Other kids got college care packages with brownies and checks for books (read: beer). I got boxes of greasy glass jars, Scotch tape slipping off the lids. They were perfect. My mother was not a baker of brownies, but she did know what I wanted 600 miles from home: ginger scallion sauce. I can’t tell you how many times I called a bowl of rice with ginger scallion sauce dinner, another reason I stand before you a proud, strapping five foot seven.
I don’t actually know its history or, since I have a tendency to slather it on anything from pork to a bedspread, what it’s supposed to be used for. (I think poached chicken is traditional, but that’s just too limiting.) You can find the fragrant, salty, oily goodness of ginger scallion sauce wherever you find Cantonese barbecue, the places where you see roasted ducks and garish red strips of char siu pork hanging in the window. My mother would go to my favorite place with a sack of empty jars and ask for some to send to me. She was never a maker of ginger scallion sauce either.
Of course, I grew lazy and complacent with my constant supply of ginger scallion sauce, and when I got too old to get care packages anymore, I just did without. I always assumed its complex flavor meant it would be complicated to make, but it turns out that all it takes is four ingredients and a little love of danger. Yes, danger.
Ginger Scallion Sauce
Makes 2 cups; a little goes a long way
Active time: 5 minutes.
2 ounces ginger, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1.5 bunches (about 6 oz) whole scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 cup oil, preferably peanut or corn (I would avoid olive oil and definitely no canola, which tastes like a piece of metal trying to be a piece of fish)
Grind up the ginger in a food processor until it’s about the size of BBs, or a brunoise, if you’re fancy. Put it in a wide, tall, heatproof bowl.
Grind up the scallions in the food processor until they’re about the same size as the ginger. Don’t sweat it if they’re not perfectly the same size. Put them into the bowl with the ginger.
Salt the ginger and scallion mixture mercilessly and stir well. Taste it. It won't taste good because of the rawness, but you want it to be just a little too salty to be palatable.
Take another good look at the bowl. Are you sure it’s heatproof? Are you sure it’s big enough to hold at least four or five times what you have in there? Good, because…
Heat the oil until it just barely starts to smoke. Then pour it into the bowl. It’s going to sizzle and bubble like a science-project volcano, and it’s going to smell awesome. Don’t stick your face in it. You wouldn’t stick your face in lava, would you?
Let it cool to room temperature. Keep it in the fridge. Remember that there are other food groups.