This ginger scallion sauce recipe makes the much-copied Momofuku homage to the classic Southern Chinese sauce that chef David Chang and food writer Francis Lam popularised over a decade ago. I’ve been making these delicious ginger scallion noodles with the sauce ever since – well before their recent comeback – and you should too.
Before we knew it as the Momofuku ginger scallion sauce from chef David Chang’s Momofuku: A Cookbook published back in October 2009, Chang said it was the ‘secret sauce’ served up in Cantonese joints all over New York City. You know the restaurants, as they’re endearingly the same in every Chinatown in the world.
They’re brightly lit, with an illuminated sign out front, and glossy roast ducks and char siew pork hanging in the window to get you salivating. There are faded newspaper reviews taped to the glass at the entrance, and a laminated English language picture menu with only a third of the dishes on the menu that Cantonese speakers get.
Whether it’s the Momofuku ginger scallion sauce that every Asian food lover was cooking in 2010 or it’s your neighbourhood Chinese restaurant’s ‘secret sauce’ that’s traditionally served with poached chicken, it’s made a comeback in 2021. Only disappointingly, some of the food writers sharing the ginger scallion sauce recipe aren’t sharing its origins.
Before I tell you about this ginger scallion sauce, we have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-supported. If you’ve enjoyed our recipes, please consider supporting Grantourismo by using our links to book accommodation, hire a car or campervan or motorhome, purchase travel insurance, or book a tour on Klook or Get Your Guide.
You could also shop our Grantourismo online store (we have fun gifts for foodies); support our epic Cambodian cuisine history and cookbook on Patreon; or buy something on Amazon, such as these James Beard award-winning cookbooks, cookbooks by Australian chefs, classic cookbooks for serious cooks, cookbooks for culinary travellers, travel books to inspire wanderlust, gifts for Asian food lovers, picnic lovers and travellers who love photography.
Now let me tell you about this ginger scallion sauce recipe.
Ginger Scallion Sauce Recipe for the Much-Copied Momofuku Homage to a Classic Cantonese Condiment
Back in 2010, not long after David Chang got us all making ginger scallion noodles, American food writer Francis Lam published his own ginger scallion sauce recipe, which he told us was originally served to accompany a simple dish of poached chicken. At the Great New York Noodletown you ordered a serving of ginger scallion noodles and a plate of BBQ duck or pork to mix in with it.
Lam wrote fondly about how his mother gave him containers of homemade ginger scallion sauce when he was in college and you can imagine how handy this would have been for a money- and time-poor university student surviving on instant ramen noodles. Lam makes it pretty clear that his recipe came from good old mum and their Cantonese culinary heritage.
Chef David Chang, founder of the Momofuku restaurants in New Yok, being the unfiltered guy that he is, stated in his first cookbook that “Our ginger scallion noodles are an homage to/out-and-out rip-off of one of the greatest dishes in New York City: the $4.95 plate of ginger scallion noodles at Great New York Noodletown down on the Bowery in Chinatown.”
Chang goes on to explain just how versatile the sauce is: “Ginger scallion sauce is one of the greatest sauces or condiments ever. Ever. It’s definitely a mother sauce at Momofuku, something that we use over and over and over again…”
“If you have ginger scallion sauce in the fridge, you will never go hungry,” Chang writes. “Stir 6 tablespoons into a bowl of hot noodles – lo mein, rice noodles, Shanghai thick noodles – and you’re in business. Or serve over a bowl of rice topped with a fried egg. Or with grilled meat or any kind of seafood. Or almost anything.”
We remember eating at Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village in the summer of 2010 and plates of ginger scallion noodles were flying off the pass to feed hungry diners yelling out to each other over the ear-bleed volume of AC/DC, as they drank great wine out of grandma’s glass tumblers. But that was part of his whole vibe.
Chang’s Momofuku cookbook roll-out, like most cookbook media campaigns, featured selected recipes from the book that were distributed to media around the world to republish. That’s how I came upon the ginger scallion sauce recipe when the cookbook was published in October 2009.
I made a big batch of ginger scallion noodles at Lara’s uncle’s home in Bendigo in Australia, and I served them with fresh egg noodles and fantastic prawns and thought it was a blast. Everybody loved the dish so I made another version with fresh salmon that I pan-fried so the skin was crispy.
Nine months later and halfway through the 2010 yearlong grand tour of the world that launched Grantourismo, I was making the ginger scallion noodles when we were in Bali as part of a cultural cooking exchange with the villa chef at the holiday rental where we were staying.
I wrote about the experience, naturally crediting the original recipe to David Chang, because unbeknownst to many non-Chinese food writers and home cooks at the time who weren’t yet aware of the Southern Chinese and Cantonese provenance of ginger scallion sauce, it was borrowed as well.
Fast forward to 2021 and without regard or respect for either Francis Lam’s or David Chang’s recipes – and just to set them apart, Lam’s ginger and scallions are immersed in sizzling oil, while Chang’s are gently coated and combined with oil – ginger scallion sauce recipes with little or no changes from the original recipes have been popping up without any attribution or even a brief mention.
While the ginger scallion sauce is ubiquitous in Cantonese cooking, it’s quite clear that these food writers hadn’t all been to a Chinese neighbourhood restaurant and collectively thought “Wow, this is a great sauce!” Google search trends testify that a lot of cooks have been Googling ‘Momofuku ginger scallion noodles’ this year.
I don’t know about you, but we think it’s disrespectful to publish a recipe without acknowledging the source of inspiration or at least noting its cultural roots, regardless of what you’ve added to the dish to make it your own.
After the controversy last year over Alison Roman’s appropriation of a curry recipe that she called a ‘spiced chickpea stew with coconut and turmeric’ that became so famous it was simply known online as #TheStew, you’d think writers would know better.
Following the uproar over her lack of acknowledgement of the recipe’s origin, Roman’s contract with the New York Times was cancelled and her ‘original’ recipe edited to indicate that it “evokes stews found in South India and parts of the Caribbean”.
While I’ve seen public comments on a certain food magazine website about the lifting of one ginger scallion sauce recipe without attribution, Lara tells me that the subject has been much discussed on food writing forums. Let’s hope some of these recipes get an edit and writers start to respect the source of the dishes that are making them a living.
Tips to Making this Ginger Scallion Sauce and Ginger Scallion Noodles
No tips to making this wonderful ginger scallion sauce as it’s super easy and it can go in a lot of directions once the sauce is made. We typically douse the sauce over noodles and combine it with plump sweet prawns.
Lara will add a little fish sauce, chilli flakes, and fried garlic and fried shallots for more kick and texture. I like to add a good squirt of hoisin sauce.
When we made the ginger scallion noodles in Bali and Australia all those years ago we placed a fillet of grilled salmon on top. Chicken would also work obviously, as the sauce was thought to have been created for poached chicken.
And as David Chang suggests, you can serve the ginger scallion sauce “over a bowl of rice topped with a fried egg. Or with grilled meat or any kind of seafood. Or almost anything.”
Ginger Scallion Sauce Recipe
- 150 g scallions white and green parts mixed
- 60 g fresh ginger finely chopped or minced
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil or any neutral oil
- 1 1/2 tsp Light Soy Sauce
- 3/4 tsp Sherry Vinegar
- 3/4 tsp salt
- Mix together the scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar, and salt in a bowl.
- Taste and check for seasoning, adding more if needed.
- Though it’s best after 15 or 20 minutes of sitting, ginger scallion sauce is good from the minute it’s stirred together up to a day or two in the fridge.
- Add to noodles and add your protein of choice, we like this with seafood, pork or duck.
- Add your favourite condiments.
Please do let us know if you make this ginger scallion sauce recipe in the comments below. We’d love to hear how it turns out for you.