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In Beijing, on two occasions, I was served a sauce I couldn't identify.

enter image description here

Visually it looks like soy sauce but it's much thicker and stickier. It tastes soy-ish, but sweeter, maybe malty in some way. Definitely has fermented aspects. I asked someone who lives elsewhere in Asia and he said "sweet sauce" which isn't helpful. During the dinner where I took this picture, I asked my "handler" who said "we just call it sauce" which again wasn't helpful.

Does it have a name outside China? Is this something I could buy, as you can buy oyster sauce, hoisin sauce etc, if only I knew its name? It was really good.

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    Dark Soy Sauce. – Doc Nov 20 '17 at 20:46
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It could be 甜面酱/甜酱 or sweet bean sauce aka sweet flour sauce or just sweet sauce. You can probably find it in a Chinese supermarket under one of those names.

  • interesting, Wikipedia says "sweet bean sauce may be used in dishes such as Peking Duck" and that was in fact the second occasion on which I had it. – Kate Gregory Nov 20 '17 at 21:33
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There is an Indonesian sauce called kecap manis that sounds exactly the way you describe. It is also common outside of Indonesia, including China and South East Asia.

That may not be what you had. If it was very sticky, the here in Ecuador they call it Eel Sauce which is mostly soy sauce with lots and lots of sugar. Another possibility is a variant on Hoisin sauce which has a more beany taste but is usually more brown rather than almost black like the one you show.

  • My Singapore contact said their name for it literally means "sweet sauce" and I note that kecap manis in Indonesian translates to "sweet soy sauce" so you may have a winner. Now what would kecap manis be called in a North American grocery store? – Kate Gregory Nov 20 '17 at 20:55
  • In Ecuador its just salsa china dulce which means sweet Chinese sauce but in Canada I found it actually labelled Kecap Manis. – Itai Nov 20 '17 at 21:00
  • While the description matches, kecap manis is an Indonesian sauce and would not be used by a Chinese restaurant in Beijing. – jpatokal Nov 20 '17 at 23:08
  • Of course, although the contents no longer match, kecap is the origin of ketchup (also spelled catsup in English) – Andrew Lazarus Nov 20 '17 at 23:48
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    @KateGregory would it be hoisin sauce? – Giorgio Nov 23 '17 at 4:14

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