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Bullhead Barbecue / Sacha / Satay Sauce

Bullhead Barbecue / Sacha / Satay Sauce
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  • Bullhead Barbecue / Sacha / Satay Sauce

    Post #1 - November 20th, 2020, 4:09 pm
    Post #1 - November 20th, 2020, 4:09 pm Post #1 - November 20th, 2020, 4:09 pm
    I'd seen the can in markets many times over the years and hardly gave it a second glance (except to note the odd packaging). The translation of 'barbecue sauce' made me think of sticky-sweet 'barbecue pork' or char siu, and I wasn't interested. I never bothered to read the ingredients.

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    Earlier this month, I somehow came across this terrific article (I rarely look at Bon Appetit, for no good reason).

    For Bon Appetit, Stacy Akazawa wrote:When I think of barbecue sauce, I don’t think of Kansas City, or Texas, or Carolina. I think of Chinese barbecue sauce, but not the sweet molasses-y char siu sauce you get with pork buns. I’m talking about Chinese satay or sacha sauce, the funky umami bomb found at hot pot restaurants, my favorite of which is Taiwan-made Bullhead Barbecue Sauce (you’ll recognize the silver can with a smiling bull in an apron posing with a fork and a knife). Inside the container you’ll find a glorious paste made of dried seafood, garlic, ginger, shallots, chile, and oil that can be used in a variety of recipes.

    Dr Akazawa, a physician in San Francisco, goes on to write a love letter to her favorite condiment. When someone is this obsessive, it gets my attention. Two weeks later I had a can and things started falling into place.

    Let's talk about the name a bit. The reason it's called barbecue sauce is because it's often used on barbecued meat skewers, satay in other words. This condiment bears no resemblance to the sauce of sweetened peanut butter beloved by American diners in Thai restaurants (I'm not saying peanut sauce isn't enjoyed in SE Asia as well). The following post from Chowhound is very informative.

    On Chowhound, Teep wrote:Actually you can say that “sa cha” is a mispronunciation. This sauce originated in the Chiuchow (or Teochew) province where the dialect pronounces the character for cha as “de”. So it is meant to be “sa-de” I.e. satay. Nowadays most people just say “sa cha” - maybe they don’t know better, or maybe to distinguish it from the Thai/Indonesian version.

    If that's true, and I have no reason to doubt it, it explains a lot.

    Readers from the early days of LTHF and of Chowhound before LTHF probably see where this is headed. Yes, this is the sauce used in the infamous Chicken Satay served at Chinatown Cafe (this old LTHF thread is some fun reading). For those too lazy to follow along, here's G Wiv's pre-LTHF description of the dish.

    In 2002 on Chowhound, G Wiv wrote:My guilty pleasure is chicken satay over pan-fried noodles at China Town Café on South Wentworth. Now this may not sound like a dish that one should feel guilty about but, believe me, the way China Town Café prepares this dish, with enough grease to lube a Fruehauf, it's not a heart healthy dish.

    CTC starts by sautéing sliced onions, though not to a Trotter like glowing caramelization, but hot and fast so there are burnt edges along with surprisingly sweet oniony notes. Next they toss in chunks of thinly sliced marinated chicken, which also gets the hot and fast treatment, this results in nicely contrasting textures and flavors. But, you say, where is the guilt, it comes in the form of a oily toasted hot pepper sauce that is called Satay Sauce, which CTC uses right from the bottle.

    CTC's Satay Sauce is not anything similar to the Thai satay that most are familiar with, this is an rich oily cooking sauce that is loaded with toasted pepper flakes and various indecipherable spices. CTC uses about a pint of this oily sauce per order, well, not really, but the end result is incredibly oily. Still not enough of a 'guilty pleasure' for you, I eat it on top of pan-fried noodles. Yep, pan-fried noodles, a greasy/crispy perfect, tastes ooh sooo good, or however Mr. Food says it, toasty nest of noodles.

    Still not enough of a 'guilty pleasure'? I top everything off with a few teaspoons of chili oil that CTC keeps on the tables. Talk about oily, this is a 6-napkin lunch, talk about wounded walruses, this is a pod of beached bleating whales on the shore, this, my fellow Chowhounds, is a Guilty Pleasure.

    Couple of quick notes on CTC. CTC serves large to huge portions of very Americanized Chinese food in a no to low ambiance coffee shop setting. Seating is stools at a low counter or communal tables. At lunch, actually I don't think they are open for dinner, and if they are, they close very early, at least 50% of the patrons are law enforcement of some type, along with city workers, tradesmen etc, in other words, large guys who like large lunches.

    Man, I miss Chinatown Cafe and their Chicken Satay. I was always confused by their use of the term 'satay,' but I think I understand things better now. I have a feeling the Bullhead version is a few big steps up from what Chinatown Cafe used, but it has to be related. In fact, the first recipe in the Bon Appetit article is for what's likely to be a more refined version of their Chicken Satay.

    This is already too long, so I'll close by saying the sauce is absolutely delicious (though I haven't used it with chicken yet). With dried lizardfish as the second ingredient, how can it be otherwise?
  • Post #2 - November 20th, 2020, 4:32 pm
    Post #2 - November 20th, 2020, 4:32 pm Post #2 - November 20th, 2020, 4:32 pm
    Fascinating. I have never noticed this can. Where did you find it ?
  • Post #3 - November 20th, 2020, 4:59 pm
    Post #3 - November 20th, 2020, 4:59 pm Post #3 - November 20th, 2020, 4:59 pm
    Rene G wrote:Man, I miss Chinatown Cafe and their Chicken Satay.

    You and me both! I will buy a can of Bullhead this week and recreate, right down to the pan fried noodles. Thank you ever so much for posting this info.
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #4 - November 20th, 2020, 5:13 pm
    Post #4 - November 20th, 2020, 5:13 pm Post #4 - November 20th, 2020, 5:13 pm
    great post
  • Post #5 - November 21st, 2020, 12:59 pm
    Post #5 - November 21st, 2020, 12:59 pm Post #5 - November 21st, 2020, 12:59 pm
    lougord99 wrote:Fascinating. I have never noticed this can. Where did you find it ?

    I'm glad you found it interesting. It's a great product, well worth seeking out. I got mine at 88 Marketplace, but I don't think Bullhead is particularly hard to find. It's been around a long time, and has a devoted following. You might recognize the distinctive flavor ('ancient Chinese secret') from some restaurant dishes, as I did. So far I've only tried it with braised eggplant, but can hardly wait to use it again. I can only imagine how great it would be on grilled meat skewers. Particularly considering the high lizardfish content, it's surprisingly un-fishy. I opted for Dr Akazawa's favorite hot and spicy version, which I love, but sort of regret not first buying the original, to get a better handle on its basic flavor. Buy both!

    G Wiv wrote:
    Rene G wrote:Man, I miss Chinatown Cafe and their Chicken Satay.

    You and me both! I will buy a can of Bullhead this week and recreate, right down to the pan fried noodles. Thank you ever so much for posting this info.

    I had a feeling it would rekindle some pleasant memories. Reading those old threads was fun, wasn't it? If a faithful re-creation of Chinatown Cafe's signature dish is your only aim, I think you'll be quite disappointed. I'm certain this is not the product Chinatown Cafe used, but whatever you make with Bullhead is almost guaranteed to be delicious, even if not in the spirit of our much-missed Chinese diner. I can hardly wait to see how you and others use this special condiment with grilled meats, as originally intended.

    AlekH wrote:great post

    Thank you very much, but the sauce is better!
  • Post #6 - November 21st, 2020, 4:10 pm
    Post #6 - November 21st, 2020, 4:10 pm Post #6 - November 21st, 2020, 4:10 pm
    How very weird! I thought absolutely everyone knew about Bullhead... really, no joke. I spent a year in Wuhan--'86--teaching at Wuhan U., and learned to use Bullhead there. It wasn't easily available locally, but I had monthly R&R in Hong Kong, so I could bring back lots for me and all my pals.

    Slather up your skewer, let it rest overnight, then put it on the coals. I use a peanut sauce or something Viet to finish, but the Bullhead is the starter, always.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #7 - November 24th, 2020, 7:35 am
    Post #7 - November 24th, 2020, 7:35 am Post #7 - November 24th, 2020, 7:35 am
    Rene G wrote:Readers from the early days of LTHF and of Chowhound before LTHF probably see where this is headed. Yes, this is the sauce used in the infamous Chicken Satay served at Chinatown Cafe

    Rene G, count me a Fan! Thank you.

    Bullhead BBQ Sauce, fantastic! I'd venture about 80% of the old Chinatown Cafe dish. I followed Sacha Stir-Fry Chicken in the linked Bon Appetit article. I will point out my portions are positively petite compared to Chinatown Cafe and, believe it or not, less oily.

    Next time I will use a little less cooking wine (dry sherry) and more heat, add jalapeno and more Chili Crisp. I also added grated fresh ginger to the mix, which is not called for.

    Crazy delicious though I should have never told the Bride the mix contained Lizardfish. :)

    Rene G and Bullhead BBQ sauce, count me a Fan!

    click on image to enlarge
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    Bullhead purchased at
    Richwell Market
    6120 Dempster St
    Morton Grove, IL 60053
    Hours: Closed ⋅ Opens 9AM
    847-929-2228
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #8 - November 24th, 2020, 2:16 pm
    Post #8 - November 24th, 2020, 2:16 pm Post #8 - November 24th, 2020, 2:16 pm
    How does this compare to the various spicy chili crisp products out there?

    Thanks, Will
  • Post #9 - November 25th, 2020, 5:59 am
    Post #9 - November 25th, 2020, 5:59 am Post #9 - November 25th, 2020, 5:59 am
    WillG wrote:How does this compare to the various spicy chili crisp products out there?

    Using La Gan Ma spicy chili crisp as baseline Bullhead BBQ Sauce Hot, which is the one I tried first, is funkier times ten.

    Funky, oily, hints of fermented fish, deep dark flavors. Think George Clinton, Bernie Worrell and Bootsy Collins had a 1970's love child (Referencing Parliament for bonus cool points) Think amped up XO sauce.

    Also, on Instagram there was mention of a shallot Bullhead, which I will try, if findable in Chicagoland. Bullhead makes a few different products.

    Lao Gan Ma has about a dozen different products, spicy chili crisp seemingly the most popular. I'd love to try them all. Richwell Market on Dempster has a decent selection of both Lao Gan Ma and Bullhead, I'd imagine the new 88 Marketplace offers an even wider selection.

    Try Bullhead BBQ Sauce, whats the worst that can happen, you are out $4 and your wife chides you for feeding her Lizardfish. :)
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #10 - November 25th, 2020, 7:54 am
    Post #10 - November 25th, 2020, 7:54 am Post #10 - November 25th, 2020, 7:54 am
    Geo wrote:How very weird! I thought absolutely everyone knew about Bullhead... really, no joke.

    It doesn't seem terribly well known in the US (at least among non-Asians). I think it must be partly because the translation as 'barbecue sauce' gives the wrong idea to some people.

    G Wiv wrote:
    Rene G wrote:Readers from the early days of LTHF and of Chowhound before LTHF probably see where this is headed. Yes, this is the sauce used in the infamous Chicken Satay served at Chinatown Cafe

    Rene G, count me a Fan! Thank you.

    Bullhead BBQ Sauce, fantastic! I'd venture about 80% of the old Chinatown Cafe dish.

    I'm happy to hear it was a hit, though honestly I'm surprised it was as close as 80%. I'd be very surprised if it were exactly the sauce used by Chinatown Cafe (too expensive!), but some of the right notes are certainly there. Your version looks great, and those fast-cooked onions look just as I remember them. Didn't Chinatown Cafe's dish have more of a black bean or dark soy component? I seem to recall the sauce being quite dark.

    G Wiv wrote:Crazy delicious though I should have never told the Bride the mix contained Lizardfish. :)

    By the way, it seems the oddly-named Bombay duck is a type of lizardfish. A terrific article from BBC's Culinary Roots series describes the fish thus: "Fiendishly ugly, it is gelatinous and pink-skinned with a gaping maw."

    WillG wrote:How does this compare to the various spicy chili crisp products out there?

    Less chili, less crisp, more lizardfish. They're significantly different sauces, but I imagine if you like one type, you'll like the other. Bullhead is a more complex paste with a different spice profile (cinnamon is noticeable).

    G Wiv wrote:Also, on Instagram there was mention of a shallot Bullhead, which I will try, if findable in Chicagoland. Bullhead makes a few different products.

    I believe I saw 'vegetarian' Bullhead (green lid) at 88 Marketplace.
  • Post #11 - November 25th, 2020, 10:59 am
    Post #11 - November 25th, 2020, 10:59 am Post #11 - November 25th, 2020, 10:59 am
    Hi,

    I just sent a picture of Chicken Satay from Chinatown Cafe, it is definitely dark as you recall.

    Regards,
    Cathy2
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #12 - November 25th, 2020, 11:04 am
    Post #12 - November 25th, 2020, 11:04 am Post #12 - November 25th, 2020, 11:04 am
    Cathy2 wrote:Hi,

    I just sent a picture of Chicken Satay from Chinatown Cafe, it is definitely dark as you recall.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    If you send it to me, I'll post it here for everyone to see.

    Thanks,

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #13 - November 25th, 2020, 11:10 am
    Post #13 - November 25th, 2020, 11:10 am Post #13 - November 25th, 2020, 11:10 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:
    Cathy2 wrote:I just sent a picture of Chicken Satay from Chinatown Cafe, it is definitely dark as you recall.

    If you send it to me, I'll post it here for everyone to see.

    The photo can be found in Cathy2's post in the Greasy Spoon Chinese thread I linked to above.
  • Post #14 - November 25th, 2020, 4:12 pm
    Post #14 - November 25th, 2020, 4:12 pm Post #14 - November 25th, 2020, 4:12 pm
    Rene G wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote:
    Cathy2 wrote:I just sent a picture of Chicken Satay from Chinatown Cafe, it is definitely dark as you recall.

    If you send it to me, I'll post it here for everyone to see.

    The photo can be found in Cathy2's post in the Greasy Spoon Chinese thread I linked to above.

    Wow. That's considerably darker than what I was expecting. Thanks, for the link.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #15 - Yesterday, 6:09 am
    Post #15 - Yesterday, 6:09 am Post #15 - Yesterday, 6:09 am
    This is an excellent tout and just the type of rec I seek- something out of my pattern that I would never know about without guidance such as above. Awesome!
  • Post #16 - Yesterday, 7:04 am
    Post #16 - Yesterday, 7:04 am Post #16 - Yesterday, 7:04 am
    Gary, thank you for the suggestion of Richwell market. I was unaware of its existence - certainly easy to drive past and not notice it. I got some Bullhead and Lao Gan Ma chili crisp. I tried the Bon Appetite Sacha chicken stir fry. It was good, but the article does not give any proportions. I used about 3 TBSP of Bullhead and 1 TBSP of chili crisp. I will at least double those amounts next time.
  • Post #17 - Yesterday, 7:49 am
    Post #17 - Yesterday, 7:49 am Post #17 - Yesterday, 7:49 am
    ronnie_suburban wrote:Wow. That's considerably darker than what I was expecting. Thanks, for the link.

    Here is my pic from upthread, simply rendered slightly different. My point being, C2's delicious looking image is from 2007 and in person may have been lighter or darker, impossible to tell.

    click image to enlarge
    Image

    I looked for past Chinatown Cafe pics, could not find a one, odd. My memory is Chicken Satay was delicious, not of the exact level of darkness.
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow

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