It’s Christmas! Christmas trees, festive lights, family, friends, and a nice Christmas dinner- complete with the gravy, of course! In Hong Kong, we doesn’t usually celebrate Christmas with turkey, roast potatoes, and gravy. Instead, we have a nice dinner at the restaurant and go to the harbour to see the pretty Christmas lights that can be found on many buildings, each trying to outdo the neighbours . That said, we do have some mighty good gravies that would be mighty good in a Christmas dinner.
This black pepper gravy can be found in almost every neighbourhood diner (also call Cha chaan teng), along with the garlic gravy and a tomato-ey concoction
that is not my personal favourite. It’s also a very good example of typical Hong Kong cuisine, a fusion of East and West culinary traditions: the use of a roux is decidedly western, but the addition of soy sauce isn’t. And the bold application of black pepper as the star of the show- well, that’s just pure creative genius.
What is it good for, you ask? It’s usually served with greasy fried steaks and sausages in diners, but I love it with literally everything- mixed in with pasta, rice, or noodles, as a dunking sauce for tofu, broccoli or fries, or poured over plain mashed potatoes, it’s very, very versatile, and very, very yummy.
Be careful, though- a tablespoon of black pepper packs quite a punch of heat. The back of your throat would probably still be scorching long after you’ve cleared your plate, and personally, I like it that way. If you’re feeling uncertain, start off with half a tablespoon of black pepper and add more after you’ve tasted the gravy. Just simmer the gravy for a few extra minutes to allow the flavours to develop.
This recipe is my own, even though I did reference a few Chinese sites (here, here, and here). The soy sauce I used was a Japanese sweet soy sauce, but any sweet or dark soy sauce will do. However, beware of using light soy sauce, as it might make the gravy a tad too salty. The addition of mustard isn’t common, but I find it seems to make everything taste richer without stealing the show, just like the bass track in a song. So turn up that bass!
From start to finish, the entire recipe took me less than 10 minutes, and the ingredients can be found in anybody’s pantry. What makes this recipe even more awesome is its versatility. You can use vegetable stock or almond milk instead of water, and add in any dried or fresh herbs you like. For a gluten-free version, simply leave out the flour and whisk in a cornstarch slurry (1 part cornstarch, 2 parts cold water) at the end.
And here is the part where I wish you a delicious gravy, a wonderful Christmas dinner, a toasty warm the-rest-of-the-year, delightful presents, and an awesome time spent with friends and family. Hmm… am I forgetting something?
Oh, yes! Merry Christmas everyone! 😉
Black Pepper Gravy Recipe
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon rice bran oil or olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon black pepper (less if desired)
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups water
2 tablespoons sweet or dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon or English mustard
salt to taste
- In a saucepan on low to medium heat, sauté onion in oil until soft and translucent.
- Add in garlic and black pepper. After 1 minute, add in flour and mix well. When a smooth paste is formed, add in water little by little, stirring or whisking vigorously between additions.
- Stir in soy sauce and mustard of choice. Bring the gravy to a boil and reduce to simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust salt to taste if needed.
- Serve and enjoy!