The 4 Flavors You Need in Your Rice Bowl

October 12, 2017

“It’s the ultimate flip-flop,” writes Rachel Yang in her new cookbook, My Rice Bowl. “Which is often how we roll.” She’s referring to the four mother sauces she serves at her street food–inspired Seattle restaurant, Revel. The “flip-flop” refers to the fact that, unlike the classic French mother sauces that are the foundation of each dish, Yang’s sauces are added to a dish by diners right before eating.

And add them they do, in great quantities. The four sauces each bring something different to the rice bowl (or noodle, or pancake, or dumpling) party, and you can learn a lot about balancing flavors by combining them. Below, a run-down of Yang’s four sauces—experiment at will!

Spicy Dumpling Sauce

A mix of aromatics, rice vinegar, and chile, this is a tangy/spicy number that will brighten up any dish. Yang blends ginger and garlic with rice vinegar and sugar until smooth before adding a Korean chili paste.

Nam Prik Sauce

While much of Yang’s food plays with Korean flavors and ingredients, this sauce takes its inspiration from Thailand. A combination of fish sauce and lime juice, Yang’s Nam Prik brings the salt, funk, and acid to your bowl. (It’s similar to the flavors in this Nam Prik jam.) Yang says slicing the super-spicy Thai chiles for this dish is “about as close to hazing as our kitchens get.”

Savory Chili Sauce

Perhaps the simplest of the four sauces, the savory chili sauce is a combination of Korean bean paste, Korean chili paste, water, and a touch of sesame oil. Unsurprisingly, it brings spice and savory flavors to the table. Yang says to play with the balance of bean paste and chili paste until you get what you like: “It should have a good balance of spice and funk.”

Seasoned Soy Sauce

This sauce, writes Yang, “has a bit of heat, a bit of citrus, a bit of floral flavor, and—because it’s cut with mirin and sake—a bit less saltiness than straight soy.” She not only sets this on the table for customers to use, but also uses it in lieu of straight soy sauce in recipes. Try the dipping sauce for these wings for a similar seasoned soy sauce effect.

Shop the Story

In combination, these four sauces help balance the flavors in a bowl of food: they bring spice, tang, funk, and salt to the equation. How you deploy them is a matter of taste, but that’s half the fun, right?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Michael
  • Becki Metz
    Becki Metz
  • Anthony
  • Jackie
  • Scribbles
Paula Forbes has reviewed cookbooks for nearly a decade for sites like Epicurious, Eater, Eat Me Daily, and now Food52. She's currently working on a cookbook about the foods and restaurants of Austin, Texas.


Michael October 21, 2017
I ultimately found numerous recipes googling that closely match what was described. They are good starting points and you can vary to taste using the article author's suggestions.
Becki M. October 21, 2017
Really?? You don't give us the recipes??
Anthony October 20, 2017
The spicy dumpling sauce and savory chili sauce are both similar to what I came up with to marinate pork belly before grilling it. I use honey in lieu of the sugar in my sauce. I'll try my mix on rice now.
Michael October 19, 2017
Thanks for this. The causes all sound wonderful, but can we please have the recipes?
Jackie October 15, 2017
Interesting, but rather pointless w/o recipes. I don't want to waste time and ingredients experimenting. The book is very expensive, I just ordered a sample, hoping I might get at least one of these recipes!
Scribbles October 15, 2017
Ditto on wanting the portions!
judy October 15, 2017
I'll add my vote that portions for the ingredients would have been nice. I may know what i like, but the portions would have given me the ratios I needed to make these sauces myself. As it is, it is simply a shopping list!
delcecchi October 12, 2017
More detail about proportions of the ingredients suggested would have been helpful. As it is, not much information in this article.
Fred R. October 13, 2017
Variations of each are easily found by Google...you can do it.
NYRangersfan October 14, 2017
I too wish measurements had been given..that's why I love food52- it's like one stop shopping- so when I'm short on time, I don't have to google..💛