These candied sweet potatoes, a mix of sliced Asian sweet potatoes and orange yams, get a buttery glaze before baking and then are brushed with zhong sauce. Zhong sauce is a mix of soy sauce; brown sugar; spices such as Sichuan pepper, fennel, star anise, ginger and cardamom; chile; and garlic. It’s delicious, chile-tinged, molasses-y and umami-laden, inspired by the sauce for dumplings that Jing Gao grew up eating.
If making Gao’s recipe for Zhong Sauce, you will need to prepare it the night before, or up to 3 weeks in advance.
Zhong Candied Yams
In a large pot, boil sweet potatoes in water to cover until fork-tender, 20 to 45 minutes depending upon their size. Drain and cool.
Heat oven to 450 F. Peel potatoes and slice into ½-inch-thick rounds. Place in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or 2-quart gratin dish, overlapping slices to fit in one layer.
In a small saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in sugar and salt until smooth. Pour evenly over the potatoes. Bake until potatoes look shiny and glazed, 25 to 30 minutes.
Brush liberally with Zhong Sauce.
Broil for 15 to 30 seconds to slightly caramelize.
Sichuan Sweet Soy Sauce: In a medium saucepan, bring the soy sauce and brown sugar to a simmer, stirring. Place the cardamom pods, star anise, cassia bark, ginger, fennel seeds, and Sichuan pepper in a spice bag and add to the pot. (You can add the spices directly to the pot; strain the sauce when it has finished.)
Simmer until the sauce has reduced by about a quarter, about 15 minutes, depending on your stove. Remove from the heat and steep overnight. Discard the spices and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
To make the Zhong Sauce, heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat until it registers 350 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Add the garlic and fry until light golden, about 3 minutes.
Reduce the oil temperature to 260 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and add the ground chile powder. Stir until well combined and add the toasted sesame oil; and then remove from the heat to cool.
Transfer to a mixing bowl and combine with 1 cup Sichuan Sweet Soy Sauce. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Mix well before using.
The recipe calls for erjingtao chile powder. Alternatively, Sichuan chile powder is available at some Chinese markets. Or, use best-quality chile powder or gochugaru, the Korean chile powder available at many Asian grocery stores.
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