I wonder if the two chemists from Worcester, England, John Wheely Lea and William Henry Perrins (better known as Lea and Perrins) had in mind their famous Worcestershire sauce would be a regular staple in Chinese cuisine.
If you go in any Chinese restaurant or Chinese household in the world, chances are there will be some brand of Worcestershire sauce found in the kitchens.
In Chinese dim sum, the deep fried spring roll and steamed beef ball are two most notable dishes that are served with a small round plate of Worcestershire sauce. Some people like me cannot imagine eating those two dishes without drowning each with Worcestershire sauce.
I am not sure when and how this practice of dipping spring rolls and beef balls in Worcestershire sauce started; but if I was to guess, it would probably be in Hong Kong or perhaps some Chinatown restaurant overseas where English influence and thus, English products are found. I doubt that it first started in China.
I can imagine it already; some waiter who doesn’t speak a word of English mistaken the bottle of Worcestershire sauce as soy sauce and served it with a plate of beef ball or spring roll. The customer, without a second thought, stabs the beef ball, dips it in the sauce, and shoves it in his already greasy mouth. Expecting a salty taste of the beef ball, his taste buds are instead greeted with a sour, tangy taste of Worcestershire sauce. His initial reaction would have been anger and discontent as if he had been tricked into eating something against his will. Just when he is about to scold the waiter, he takes another second to savor the taste and upon second thought, he concludes the taste to be quite unique. He inquires about the sauce and in due time, he begins to confidently introduce this combination to family and friends as if it was a secret stock tip that would make them a fortune. Quickly, word of this combination spreads to other restaurants in the city and then to Chinatowns all over the world until to this date, every restaurant that serves dim sum is required to stock up on this sauce.
Personally, I love Worcestershire sauce; I find it to be such a versatile sauce—used to spice up meats, pastas, salads, sauces, and cocktails. I really cannot imagine another sauce that is used for so many varieties of food. I myself use it for all of the above as well as anything which I deem needs more flavoring. Rather than pulling out the soy sauce or salt, I always grab the Worcestershire sauce instead.
I really wonder what the reaction of Lea and Perrins would be if you went to their little laboratory in Worcester and told them that the little secret sauce they were testing would be a necessity for Chinese cuisine recipes all over the world. I am pretty sure that the Chinese market was the last market they had in mind when they created this sauce—but thank goodness they did. Who would have thought Chinese spring rolls and Worcestershire sauce would be a match made in heaven.
steamed beefball w/worcestershire sauce