Ok Sauce: A Comprehensive Guide

OK Sauce is a historic British brand. Made by Colman's of Norwich. It has been manufactured for over 100 years. The original advertising for OK Sauce from 1913 called it "piquant and appetising".

In this comprehensive guide, we explore the origins, ingredients, recipes, and cultural significance of OK Sauce.

You can explore BBQ and sauces for meat here, plus more Asian sauces and condiments here.

Introduction to OK Sauce

Origins and History

The story of OK Sauce is as rich as its flavour, beginning in the early 20th century. It was first made by George Mason & Co, in a factory called Chelsea Works. Before the first World War, the company was taken on by the Cooper family. And in 1964, OK Sauce was acquired by the Colman's brand.

The original aim of the recipe was to create a sauce that could add depth and zest to a variety of dishes. It quickly became popular, with its unique blend of ingredients capturing the taste buds of the British public.

As the decades passed, OK Sauce maintained a solid presence in British cuisine, becoming a symbol of culinary tradition. Despite its longevity, the exact origins are somewhat shrouded in mystery, adding to its allure. Nonetheless, its impact is undeniable, with OK Sauce becoming a household name and retaining its status as a condiment of choice for many British families.

Popularity in British Chinese Cuisine

OK Sauce has not only nestled itself into the pantries of British homes but has also become a cornerstone in British Chinese cuisine. This fusion of flavours is a testament to the multicultural fabric of the UK's culinary scene.

Its integration into such recipes demonstrates the sauce's versatility and its ability to complement a wide range of ingredients. The popularity of OK Sauce in this cuisine can be seen as part of a larger narrative, where traditional British products find new life and meaning within diverse cultural contexts.

Unravelling the Ingredients

Key Components of OK Sauce

The charm of OK Sauce lies in its symphony of ingredients, each playing a critical role in shaping its distinctive taste. At its heart is a blend of tomatoes, vinegar, and a mix of fruits like dates and apples, which impart a natural sweetness. To this, a variety of spices, such as mustard and ginger, are added, providing a gentle heat and complexity.

Molasses or treacle often contribute to the sauce's rich, dark colour and its slightly smoky undertone. And give OK Sauce its beloved balance of sweet, sour, and savoury notes.

Understanding these key ingredients is essential for appreciating the depth of flavour that OK Sauce brings to dishes, and why it has become an indispensable element of British culinary tradition.

Unusual Ingredients and Their Roles

While OK Sauce includes some expected ingredients, it's the unusual ones that contribute to its unique character.

  • Anchovies, for instance, may seem like an odd addition, but they provide a depth of umami that underpins the sauce's savoury quality.

  • Tamarind is another ingredient that might raise eyebrows, yet its sourness is integral to the complex flavour profile.

  • Even the inclusion of spices like allspice and cloves, which are more commonly associated with sweet dishes, play an important role in giving OK Sauce its warming undertones.

These unconventional ingredients might not be the stars of the show, but they are essential supporting characters, enhancing the sauce's overall taste and ensuring that each mouthful delivers a harmonious blend of contrasting notes. Understanding their roles is key to appreciating the sophisticated nature of OK Sauce.

Making OK Sauce at Home

Required Ingredients and Tools

Creating your own batch of OK Sauce at home requires gathering some specific ingredients and tools. Start with the basics: ripe tomatoes, quality vinegar, and a selection of fruits like apples and dates for natural sweetness.

For the spice blend, gather mustard powder, ground ginger, and perhaps a touch of cayenne pepper for heat. Don't forget the dark molasses or treacle for depth of colour and flavour. If you're aiming for authenticity, consider anchovies and tamarind paste for that umami and sour punch, respectively.

In terms of tools, a large saucepan is essential for simmering the mixture. A food processor or blender will be necessary to puree the ingredients into a smooth consistency.

Finally, sterilised jars are crucial for storing your homemade sauce. With these ingredients and tools at hand, you're well-equipped to tackle the process of making OK Sauce in your own kitchen.

Step-by-Step Recipe

To make OK Sauce at home:

  1. Begin by finely chopping your tomatoes, fruits, and any vegetables you’re including, such as onions or garlic. Place these into your saucepan, adding vinegar to help preserve and bring out the flavours.

  2. Mix in your sweet components, like molasses or treacle, and then add your blend of spices—including the mustard powder, ground ginger, salt and a hint of cayenne pepper.

  3. If you're using anchovies and tamarind paste, blend them into the mixture now.

  4. Simmer everything over low heat, allowing the mixture to reduce and thicken. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Once the sauce has reached a desirable consistency, blend it until smooth.

  5. For a finer texture, pass the sauce through a sieve.

  6. Let the sauce cool before transferring it to sterilised jars. Seal the jars and store them in a cool place. Your homemade OK Sauce should be left to mature for a few weeks to develop its full flavour.

Popular Dishes with OK Sauce

Iconic British Chinese Dishes

In British-Chinese cuisine, OK Sauce is the unsung hero that brings an authentic taste to many iconic dishes. Sweet and sour chicken, a favourite in the UK, can include a glossy coating of OK Sauce, providing a perfect balance of tanginess and sweetness.

Another dish, crispy shredded beef, is elevated with a drizzle of OK Sauce, which adds a robust flavour that complements the texture of the beef.

Not to be overlooked, the classic special fried rice is often enhanced with a splash of OK Sauce, giving it a subtle, yet distinctive taste that ties all the ingredients together.

Comparisons and Alternatives

Similar Sauces in Chinese Cuisine

Within Chinese cuisine, there are several sauces that bear resemblance to OK Sauce, each with its own unique attributes. Hoisin sauce, for example, shares a similar sweetness but leans towards a richer, smokier flavour profile. Another relative is plum sauce, which offers a fruitier tang with its use of traditional Chinese plums. Both sauces can be used in dishes like duck pancakes or as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, much like Ok Sauce.

Another alternative is sweet bean sauce, which provides a sweet and savoury taste that pairs well with stir-fried dishes. While these sauces may share some commonalities with OK Sauce, they each bring their own distinct flavours and textures to the table. For those looking to experiment with different taste sensations, these sauces offer a way to explore the breadth of Chinese culinary traditions while still enjoying the essence of what makes Ok Sauce so appealing.

Substitutes for OK Sauce

For those unable to find OK Sauce or looking for a quick alternative, there are several substitutes that can be used to mimic its sweet and tangy flavour.

Barbecue sauce, with its similar ketchup base and sweetness, can serve as a stand-in, especially when mixed with a splash of Worcestershire sauce to add complexity.

Another option is to combine ketchup with vinegar and a hint of brown sugar and mixed spices, adjusting the proportions to match the desired sweetness and tanginess of OK Sauce.

For a more traditional Chinese flavour, experimenting with a mix of soy sauce, hoisin, and a bit of honey could provide a comparable depth of flavour.

These substitutes won't replicate the exact taste of OK Sauce, but they can offer a similar balance of flavours that complement many of the same dishes.


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