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The origins and history of brown sauce
November 16, 2012 4:27 AM   Subscribe

The origins and history of brown sauce. The origins and history of brown sauce. The origins and history of brown sauce.
posted by Deathalicious (69 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have no idea where this thread is going to end up, but as a brown sauce aficionado & (sort of ) connoisseur, I approve.
posted by lampshade at 4:52 AM on November 16, 2012


Oyster sauce! That's the flavor I've been missing this whole time! Excuse me. Goin' to the kitchen, gonna stir-fry me some tofu...
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:57 AM on November 16, 2012


Brown sauce? Sounds fascinating! What are its origins and history?
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 4:59 AM on November 16, 2012 [13 favorites]


And the winner is ... Chinese brown sauce! (At least in my book.) But I don't think the intrepid author of that article truly divined its secret. If you are in possession of the secret to Chinese brown sauce I will rent a helicopter so you can whisper it in my ear discretely.
posted by nowhere man at 5:00 AM on November 16, 2012


Only thing 3 is 'brown sauce'. The others are sauces that just happen to be brown.
posted by pipeski at 5:04 AM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


"It's made of brown."
posted by the_artificer at 5:11 AM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't see "brown" listed as an ingredient.
posted by tommasz at 5:11 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just want to state for the record that if you put anything but HP Sauce on a bacon sandwich, you have committed a crime against humanity and you should be made to go and stand outside the back door without a scarf and consider deeply what you have done.
posted by fight or flight at 5:14 AM on November 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't see "brown" listed as an ingredient.

Its the secret ingredient.
posted by biffa at 5:18 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


What can brown do for you?
posted by blue_beetle at 5:19 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


So for my roommate's birthday, we all went out to a Thai place. I was watching my carbohydrate intake, so while everybody else was ordering rice or noodles, I ordered the pepper steak. You've had pepper steak, right? It's thin-cut strips of bell pepper and steak, stir-fried. Good times.

Instead, they bring me a steak. Not steak. A steak. Ah, well, it's not like I don't like steak, so I tuck in, and after a moment realize they've left me some brown sauce in a bowl.

Yay! I think. Some kind of Thai sauce. Made with peanuts, no doubt.

So, enthusiastically, I cut off a bite of steak, spear it on my fork, dip it in the brown sauce, and put it in my mouth.

It is not some manner of Thai peanut sauce.

It is A1.

I went to a Thai place and accidentally ordered a steak with A1 sauce. I am obviously the whitest man alive.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:21 AM on November 16, 2012 [56 favorites]


The author of the Guardian piece uses the term 'let down' in connection with chip shop sauce, but then he also doesn't like Road to Perdition, so who can trust his opinion?
posted by liquidindian at 5:24 AM on November 16, 2012


Brown sauce? Sounds fascinating! What are its origins and history?

Didn't it originate with Eddie Van Halen? I'm pretty sure he was famous for it.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:31 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Guys, seriously, this is important. You need to stop this right away. If my bosses find out about this we'll all be in trouble.
-UPS guy
posted by Blue_Villain at 5:57 AM on November 16, 2012


@liquidindian - in the context of his sentence, I'm pretty sure he means that they used vinegar as a diluting agent, so the resulting chip shop sauce is more liquid. Certainly what happens in my local chippie back Oop North, if they've not doused it all in chip spice for you.

Can't comment on his opinion of Road to Perdition, though!
posted by halcyonday at 5:58 AM on November 16, 2012


If I've missed any brown sauces and their histories, please let me know.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:58 AM on November 16, 2012


You know what's worse than an FPP that makes you extremely hungry for That Thing? An FPP that makes you hungry for three completely Different Things.
posted by drlith at 6:12 AM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


If I've missed any brown sauces and their histories, please let me know.

Hé ben oui t'en as manqué, pote ! La sauce brune ! Tu en mets sur ta poutine et ton hot chicken, très tasty, la gang va adorer. Voici une histoire de la poutine, la vraie, avec cette bonne sauce brune. Y a autant d'histoires que pour la sauce.
posted by fraula at 6:15 AM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is Donkey Sauce brown?
posted by dr_dank at 6:19 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


"It's made of brown."

"Mined from the earth by the hardscrabble brown miners of North Brownderton."
posted by devonia at 6:28 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of my great unrequited missions in life was from the trip my wife and I took to England and Wales in 1997. We drove all over the place and had a thoroughly good time, but at the time I didn't know what a "butty" was so I never ordered one. It wasn't until many years later that I found out it's a bacon sandwich. A Bacon. Sandwich. I have sworn on the graves of my ancestors that some day I will return, and I will eat a bacon butty. Probably with brown sauce.
posted by Curious Artificer at 6:32 AM on November 16, 2012


We swedes also live under the impression that brown sauce is a specialty of our country. There was even a recent TV series called "Brown Sauce Country" ("Landet Brunsås") about Swedish food culture. Here is a recipe (in Swedish) for those who want the authentic meatball experience.
posted by springload at 6:41 AM on November 16, 2012


Curious Artificer, you know that what they call "bacon" is different there, right? I mean, don't get me wrong, it's perfectly tasty and excellent with brown sauce, but it's not, y'know, bacon bacon.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:42 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm. So the authentic Swedish meatball experience includes soy sauce. Noted.
posted by needled at 6:49 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


FYI A butty isn't a bacon sandwich but a bacon butty is. Butty is just slang for sandwich although they often have cooked meats in them (sausage butty, bacon butty etc). Used to be butty was an open face sandwich but I believe that usage has fallen out of use.
posted by zeoslap at 6:51 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could write love letters to A1 sauce... And Pitt's BBQ sauce too at that. Mmmm... Sauce is what makes the world go round in my universe.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 6:59 AM on November 16, 2012


Don't forget the Edinburgh version - Chippy Sauce - basically Daddie's Brown Sauce watered down with vinegar. Sounds horrid, tastes divine.

Also inspired this fantastic Scotrail ad campaign, since the Weegies use vinegar instead.

Sauce is serious business in Scotland.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:06 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


English, why the hell would you call a sandwich a butty?
posted by Packed Lunch at 7:18 AM on November 16, 2012


Good gravy!
posted by griphus at 7:21 AM on November 16, 2012


How much more brown could it be? The answer is none. None more brown.
posted by TedW at 7:23 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


How boss, brown sauce!
posted by argonauta at 7:28 AM on November 16, 2012


Packed Lunch: "English, why the hell would you call a sandwich a butty?"

The word butty is a contraction of "bread and butter" that came from northern England, perhaps Yorkshire or Liverpool.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:35 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


2 nights ago, I made a pan gravy that happened to be brown, then I sautéed some mushrooms in butter, then reduced a modicum of red wine with them in the sauté pan. I then folded this reduction into my pan gravy and larded it upon my pork loin chops. For a moment, Heaven was a place on Earth.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:42 AM on November 16, 2012


2 nights ago, I made a pan gravy that happened to be brown, then I sautéed some mushrooms in butter, then reduced a modicum of red wine with them in the sauté pan. I then folded this reduction into my pan gravy and larded it upon my pork loin chops. For a moment, Heaven was a place on Earth.

Had you run out of HP?
posted by biffa at 7:46 AM on November 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


This was my first exposure to brown sauce, on Neopets (the game being a mishmash of virtual pets, Welshness, and, bizarrely, Scientology). It wasn't until many years later that I actually tasted the stuff. Goes great with fish & chips, goes even better with sausages.
posted by Gordafarin at 7:46 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also surprisingly good as a substitute for putting sugar in your coffee.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 7:51 AM on November 16, 2012


It may cost £3 a bottle, but my god, Stokes Brown Sauce was a revelation. Now I can't eat HP. Excellent on a bacon butty while hungover.

If you're a lover of brown sauce on a bacon butty, try this sauce. Just be prepared to pay £3 for a tiny bottle of sauce for the rest of time.
posted by generichuman at 8:20 AM on November 16, 2012


Apparently it's also good in tea
posted by night_train at 8:25 AM on November 16, 2012


BROWN SAUCE- APPLY DIRECTLY TO YOUR FOOD! BROWN SAUCE- APPLY DIRECTLY TO YOUR FOOD! BROWN SAUCE- APPLY DIRECTLY TO YOUR FOOD!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:29 AM on November 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


"It's made of brown."

"Mined from the earth by the hardscrabble brown miners of North Brownderton."



Not anymore it isn't, thank you very much Thatcher.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:30 AM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hmm. So the authentic Swedish meatball experience includes soy sauce. Noted.

Well, authentic Swedish coffeecake includes cardamom. My guess is that what drove berserkers made was the blandness of the food without pillaged spices.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:47 AM on November 16, 2012


needled: Hmm. So the authentic Swedish meatball experience includes soy sauce. Noted.

Actually yes! That seems to be the standard these days, although it must have been introduced in the last 30 years or so. I checked a few internet recipe sites, and even most of the ones called "Gandma's brown sauce" have the soy in them. It may be an addition rather than a replacement for something else, or perhaps an upgrade from just a pinch of salt. I've been told that swedish food was overall very blunt up through the 1960s.

The only online version I found of Cajsa Warg's cookbook from 1755 was unfortunately incomplete, with the sauce chapter missing. She'd otherwise be the definite authority in this matter.
posted by springload at 9:09 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cook's Illustrated often says that soy sauce makes meat taste more "meaty." So it'd make sense in meatballs as a salt upgrade.
posted by asperity at 9:13 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


zeoslap: "FYI A butty isn't a bacon sandwich but a bacon butty is. Butty is just slang for sandwich although they often have cooked meats in them (sausage butty, bacon butty etc). Used to be butty was an open face sandwich but I believe that usage has fallen out of use."

The most remarkable creation in all of Brittania: the chip butty (although I must admit I never got around to eating one, to my great regret). French fries in bread. Probably gives people on the paleo diet nightmares.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:36 AM on November 16, 2012


Probably gives people on the paleo diet nightmares nocturnal emissions.

FTFY
posted by griphus at 9:40 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Margaret Thatcher, Brown Sauce Snatcher!
posted by elizardbits at 9:45 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


springload: "needled: Hmm. So the authentic Swedish meatball experience includes soy sauce. Noted.

Actually yes! That seems to be the standard these days, although it must have been introduced in the last 30 years or so. I checked a few internet recipe sites, and even most of the ones called "Gandma's brown sauce" have the soy in them. It may be an addition rather than a replacement for something else, or perhaps an upgrade from just a pinch of salt. I've been told that swedish food was overall very blunt up through the 1960s.

The only online version I found of Cajsa Warg's cookbook from 1755 was unfortunately incomplete, with the sauce chapter missing. She'd otherwise be the definite authority in this matter.
"

This recipe is from 1882, so pre-soy sauce, although it's clearly not a Swedish cookbook so its authenticity may be suspect. But the ingredients and preparation sound legit.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:49 AM on November 16, 2012


English, why the hell would you call a sandwich a butty?

I suspect it came from this:

"I shouldn't have eaten that sandwich from Londis. I feel kind of....butty."
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:59 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm. That poutine stuff looks like gravy to me. Brown sauce =/= gravy.
posted by glasseyes at 10:18 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've found that there's nothing brown on my stovetop that can't be made just a little more borwn by the addition of Pickapeppa sauce. It's pretty much replaced Worcestershire in my pantheon of cooking additives.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:20 AM on November 16, 2012


Frankly, I'm not HP.
posted by arcticseal at 10:24 AM on November 16, 2012


Well in Happy Dave, saltnsauce is one of the pillars of the enlightenment ! I still owe amberglow a bottle of genuine chippy sauce, on the off chance you're reading this - email me your addy and i will send it : )
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:42 AM on November 16, 2012


I learned to make Swedish Meatballs back in the 1970s and the recipe involved worchestershire sauce, so it may be that that was a pre-soy sauce source of brown/umami additive. Of course, this was in the USA, so it may not have been very authentic, but it was also in Ioway, which is home to no small number of Scandinavians.
posted by drlith at 10:59 AM on November 16, 2012


English, why the hell would you call a sandwich a butty?

And suddenly I was transported to visualize an Amish person complaining about sandwich nomenclature. But what would they be doing on MetaFilter?

Certainly what happens in my local chippie back Oop North, if they've not doused it all in chip spice for you.

What is this chip spice of which you speak?
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:31 AM on November 16, 2012


And while it isn't exactly brown sauce related, I will sing the praises of Currywurst till my dying day.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:32 AM on November 16, 2012


A second for Stokes. I was also a big fan of Tiptree Brown Sauce.
posted by mzanatta at 11:39 AM on November 16, 2012


I love currywurst, but everyone looks at me strangely when I mention it.
posted by arcticseal at 11:57 AM on November 16, 2012


Just going to throw these out there...
posted by cromagnon at 12:25 PM on November 16, 2012


There was a thread about Scotland a few months ago that veered into brown sauce territory, and I will reiterate now what I first said there:

A1 and HP Brown Sauce are vastly different things.

Yes, they are both brown sauces.

Yes, they both involve vinegar.

Yes, they are both meant to be used on meat.

BUT THEY ARE NONETHELESS DRASTICALLY DIFFERENT FROM ONE ANOTHER IN FLAVOR AND CONSISTENCY.

They are both fine sauces, but I don't want A1 on my chips or my banger butty or my sausage rolls or...well...anything that isn't a steak, really.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:35 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Chip spice is chicken salt.
posted by onya at 12:48 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Boyfriend squirted partner with brown sauce when she refused to stop reading Fifty Shades of Grey
"He said he had every intention of squirting sauce over Miss McCormick, but he now regrets having done this, realising how stupid it sounds."
posted by drlith at 1:00 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let's just say there's a reason my profile says "...discover the mystery of The Powerful Brown Sauce" and has so for 10 goddamn years.

Brown sauce is a miracle in bottle.

(It's especially great on chips with Tony Chachere's on top.)
posted by Katemonkey at 1:06 PM on November 16, 2012


Packed Lunch: "English, why the hell would you call a sandwich a butty?"

Not sure of etymology, but I had always heard of the bacon sarnie myself.
posted by Samizdata at 1:57 PM on November 16, 2012


Oh, and, also, a butty isn't a sandwich.

While it is meat-in-bread, it's usually a white roll (fairly large). See?

The butty can also be called a cob, as it is in Nottingham.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:02 PM on November 16, 2012


Oh, and for those of us that are niftygrocery impaired, I acquired a mild appreciation of this stuff.
posted by Samizdata at 2:04 PM on November 16, 2012


If you go by color, there really are only 4 sauces:
Brown, Red, Green, White. Red sauces involve either tomatoes or chiles, green involve green herbs or green chiles/tomatillos, white involve dairy and brown involve just about anything else.

I'm personally prejudiced toward green sauces, although all others do have their place.

In making any sauce with a soy sauce base, I always try to add in at least one teaspoon of fish sauce. I usually use more. I imagine that it would add something to the Chinese brown sauce, although oyster sauce has never been on my go to list when I play around with east Asian sauces. I think I should get some and put it there though.

Of course, the best brown sauce does not exist in real life. Neil Stephenson described McWhorter's Original Condiment in the Diamond Age as tasting like it had the following ingredients:

Water, blackstrap molasses, imported habanero peppers, salt, garlic, ginger, tomato puree, axle grease, real hickory smoke, snuff, butts of clove cigarettes, Guinness Stout fermentation dregs, uranium mill tailings, muffler cores, monosodium glutamate, nitrates, nitrites, nitrotes and nitrutes, nutrites, natrotes, powdered pork nose hairs, dynamite, activated charcoal, match-heads, used pipe cleaners, tar, nicotine, single malt whiskey, smoked beef lymph nodes, autumn leaves, red fuming nitric acid, bituminous coal, fallout, printer's ink, laundry starch, drain cleaner, blue chrysotile asbestos, carrageenan, BHA, BHT, and natural flavorings.

Anyone know where I can get something like this?
posted by Hactar at 6:59 PM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm overly addicted to using oyster sauce in my cooking. When I cook Chinese food I instinctively add it to everything, from vegetables to minced meat to soups to beef. It's main purpose is to be a bit of a glutamate bomb, adding a healthy dose of umami to the dish. Good oyster sauce also has a distinctive seafood aroma, being made from oysters, which is a bit similar to fish sauce; I sometimes use the two together. You can also get vegetarian oyster sauce which is made from mushrooms.
posted by destrius at 7:05 PM on November 16, 2012


Hactar, read that two minutes ago: still laughing.

I just want to state for the record that if you put anything but HP Sauce on a bacon sandwich...

Nope. Bacon, lettuce, tomato, and PEANUT BUTTER. Best sammich evar.
Peanut butter is brown. That's good enough for me.

Brown sauce with mushrooms and....
Yum!
posted by BlueHorse at 7:10 PM on November 16, 2012


Back in the 1970s one of my mom's women's magazines had a recipe for BLTs that included peanut butter. I can assure you that it is indeed an excellent addition to a bacon sandwich.
posted by TedW at 3:51 PM on November 17, 2012


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