Pretend a friend just gave you the best bottle of steak sauce you’ve ever tasted. You’d ration it, troll the internet for fancy shops that carry it, send subliminal angst to housemates who take too much or—the nerve—leave puddles behind on their plates.
Now pretend that sauce is one you can stir together from your pantry, with three humble ingredients you can stock and restock from any old grocery store. You’d have an unending supply of the world’s best steak sauce. You’d never suffer the anxiety of a dwindling stash again. You’d be free.
It’s easy to assume that our most cherished staples—steak and barbecue and hot sauces—are complex and untouchable, honed by flavor scientists in labs to taste exactly like what we’re wired to crave.
But really all they are is salt, umami, tang, and heat. And there’s a whole lot of that living in our pantries. Here, in chef Roy Yamaguchi’s Soy-Mustard Sauce, they live in soy sauce (salt, umami), rice vinegar (tang), and a hefty amount of ground mustard (heat!). Together, these three push all the buttons.
“What I had it on was, at the time, the single most transformative meal of my entire life,” writer Catherine Newman detailed on her blog Ben & Birdy in 2014. “It made me feel like I’d never actually eaten anything before that tasted good, and like I might never again afterwards.”
The dish Newman fell for was Blackened Ahi with Soy Mustard Sauce and Beurre Blanc, a signature at Roy’s restaurant in Hawaii. 25 more Roy’s have popped up across the world—and, 30 years after launching the ahi appetizer on their first menu, they’re still serving it.
But what Newman has since discovered is that this sauce does damn fine work parading through all sorts of other foods: brown rice, edamame, fish of all kinds, and, notably, steak. When I first tasted it, I felt a rush of rich, salty, brightness and ballooning heat, then an instant tug to go back in for more. It framed and amplified the steak in the loudest, juiciest way.
The experience was so intense, I worried it might be an acquired taste that others wouldn’t like, briefly forgetting about wasabi with sushi, horseradish in Bloody Marys, and hot sauce on everything. One very high-energy Food52 team taste test later, I knew I was wrong. This stuff is loved, wildly, by all. And you can make it anytime you want.
• 1/4 cup mustard powder, preferably Colman’s
• 2 tablespoons hot water
• 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
• 1/4 cup soy sauce
See the full recipe on Food52.
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