This is the umami sauce you need for Thanksgiving - Los Angeles Times

Brown sugar and soy sauce bubbling on the stove. Chiles sizzling in hot oil. The scent of Sichuan pepper, cassia, ginger, star anise and cardamom in the kitchen. This is Thanksgiving.

This week, Jing Gao shows us how to make Thanksgiving — turkey, stuffing, mac ’n’ cheese, pumpkin pie — with the flavors of her hometown: Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. The canon of Sichuan flavor combinations, called fuhewei, and ingredients from the mountains and countryside outside of Chengdu are Gao’s inspiration. They’re also what inspired her to launch her company Fly by Jing in 2019, and the chili crisp for which it’s known. Dried Sichuan Prickly Ash Powder

This is the umami sauce you need for Thanksgiving - Los Angeles Times

You are reading our Cooking newsletter

Sign up to get a taste of Los Angeles — and the world — in your own home and in your inbox every Friday

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.

A recipe she created for candied sweet potatoes calls for zhong sauce. Zhong sauce is spicy, sweet, sticky, aromatic, evoking a sauce for the dumplings that Gao grew up eating. A recipe for it comes from her new book, “The Book of Sichuan Chili Crisp: Spicy Recipes and Stories From Fly by Jing’s Kitchen.” It’s used as a glaze for baked, sliced sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. And I’m now addicted to the gooey version I’ve made at home.

It starts by simmering light soy sauce with dark brown sugar on the stove; then the spices are added and the mixture reduced. It steeps overnight. You make a chile oil with chile powder sizzled in grapeseed oil. And then you mix the the spiced soy reduction and the chile oil together. Zhong sauce! (Gao also sells bottled Fly by Jing zhong sauce.) I’m sure I will be spooning it on my plate of turkey and stuffing in lieu of gravy. Use it to glaze other vegetables, such as for stir-fries, or roasts and braises like porchetta or pork belly.

Gao’s meticulous about her ingredients, sourcing them directly from farms and producers in Sichuan. The Sichuan peppers, a variety called Tribute, are harvested by hand every year in August. She uses erjingtiao dried red chiles, especially glossy and fragrant. She sells these, but you can also find substitutes in Chinese markets such as 99 Ranch.

Here are some notes on ingredients in zhong sauce and her other Sichuan-inspired Thanksgiving recipes (see below):

Light soy sauce (not to be confused with low-sodium soy sauce) is saltier and more savory than regular soy sauce.

For chile powder, Gao toasts and grinds whole erjingtiao chiles. Some Chinese markets also sell Sichuan chile powder. Alternatively, you also could use a high-quality chile powder, made only from dried chiles (and not to be confused with chili powder, a blend that can contain other spices such as paprika). You also can use gochugaru, Korean red chile powder — but it isn’t as spicy as Sichuan chile powder.

Sichuan pepper isn’t a chile or even a peppercorn. It is the small berry of a tree in the same family as citrus. Some markets and neighborhood shops sell Sichuan peppers. At Chinese markets, you might see both red and green whole Sichuan pepper (also labeled prickly ash). Opt for red, which is known to have more flavor.

Sichuan pepper oil, whole dried red Sichuan chiles and Sichuan chile flakes are also sold at Chinese markets.

The Sichuan flavor profile jiaoyan wei refers to the combination of salt and Sichuan pepper. This mixture makes a great dry brine for your turkey. Sichuan pepper is citrusy, floral and fragrant. Dried, crushed chiles also are used here. Rub the bird with the mixture and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours before roasting. Get the recipe. Cook time: 3 to 4 hours plus resting time, plus 1 day for dry brining.

Chimichurri meets Sichuan flavors in this punchy sauce that pairs well with roast meats such as turkey. The traditional Argentine and Uruguayan condiment features handfuls of parsley, garlic, chile flakes, olive oil and vinegar. This version mixes cilantro with Chinese black vinegar, light soy sauce, garlic, ginger and Sichuan pepper-infused oil. Get the recipe. Cook time: 15 minutes plus resting time

Consider becoming a Times subscriber.

This is my new favorite stuffing. It combines the traditional herbs of Thanksgiving stuffing — sage and rosemary — with a chile-spice blend that adds another layer of complexity, including cloves. Get the recipe. Cook time: 1 hour 25 minutes

These are the sweet potatoes with zhong sauce. I love that these are sliced and baked — candied as you would the traditional Thanksgiving dish, with butter and sugar. Once baked, they’re glazed with spicy, molasses-y zhong sauce. Get the recipe. Cook time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Chili crisp is separated — the oil from the crispy stuff — then added to the roux and cheese sauce, respectively. Creamy, cheesy and spicy might be my three favorite words. Get the recipe. Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Pumpkin spice with a Sichuan twist. Chinese five-spice and Sichuan pepper are added to the mix with nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger for the pumpkin pie filling. It’s the delicious pie you know, with new secret ingredients. Get the recipe. Cook time: 55 minutes

Eat your way across L.A.

Get our weekly Tasting Notes newsletter for reviews, news and more.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.

Betty Hallock is deputy Food editor at the Los Angeles Times. She has co-written four cookbooks, including “Bäco: Vivid Recipes from the Heart of Los Angeles,” “Amá: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen” and “Baking at République.” She started her journalism career at the Wall Street Journal and Scientific American in New York, worked on the L.A. Times’ Business desk, and was interim food editor at Los Angeles Magazine. Hallock also helped launch a food and nutrition vertical for wellness app RoundGlass. She’s a graduate of UCLA and New York University.

Subscribe for unlimited access Site Map

This is the umami sauce you need for Thanksgiving - Los Angeles Times

Dried Sichuan Pepper MORE FROM THE L.A. TIMES