[飲食文化] Recipe: Lo Shui, Chinese Master Stock (广式卤水)

Recipe: Lo Shui, Chinese Master Stock (广式卤水)

Recipe: Lo Shui, Chinese Master Stock (广式卤水)

So today I wanted to show you how to make Lo Shui, Chinese master stock. It’s an absolute classic throughout China – you can find this stuff everywhere from the Yangtze River Delta to the Yunnan province. Some varieties can feature a pretty hefty ingredient list, so we’ll start off with a basic Cantonese sort. As good of a starting point as any.

Now this dish is one of those things that sounds way more intimidating than it actually is. If we zoom out a bit, this is what we’re basically doing:

Mix soy sauce, wine, stock, and spices in a pot. Cook for a half hour to infuse the flavors.

Blanch whatever you want to stew.

Stew for 30-45 minutes.


Get the master stock back up to a boil. Transfer to a clean, dry, heat-resistant container while still hot.

Keep in the fridge, make sure to boil and/or stew things at least weekly. If you don’t feel like maintaining it, toss in the freezer.

The awesome thing about having master stock on hand is that it makes for a ridiculously easy quick meal. After your first round of making this stuff, this can absolutely be weeknight fare (a rarity for the recipes we share here, I know).

Video is here if you’d like a visual to follow along. Note that if you’re following along with the video, after thinking on it I’ve decided to double everything in the recipe. The video quantities make for a usable but kind of small batch. Apologies for being dumb and confusing, for an explanation and a mea culpa check out the notes below.

Ingredients for the Master Stock:

Light soy sauce (生抽/酿造酱油), 700g. Your master stock is going to live and die by the quality of the soy sauce you put in. I know that’s an annoying thing to say, but it’s true. In an ideal world, you’d use small batch, first press, naturally fermented soy sauce. Here’s the thing though: I’m 98% sure it’s impossible to buy quality artisanal Chinese soy sauce in the West. Luckily though, the country of Japan exists and loves to export nice things – so if you’ve got $40 to blow and want to use a couple bottles of really nice Japanese soy sauce, go for it. All of that said, the really critical bit here is simply that it’s a naturally fermented one. A real solid Chinese brand, and what we used in the video, is Donggu Soy Sauce – I’ve seen it as some Chinese supermarkets in the USA, here’s a picture of what the bottle looks like. However… all of that said, if Kikkoman is the most realistic option for you, use Kikkoman. It’s naturally fermented, so it definitely checks the most crucial box.

Stock (毛汤) -or- Water, 700g. Ok, history time. Traditionally, this sort of master stock used to be made with just water – getting its savoryness from solely soy sauce. The transition to stock bases happened relatively recently, circa the 1980s. During the 80s and early 90s there was a proliferation of crappy blended (i.e. not naturally fermented) soy sauces on the market, and frustratingly, no labelling requirements. Chefs responded by using stock as the base in place of water, providing the missing depth that blended soy sauces just can’t give. In the late 90s the government stepped in and started regulating the industry… so while nowadays you can be reasonably sure which kind of soy sauce you’re going to get, the practice of using stock bases persisted. Totally up to you which route you go – what I would say is to use stock unless you’re extremely happy with the quality of soy sauce you’re buying.

Shaoxing Wine (绍兴酒/花雕酒), 460g. Real Shaoxing wine. So here’s the deal – if you follow these posts, you know that I often refer to this sort of wine as “Liaojiu, a.k.a. Shaoxing Wine”. Why do I do that? Well, this kind of Chinese wine (belongs to a category of wine called Huangjiu) has different grades: cooking grade wine is called “Liaojiu”, often contains salt and even a touch of spices, and is completely fine for the vast majority of uses. Here’s the kicker though – a lot of stuff that’s labelled “Shaoxing Wine” in English in the West is actually just Liaojiu. There’s a few reasons I stubbornly insist of differentiating the two, but for this… you’ll want something that’s a decent quality. So how to purchase? Look for something that says it’s Huadiao (or Hua Tiao) – the bottles look like this – and in an ideal world find something unsalted. It just dawned on me that it might be unreasonably difficult to find unsalted wine depending where you live due to stupid alcohol laws… just try your best. If you can’t find anything, c’est la guerre, just use what you can find.

Cantonese Rose Wine (玫瑰露酒), 40g. This kind of wine uses a Baijiu base and ferments it along with sticky rice, rock sugar, and rose petals. As one look at that ingredient list would give away… this stuff’s really strong, a little goes a long way. If you can’t find it, just use all Shaoxing.

Slab sugar (红片糖) -or- Dark Brown sugar, 600g. So after reflecting on this, I think using slab sugar is pretty important – it lends a nice almost dark reddish hue to the meat after stewing. Dark brown sugar is a very good sub in that it’s more or less the same thing. That said, we know that some restaurants use a combination of white granulated sugar and red yeast rice instead… so perhaps it’s not something to obsess over. Slab sugar is also called ‘jaggery’ in English, and IIRC it’s also used in Mexican cuisine.

Aromatics: ~2 inch Ginger (姜), ~60g scallions (葱). To be fried in the beginning of making the master stock

Spices: 12 star anise (八角), 4 cinnamon/cassia sticks (桂皮), 20g licorice root (甘草), 6g whole cloves (丁香), 6g dried sand ginger (沙姜), 6g dried and aged tangerine peel (陈皮), 2 black cardamom pods (草果), 1 Luo Han Guo (罗汉果). Ok, so I know that’s a lot, so let me cover substitutions and such. You absolutely need star anise, cinnamon, licorice root, and whole cloves. No getting around those. For the sand ginger, you can sub dried galangal root (skip if you absolutely must). For the Dried and Aged Tangerine Peel, swap with dried orange peel if you need (not a general sub, but could work here). Skip the black cardamom if you can’t find it. The Luo Han Guo, meanwhile, is a dried fruit that’s relatively common in Chinese medicine. It’s quite available online, but if you’re in a bind… just skip it, upping your licorice root quality to ~30g.

Ingredients to Toss into the Master Stock:

So the essence here is that you can stew pretty much whatever the hell you feel like. I honestly can’t think of a protein product that wouldn’t work. Brief list off the top of my head on things that you can cook in this: Pigeon, Quail, Tripe, Lung, Cartilage, Intestine, Pig Ear, Pig Nose, Pork, Knuckle, Trotters, Squid, Eggs, Pork Belly, Ribs, Heart, Crawfish, Whole Chicken, Chicken Feet, Chicken Wing, Chicken Thigh, Giblets, Whole Goose, Goose Wing, Turkey Wings, Whole Duck, Duck Wings, Beef Shank, Dougan (Hyper firm tofu), Deep Fried Tofu, Lotus Root, Kelp, Peanuts…

Ok, you get the idea. So know that what’s below is simply what we tossed in this time (i.e. when filming), use whatever ingredients you enjoy.

Dougan (豆干), 400g. Cut into 2 inch squares. If you’re unfamiliar with Dougan, it’s a great ingredient… it’s basically a form of hyper firm tofu. I strongly believe whoever exports this at a large scale to the West would become an instant millionaire (I can see the adverts now: “Pre-pressed Tofu! You’ll never have to press your tofu ever again!”). If you can’t find this but want to still use tofu, deep fry firm tofu until it’s evenly golden brown, then use.

Chicken wings (鸡翅), 12. A classic favorite of Cantonese children. Coincidentally also my favorite. Not sure what that says about me.

Duck wings (鸭翅), 4. Goose wings are probably a bit more classic, but the price of goose wings at our local market was outrageous.

Pork tongue (猪舌), 1. Prepped by removing the white bits near the back of the tongue together with the fat and membrane on the bottom side. Those parts have a bit of an off taste and are best removed.


Note that if you’re new to Chinese stocks, you can check out our Chinese stocks 101 post here. For this I’d either go with a simple homestyle (recommended) or Cantonese superior (if you’re feeling fancy).

Put all the spices in a tofu/cheesecloth or a spice bag.

In a pot over medium heat, fry the ginger and the scallions until fragrant, ~1 minute.

Add the stock, the soy sauce, the wine, and the slab sugar. Simmer to let the slab sugar dissolve into the liquid.

Add in your spice bag, cover, simmer for 30 minutes.

If using the ingredients we tossed in above, cut the tofu and prep the pork tongue. Again, that’s cutting the dougan into ~2 inch squares, and removing the white bits/membrane/fat from the tongue.

Blanch what you want to put in. For the ingredients that we used, the pork tongue, the tofu, and the duck wings need five minutes in boiling water, the chicken wings need one. Blanching the ingredients before stewing accomplishes three things: first, it slightly firms up the ingredients so that they don’t dissolve into the master stock; second, it removes any impurities that could muddy the taste of the master stock; third, it helps the master stock keep better as you’re not adding in completely raw meat.

Transfer the blanched ingredients over to a pot of cool water. Rinse under running water for a minute to remove any gunk.

Transfer the blanched ingredients to the master stock. Simmer, covered, for 30-45 minutes over a low flame. Until cooked to your liking.

Move over to a serving plate. Eat!

Get the master stock up to a boil again, then strain and transfer over to a clean, dry, heat resistant container. Tightly cover, let it cool down to room temperature, than toss in the fridge.

Either boil or make something in your master stock (starting from step #4 above) at least once a week. If you find you’re not using it at least weekly, move over to the freezer to keep.

Over time, you’ll notice that some of your master stock ends up boiling away. At first, you can just supplement with a bit of water. If you find it starting to get a bit weak, whip up another batch and combine the two.

Note on portions:

Hope the discrepancy between the video and this recipe isn't overly confusing. Here's the deal - originally, we filmed making things based off of half of this recipe, but wanted to show adding and old batch of master stock to a new one. So the final amount of 'stuff' we used was double the video's narration - the same as this recipe here.

As we were writing the narration though, we kind of felt it'd be a bit odd and confusing to show old master stock being poured in out of nowhere, so we cut it out.

Basically what I'm saying is, trust the quantities listed in this recipe.

Note on Char Siu sauce:

So as we discussed in our post here a couple years back, master stock is the old school base for Char Siu sauce (nowadays many restaurants use bottled Char Siu sauce as a base). In that post, we put out a simply master stock that could be used to make Char Siu sauce, but honestly… this recipe’s vastly superior to that one (the difference two years make!).

The question is, then, could this version be used to make Char Siu sauce? Yes. In fact, I think it’d probably be better. That said, we haven’t tested it so I can’t be 100% sure whether the ratios would be on point or not. In case you don’t feel like clicking through, Char Siu sauce as per that recipe:

¾ cup master stock

3 tbsp mianchi (red miso)

3 tbsp maltose

1 tbsp of the liquor from red fermented tofu

½ tsp ground red yeast rice or ½ tbsp Hungarian sweet paprika (our suggested sub, a drop of red food coloring or a touch of Korean chili powder would likely also work)

½ tsp sand ginger powder

Then from there our marinade for the pork was 3 parts Char Siu sauce to 1 part soy sauce, then the rub was 1 part Char Siu sauce to 1 part honey.

So a couple notes here. First, for this master stock we use way more sugar than in the linked post. I’m a big worried about sweetness. So if using this recipe, I would start with 1 tbsp Maltose and slowly work up to the original three tbsp.

Second, after taking some time to reflect on it, I believe that the addition of the extra sand ginger powder – while tasty – might not be needed. For that recipe, I was using bottled LKK Char Siu sauce as a guidepost, which’s very sand ginger forward. I’d still probably add some because I like it, but after delving into some more sources I think I likely overstated its importance in that post.

Lastly, I have to be honest with you. While I’m still proud of the work we did on that sauce in that post (and it did start us off on the whole ‘obsessive’ path), there’s something with that Char Siu that’s always bothered me. The inside of the pork was too ‘white’ (Char Siu is usually darker), and texturally it just wasn’t dry enough. I’m thinking that using dark soy in the marinade instead of light would help the former, and for the latter I’d really like to revisit the grill method – I think it should probably be roasted at a higher temperature.