Fresh Alternatives to Salty Asian Sauces

Make your own Asian sauces to reduce salt.

I love Asian cooking. There’s nothing like a good pad thai or broccoli stir fry. People think Asian food is quite healthy because it is usually lower in protein and higher in much-needed vegetables. The drawback is that it’s typically a high-salt cuisine as well.

Any time we can cut salt, or sodium, we do a big favor for our blood vessels, heart and kidneys. It’s easy to do that and keep the food delicious, so why not?

Below are some great Asian sauce recipes, starting with a recipe from a friend and fellow dietitian that probably tastes the way fresh plum (hoisin) sauce did long before all the high-salt bottled versions existed. Once you make it, you will never go back. If you’re lucky and have an Italian plum tree, you can use the fruit to make a big batch of this and freeze it. It keeps frozen for months, long after plums are out of season.

The sweet and sour sauce recipe will make any Asian meal lower in salt and higher in flavor. For great low-sodium Asian dishes to use these sauces in, look for a copy of “The Chinese Salt-Free Diet CookBook” by Merle Schell.

Fresh Plum Sauce

This is a fresh alternative to bottled hoisin sauce. It’s also a great dipping sauce.

4 large plums, pitted and cut into ¼-inch pieces

1 large garlic clove, finely minced

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon sesame seeds, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except sesame seeds; cook over high heat for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid thickens and the plums have softened and broken down to the consistency of a chunky preserve, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer plum sauce to a serving dish, and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Serve warm. One serving equals 2 tablespoons.

Nutrition info: Calories: 22, Carbohydrates: 5 g, Protein: 0 g, Sodium: 92 mg

Special thanks to Naomi W. Kakiuchi, RD, CD, CCP, www.nuculinary.com.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

Sweet and tart; serve over fish or tofu.

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup sweet chili sauce

½ cup white vinegar or rice vinegar or wine

1 8-ounce can pineapple, or one cup fresh pineapple, chopped into ½-inch cubes

1/3 cup orange juice (or pineapple juice if fresh pineapple is used)

Heat oil, add onion and garlic and cook 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Add chili sauce and vinegar. Mix water and cornstarch, add to onion mixture. Add canned pineapple juice (if canned pineapple is used) or add 1/3 cup orange/pineapple juice (if fresh pineapple is used). Simmer another 5 minutes. Add pineapple chunks, cook 5 minutes. One serving equals ¼ cup.

Nutrition info: Calories: 70, Carbohydrates: 13 g, Protein: 0 g, Sodium: 107 mg

The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.

[Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. A recipient of the Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award from the National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition, she has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at www.nwkidney.org.]