). The most convincing was Passage to India, which one taster described as “a reasonable imitation but far from restaurant standard”. (On average, though, the tasters gave higher taste scores to the sauces they judged to be more authentic.)

Green curry

The source

Green curryThe word “green” in the name comes from the colour of this characteristic Thai dish. According to Charmaine Solomon’s The Complete Asian Cookbook, the main ingredients should be coconut milk, green curry paste, eggplant, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil leaves.

Green curry paste is made from chillies, shallots, garlic, galangal (a close relative of ginger), turmeric and shrimp paste.

The verdict

Ayam Thai Green Curry Cooking Sauce stood out as having the best flavour and as the most authentic tasting. Nonetheless, the tasters thought it “bland” and “lacks depth”. Trailing the pack, Taylor’s Thai Green Curry was “too sweet” and had “the consistency of mayonnaise”.

Sweet and sour

The source

Sweet & sourThe Cantonese probably came up with the idea of merging these two very different taste sensations. The sweet comes from white or brown sugar; the sour should be from either rice wine or rice vinegar.

The verdict

None of the simmer sauce versions rated well for taste or authenticity. Only one brand, Kan Tong Sweet & Sour, scored more than 50% for taste, and then only marginally. The tasters described this sauce as “a bit bland” and “too simple – just sweetness and sourness”.

Good for you?

Many of these sauces contain more saturated fat and salt than is healthy for regular eating – and most of the sweet and sour sauces are too high in sugar. But if you serve them with vegetables or a salad (as recommended by most manufacturers in the instructions on the label) some of these sauces aren’t too bad nutritionally – although if you use them a lot, try to avoid brands with too much fat, sugar and/or salt, which we’ve shown in the Results table with the amount and a red square alongside. On average, satay sauces are the worst for all three.

Too much salt

There’s no real need for some manufacturers to add so much salt to their sauces because we found overall there’s no relationship between the taste scores and the amount of sodium per 100g.

 

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