My Dad’s Steak Sauce

An Asian-style steak sauce that tastes of family and childhood.

On their wedding day, brides usually share a first dance with their father.

I did not.

It’s not that I didn’t want to. It’s just that when it comes to elderly Asian-American parents, you know you’re treading dangerously if you dare bring up any idea that involves them making even the slightest spectacle of themselves.

Oh, my shy, reserved Mom made it perfectly clear that if I made her get up and dance in front of everyone, she wouldn’t come to my wedding. I kid you not.

On top of that, my husband was quite sure his own father wouldn’t want to be two-stepping anytime soon. No, siree. My husband’s mother also was bedridden and couldn’t attend our nuptials. So, in the end, we decided to do away with that whole parental tradition and just share only the one dance with each other as man and wife.

I sometimes wonder, though, if I still should have taken my Dad’s hand and led him through one father-daughter twirl.

You see, my late-Dad actually liked to dance.

Growing up, I never saw him dance with my Mom. But I remember him telling me how when he was young, he would go dancing with friends in Oakland and San Francisco.

It may be hard for my friends and family to picture my soft-spoken Dad tearing up the dance floor. But I can. As a youngster, I still fondly remember goofy moments when I’d put a 45 rpm record on the turntable (yeah, remember those?) and dance with my Dad at home. Often, it was the Jackson 5 blaring, as my Dad and I would shake our hips and arms like maniacs. He’d twirl me around as I’d giggle like crazy. As the song ended, our cheeks would flush and we’d be out of breath.

I’m not sure he ever did this with my two older brothers. That, I can’t picture. But being the youngest and only daughter in the family had its privileges.

For instance, whenever my Dad broiled steaks for dinner, he always gave me the filet mignon. It was small, it was tender, and it was perfect for “Daddy’s little girl.”

Steak and potatoes -- the way my Dad enjoyed them.

To accompany it, there were always roasted potatoes and his own version of steak sauce. It’s basically doctored hoisin sauce. I’d watch him stir it up in a coffee mug or plastic cup, adding a little of this and a little of that, until the taste and consistency were to his liking.

He’d place the juicy, seared steaks on plates, then spoon some of the thick, dark, glossy sauce on top.

I don’t remember everything that went into that simple sauce. But I can make a close approximation to my Dad’s version. The sauce is a little sweet, a little savory, a little tangy.

And its flavor never ceases to dance on my palate.

My Dad’s Steak Sauce

(Makes about 3/4 cup)

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup ketchup

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

1 to 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl or cup. Store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use. Will keep for a couple of days.

— From Carolyn Jung

More: My Dad’s Baked Version of Foil-Wrapped Chicken

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  • A wonderful sauce! I am abig fan of hoisin sauce.



  • What a sweet post! Your dad sounds like he was a warm and wonderful man. And his steak sauce sounds pretty delicious too–I’m going to bookmark this one!

  • It sounds like your Jackson 5 dance parties at home were just as memorable (and far more comfortable!) as a wedding first-dance. πŸ™‚

  • Carolyn – my mom used to make that sauce for country ribs! Delicious. Thanks for bringing back the memories!

  • Perfect timing for your recipe! We’re going to a BBQ this weekend and could use a new sauce!

  • Oooh, Carolyn, would you pretty please post this to Punk Domestics?

  • What a lovely pre-Father’s Day memory, Carolyn. You’ve done your Dad proud!

  • Hoisin Happiness: considering the function of topping off steaks, how could such sauces not be yummy? For sure the quality of a steak sauce can enhance or diminish one’s enjoyment–and one like your Dad’s, possessing a flavor that still dances on your palate, is extraordinary! Mmmm!

  • A beautiful and loving story about your dad (and mom). The sauce looks so yummy, yet simple to make.

  • carolyn – i love this post. your steak AND that sauce look delish!

  • Being the youngest and a girl does indeed have its privileges (me too!). I realize this is a sauce for steak, but I think I’d like it on a veggie burger in place of the usual condiments.

  • Dear Carolyn, Please write a book. Your stories are so lovely.

  • Your dad’s steak sauce looks delicious! Thank you for sharing your personal story. My dad would be so shy to even stand up in public… Asian dad has this image in themselves and they are very shy…or at least Japanese ones are. πŸ™‚

  • Michele: Will you be my editor and publisher? Pretty please? πŸ™‚

  • Carolyn, what a sweet post about your dad. He reminds me of my late father-in-law and mother-in-law, both from China. Although my mother-in-law was shy to get on the dance floor at our wedding, she did and turned out to be quite en elegant dancer, and my father-in-law, let’s just say I was afraid he was going to have a heart attack right on the dance floor. Your dad’s barbeque sauce sounds a lot like the one my dad concocted for our summer BBQ’s. He would brush it on chicken legs. I’ll have to give your recipe a whirls this Father’s Day.

  • This is such a sweet post. Your dad sounds like a pretty amazing man…and the sauce sounds fantastic! I’ve been experimenting with homemade sauces and glazes for meats more (just recently made a Dr Pepper one, which was great!) and I’d love to try this!

  • Melt my heart, why don’t you? What a great story to go along with you father’s sauce. Must try this soon! My grandfather’s was similar, but with fewer ingredients… if he had known about hoisin, I’m sure it would have been included! Thank you for sharing. xo

  • This sauce sounds great! I’m a huge fan of hoisin, so this looks so perfect. Plus that’s such a sweet story about you and your dad. It’s amazing how the little moments like dancing around the living room or a special meal really are the ones closest to our hearts.

  • I always look forward to reading your memoir of your parents every mother’s and father’s day. Your story never fails to touch my heart. My dad was never a cook, but his favorite sauce when he ate roasted chicken was hoisin sauce mixed with a touch of fermented bean curd, chili sauce, and finely minced garlic. Oh how I miss him…

  • What a lovely way to remember your late dad- a beautiful post πŸ™‚ Carolyn, I wonder if we put our wedding photos against each others whether they would be identical. We were the same, all of my mum’s tables sat down and while Mr NQN’s family tables all got up and danced heartily.

  • This is one recipe I am most definitely making! We grill steaks often but a sauce like this will so jazz it up! What a gem of a dad!

    This is a beautiful post and the way you talk about your dad reminds me of my own quiet, gentle and curious dad who passed away just two months before I married. Thanks for this lovely writeup.

  • That’s such a beautiful story – my dad (and my partner for that matter) can’t dance and doesn’t like to, maybe we can sing karaoke instead πŸ™‚
    I think if I had to choose a sauce that reminded me of my dad it would be tomato sauce – he even puts it on his pancakes.

  • What a beautiful sweet post..your dad in heaven must be smiling down at you. He probably thinks that you nailed his steak sauce, too :).

    Thanks for sharing, your dad’s steak sauce, it looks so delicious!

  • Jasmyne Tea: Tomato sauce on PANCAKES? Wow! You know someone has got to love tomato sauce to do that. LOL

    Jamie: Condolences on your Dad. I can only imagine how hard that must have been to have lost him just shy of your wedding. I’m sure he was there in spirit on that big day, though, beaming like crazy. πŸ˜‰

  • some foods just have so many memories attached to them… I always associate raisins with summers spent with my grandfather, who would portion out a small heap for me on the dining table every morning before going for his morning walk.

    ps: Loved the picture of the steak sauce in the spoon.

  • Lovely memories and recipe.

  • Zaeka: I LOVE that story about the raisins. I can just picture your grandfather doing that, creating a pile of precious raisins for his precious grandchild.

  • aw, carolyn, what a sweet and well-written post! i’d love for a sauce as flavorful as this one to dance its way right into my mouth. πŸ™‚

  • Carolyn, your stories always feed the soul!

  • how sweet that you had those clandestine father daughter dances growing up… what great memories and that steak sauce sounds pretty special too.

  • Love this dedication and the memories (and the recipe), Carolyn!

  • Barclay Terhune

    I look forward to trying your father’s steak sauce recipe.

    Our family’ s recipe comes from my “uncle”,aunt’s first husband (the family marries frequently). It is a combination Worcestershire, yellow mustard, butter and black pepper…amounts of each are discretionary albeit the largest portion is Worcestershire. This really a basting sauce.

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