Corn Starch to Liquid ratio for a Chinese white sauce question

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Master Chef
Dec 25, 2006
Long Island, New York
I often make Chinese Food. Primarily I make a brown garlic sauce, but on occasion (to mix things up a bit) Ill make a white sauce.

I dont go by a specific recipe , I just do as I see fit until I get the taste and consistency Im looking for.

I have no plans to make it in the near future, and of course, my son messaged me asking for the recipe. Why he doesnt ask is Chinese girlfriend who is a great cook ( from what I hear) is beyond me. Im guessing maybe he wants to surprise her, but im not sure whaat he makes will compare to whaat she likes or is used to.

***For those who dont know or dont remember, my son has been teaching English in China for the past 3 years, therefore, eating Chinese food for the past 3 years, and now has a Native Chinese GF who cooks a lot for him***

Anyway, getting back to the point of the question, The very basics of the recipe is stock and corn starch as a thickener ( sure I sometimes throw in minced ginger, garlic, white pepper a few drops of sesame oil...., but its the liquid to corn starch ratio im interested in getting on paper , hopefully , without having to make it for dinner tonight ).

So, if any of you could provide a little guidance on liquid to starch ratio, that would be great.

***Dont worry, I know to thoroughly mix and dissolve the starch prior to adding. Thats one of those been there, done that mistakes we've all made, and Ill pass it on to him as well***.

Thanks in advance.
PS. He's sound asleep now, as where he is in China is a 12 hour difference, so we got time before he intends to make it.
my General rule of thumb is 1 Tbsp corn starch to 1 Cup liquid.

That's my rule of thumb. What I generally do is mix up water and cornstarch in about a 1:1 ratio, to make about twice as much as I think I will need. Then when the sauce is simmering, I stir in less than half and look at it. I add more as needed to get the right texture. I have learned to be careful and start with a bit less than I expect to need. Too much and it turns into a gloopy mess. I'm sure you can guess how I know.
my General rule of thumb is 1 Tbsp corn starch to 1 Cup liquid.

I kinda came across that ratio too. Sometimes Ill thicken a little more or dill with some liquid depending on what Im using it for ( veggies a lot of time release excess water, so I have to account for that).

Thanks for the quick replies and reassurance
I always use the 1 tb:1 c ratio, too, and, like TL, I always make a little more than I need, in case something gives off more liquid, or something like that.

Also, I never use cornstarch, even though the container I keep it in still has the cornstarch labels on it, from back in the 80s! In there, I have tapioca starch - the main starch I use, as I like the consistency better, and it seems to hold better than cornstarch. And another starch I use, when I will be reheating something, is wheat starch, as this keeps even longer, and reheats, after refrigerating, with no problems. It is a little harder to mix with the water, but it still mixes. Cornstarch will thin as it's sitting in a serving bowl, while tapioca starch is much better, but will still thin some while refrigerating. I've tried some of those other starches they have in the Asian markets, but these two are the only ones I still use for thickening.

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I make a lot of Asian recipes, and the cornstarch/water ratio is different from Western recipes.

So, to give a bit of body to a sauce, such as the mapo tofu I made yesterday, I use 1 tsp cornstarch to 1 - 2 tbsp water, depending on whether the proteins have already been velveted. In the case of that mapo tofu, I used 1 tsp cornstarch to 2 tbsp water.
Tapioca or arrowroot could be substituted for cornstarch. Arrowroot gives a better texture, if you can find it.

I've checked my cookbooks and Asian friends who agree pretty much agree with that ratio.
I do a lot of stir fry. the idea of a fixed ratio is a non-starter for me. stir fry _always_ winds up with varying amount of loose moisture depending on the ingredients, the cut, how long it has been cooked, etc etc etc.

I stir 2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch into ~ 8 ounces of cold water.
as the dish finishes up, stir the cornstarch mixture and add glops at a time, allowing it to mix in with the dish and thicken the liquid.

it is absolutely essential to stir the cornstarch mixture immediately before adding - cornstarch does not 'dissolve' in water - it settles out - unless stirred you add mostly water and have a thick sediment of cornstarch left over and a dish that is unthickened.

not uncommonly I add additional water/stock to the dish, and then more cornstarch, to adjust the volume and consistency of the dish.

to make just a pure sauce, start with the liquid, add from the glass+cornstarch mixture to get the desired texture.

it's not like cornstarch is so expensive on cannot possible afford to waste a spoonful....
Larry, I think it all depends on your taste.
At our dinner table, we don't care for a thick sauce. In Hawaii, most of the Chinese restaurants are Cantonese, now I don't know if that has anything to do with it or not, but the accompanying sauce is not thick at all.
I go with 1 teaspoon to a cup of liquid myself, but that's our taste.
I agree with much of the above, and I know there are many variables. The issue I have is im not the one making it. Having done it for years, even decades, I know how to get myself out of a situation should I get into one. My son, on the other hand, does not, which is why I want to give him some basic guidelines to go by. He doesnt have that a culinary common sense or experience. He is a recipe follower, so general guidelines will do.

I definitely hear ya about not mixing in cold liquid. Thats a rookie mistake ( which he would make).

I also hear ya about not holding well after sitting. Learned that the hard way when I ordered a bunch of hot and sour soups from a restaurant, only to find the ones I ate a few days later were watery. Tried re-thickening it up, but by doing that, the flavor ratios were changed, and it didn't taste the same.

Ive used tapioca starchfor other purposes, but not to thicken a sauce. Maybe Ill do some experimenting in the future.
Not sure the ratio matters all that much. You need enough liquid to suspend the corn starch so you can pour it into the pot/wok. There it's going to mix with the liquid in already in the pot. What's more important is the amount of cornstarch.
Never thought about using tapico, potato or other types of starch/flours. I'll have to try them.

But as Andy has said - the ratio is not terribly important. Liquid is for the suspension. How much you use depends on how much liquid is already in the dish.

almost everyone here has given the same instructions, some a bit more explicit than others, a powder, cold liquid... and quantities vary per user! LOL:giggle:

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